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Other Favorite Places

Villa de Leyva

Located about a four-hour drive from Bogotá, Villa de Leyva is an almost untouched Spanish colonial town founded in 1572. The streets and the Plaza Mayor look much as they did hundreds of years ago. There are several very nice hotels, including the Hosteria del Molino La Mesopotamia, built around an old mill with a stream still running under the dining room.

A newer hotel, the Hospederia Duruelo, sits up on a hill on the outskirts of town and has wide verandas overlooking the town. On Saturday mornings, a colorful traditional market is held nearby. There are several small museums including the house of a forefather of Colombian Independence, Antonio Nariño. The main church predominates on the plaza, along with a number of small shops and houses of interest. One can also tour the monastery and Convento de Carmen.

There are a limited number of activities in Villa de Leyva. Horseback riding and bicycling are major recreational activities. Villa de Leyva also hosts several festivals, including a kite festival, Festival de Cometas, in September, and a Festival de Luces (Festival of Lights) in December.

On the way to or from Villa de Leyva, you may pass through the town of Tunja, with its bustling town square. Along the journey is also the site of the definitive battle for Colombian Independence, the Battle of Boyacá, where Simón Bolivar held off the Spanish troops across a small bridge.

The area around Villa de Leyva is desert-like and rich with fossils from an ancient sea. Nearby is the well-known El Fosil, a reasonably complete fossil of a kronosaurus still in the ground. For a small fee, you can walk around the fossil.

One other popular stop on the journey to Villa de Leyva is the town of Ráquira. Known country-wide for its pottery and handicrafts, the town itself is brightly painted and a quaint stop along the way.

The climate of Villa de Leyva is temperate. The altitude of about 2140m makes for warm days and cool nights. Afternoon storms often sweep in across the mountains bringing rain and cool breezes. For more information visit:

Santa Marta

Santa Marta, founded in 1525, is one of the oldest colonial cities in Colombia. Still an important port for Colombia, it is known more for its tourist beaches to the south, and connection to the ancient Colombian civilization of the Tayrona. Santa Marta was the original Spanish capital before the founding of Bogotá. Later in its history, Santa Marta was the final home of the Colombian liberator, Simón de Bolivar, who died here in 1830.

The Tayrona were creators of some of the most fabulous gold artifacts of indigenous Colombian people. The Spanish settled at Santa Marta so as to have access to that gold. Eventually, the Tayrona were wiped out by the Spaniards and their gold shipped off to the Spanish court. Inland from Santa Marta, the Ciudad Perdida or Lost City of the Tayrona was discovered in 1975. It is thought to be the great pre-Hispanic capital of the Tayrona people, abandoned in the 1600s.

The Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is the house where Simón Bolivar died in 1830. It is a national monument and open to the public. On the grounds, the Museo Bolivariano features works of art donated by Latin American artists from the countries liberated by Bolivar.

Among other places of interest is the Museo Tayrona, located in the Casa de la Aduana (Customs House). It houses a collection of Tayrona objects of pottery and gold as well as items from several other indigenous peoples. Also of interest is the Cathedral, one of the oldest in Colombia, which was started in the 1500s, where the remains of Rodrigo de Bastides, the founder of Santa Marta, are buried.

Santa Marta is known for its beach resort area, the Rodadero, about 5km south of the center of town. It holds a traditional Fiesta del Mar in July. There are an aquarium and museum, and Scuba diving is another major activity, with several dive schools in the nearby town of Tanganga as well as some in the city itself. Hiking is another major activity in the area, although check with the locals to make sure you are safe.

The climate in Santa Marta is hot, averaging 85 degrees F, with cooler ocean breezes in the evenings. For more information visit: