Villa de Leyva, Colombia – what to do? dinosaurs! El Fósil! Plaza Mayor!

What’s there to know about Villa de Leyva in central Colombia?

Main Square, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Colossal public square. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Firstly, that it is home to the largest public square in Colombia.

It’s worth pointing out that the square, and much of the historic centre of Villa de Leyva, is paved with large, awkward cobblestones. They look terrific, but they are treacherous for those in flip-flops. Fellow Australians, you might want to consider wearing sturdy walking shoes whilst you are moving about town.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Secondly, this is the hometown of Antonio Ricaurte, a captain in Simón Bolívar’s revolutionary army, who, in 1815, at the age of 28, lit a barrel of gunpowder in an ammunition depot, killing himself and a number of royalist soldiers. The destruction of the enemy stronghold helped the revoutionary army go on to win the Battle of San Mateo.

Antonio Ricaurte earned himself everlasting renown as a martyr.

Casa de Antonio Ricaurte

Antonio Ricaurte statue, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Statue of Antonio Ricaurte outside his home in Villa de Leyva. Photo credit: Benjamin White

You can visit the home of Antonio Ricuarte in Villa de Leyva, although it is a museum – filled with personal memorabilia and military paraphernalia – rather than a period house.

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There are several interesting period homes in town, including the home of Antonio Amador José de Nariño, who is famous for having translated The Rights of Man into Spanish – a document that suggests public uprising is condonable when the government fails to look after its own people.

Florentino Ariza in Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Villa de Leyva is mentioned in Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez’s work, Love in the Time of Cholera. Protagonist, Florentino Ariza – played in the 2007 movie by Javier Bardem – is sent here to work as a telegraph operator in an attempt to put distance between himself and the enchantress, Fermina Daza.

El Fósil

El Fósil, Villa de Leyva, Colombia

El Fósil. Photo credit: Benjamin White

El Fósil is a near-complete kronosaur skeleton. The skeleton hasn’t been transported into a museum, as you might assume from the photo above. Instead the skeleton has been left in the ground as it was found, and the museum has been built around it.

El Fósil is five kilometres from Villa de Leyva, easily reached by bicycle.

Practical information and how to reach Villa de Leyva:

Villa de Leyva is a 3.5 hour bus ride from the capital, Bogotá. More transport info here:

More on Colombia:

Central Colombia:

The salt mines of Zipaquirá – ever seen a salt cathedral?

Bogotá – gold, graffiti. and Botero

La Candelaria Street Art – world famous graffiti in downtown Bogotá

Barichara – sleepy colonial town where they eat fat-bottomed ants

Southern Colombia:

Popayán – the illustrious White City that delivered 17 Colombian presidents

San Agustín – cartoonish statues that protect the dead? 

Northern Colombia:

La Ciudad Perdida – four day hike to the Lost City of the Tayrona priests

Santa Marta – oldest continually inhabited colonial city in Colombia

More on South America:


Perito Moreno Glacier – colossal ice wall

El Chaltén – meringue-like glaciers and jagged peaks


Salar de Uyuni – largest salt flats in the world

La Paz – highest capital city in the world


The Moai Quarry archaeological site, Easter Island

Mount Villarrica – trek to the top of an active volcano

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