The town of Villa de Leyva, located 207 km from Bogotá at an altitude of 2,140m, was founded in 1572 by Hernán Suárez de Villalobos who named it after Andrés Días Venero de Leyva, the first president of Nueva Granada. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area was inhabited by the Muiscas, a Chibcha-speaking people who built their main astronomical observatory at the site of the current town. 

Villa de Leyva is one of the most beautiful towns in the area and is ideally explored on foot. It was declared a national monument in 1954 and has remained free of modern constructions. It is as if one can still breathe in the atmosphere of colonial times when visiting the expansive Plaza Mayor which at 14,000 m2 is the country’s largest. This special atmosphere does not end at the Plaza as it courses through the surrounding cobblestone streets; the Cathedral; the house of Antonio Nariño, home to the Independence hero; the home of Antonio Ricaurte, who fought under Bolívar and is known for his heroic sacrifice during the battle of San Mateo; the House of Congress where, on October 4th, 1812, the first Congress of the United Provinces of Nueva Granada took place; the Colonial Art Museum; El Carmen Monastery and Convent. 

The Museum of Maestro Acuña is a worth a visit. Named after the artist, a painter, sculptor and writer, Acuña, along with other artists, created the Bachue movement, which can be seen here, and which sought to recover the essential feeling and atmosphere through art of the Chibcha ancestors. The Museum of Maestro Acuña also displays colonial objects, musical instruments and furniture. 

A few kilometres from Villa de Leyva and not to be missed is the Saint Ecce Homo Convent, founded by the Dominicans in 1620 and considered a most outstanding Spanish legacy. The pavement is made of local stone embedded with fossils, and the chapel has a magnificent golden altarpiece with a small Ecce Homo image. 

Nearby Villa de Leyva also there are many towns, each with its particular curiosity such as Ráquira which in the Chibcha language means “city of the pots” and therefore is known as the Colombian town that specializes in fine handmade ceramics; Sutamarchán, famous for its gastronomy, especially longaniza and morcilla spicy sausages and the Tomatina Festival, which comes from a Spanish tradition; and Tinjacá known for its tagua (the seed of palm) handicrafts.