Anyone that falls under the timeless spell of Villa de Leyva´s cobble-stoned streets will leave with the impression that this refuge from the modern world has always been there. This impression, though strong, isn´t exactly accurate; as it was actually founded in 1572 near the bizzarely-named “Infiernito,” an ancient holy site for the first inhabitants, the Muisca. Twelve years later, the new colony shifted shop a few kilometres away, to restore the sacred site to its rightful inhabitants. Since then, Villa de Leyva slowly set about the task of accumulating history.
This valley of peace has always been a retreat for well-heeled city-slickers; from Viceroys to Independence lynch-pins such as those two very different Antonios, Nariño and Ricaurte, both of whose houses now act as museums. In 1954, Colombia finally realised the full significance of such history and beauty by proclaiming the whole town a National Monument. This is the main reason why the impeccably whitewashed houses look like they come from another time: they pretty much do.
There´s no more beautiful way to lose time than by spending it aimlessly wandering over the cobblestones surrounding Colombia´s biggest plaza, taking your fill from its hypnotic sense of ease – as well as the fine art and food on offer in its faultlessly preserved old mansions. Once sated, venture out of the town itself to discover the surrounds´ many historical treasures – from the prehistoric to contemporary. All of this adds up to centuries of reasons for the travel-weary to lose some time in Villa de Leyva´s timelessness.