Our journey from Bogota to Villa de Leyva in Colombia has been way too long. It’s already dark by the time we reach the sleepy, colonial town, high up in the mountains. The cobblestone streets are deserted, the lighting, more than a little eerie.
It started early in the morning, on what was essentially our first day in Colombia. The day of travel that is more often than not, the most confusing of any trip. Navigating a new language, geography and social customs all at once is always challenging, even if your hubby speaks perfect Italian (which should theoretically help more than it has so far…) 😉
In this guide
Scammed! From Bogota to Villa de Leyva
We’ve walked with our packs for at least 10 minutes, and despite getting directions to the Bogota bus terminal that’s supposed to take us to Villa de Leyva, from the kind lady at our hotel, we seem to be a little lost. Perhaps it’s because we received the directions in Spanish? It all seemed so clear at the time…
Our bags are getting heavier, and the sun is steadily marching higher into the sky, so we decide to hop in a taxi. We think we’ve been clear about our intended destination, but it’s not until 4 hours later, that we realize we’ve been scammed.
Terminal del Norte vs Terminal de Transporte
It turns out there are 2 bus separate bus terminals in Bogota.
The Terminal de Transporte, where our oh-so-clever taxi driver has dropped us off, and the Terminal del Norte, which is where we actually want to go. Terminal de Norte was a 5 minute drive from where we got in the taxi, and the main terminal – 20. We have no idea about this, of course…until we drive by the Terminal del Norte, on our bus, 4 hours later. Grrr >.<
We realize that we’ve wasted 3 hours sitting in the bus terminal in Bogota, so that our taxi driver could make an extra $4. Super frustrating…but such is the life of travelers in a new city.
All of this is forgotten as we careen through high mountain passes, and as I timidly peek through the windows at steep cliffs, unguarded by rails, I am happy that we are on a Libertadores bus.
They seem somehow more solid and substantial than the mini-buses that seem to rocket past us with a death wish. The scenery is spectacular though, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the absolute beauty of Colombian nature.
In all, it takes us 9 hours to reach Villa de Leyva: 1 hour to get to the bus station, 3 hours of waiting at the Terminal de Transporte and 5 hours on the Libertadores bus.
After the monumental Bogota to Villa de Leyva journey, I feel like my mind is playing tricks on me. Is it actually possible for one woman to be so over-the-top affectionate 24 hours a day? Am I imagining things or have we somehow accidently crossed over into a dimension inhabited only by plush teddy bears and sparkly rainbows?
“Olaaaaaa mi amorrrr!! Como estasssss mi amorrrr!! Mi Carinhooooo!!” Marta, the owner of El Solar Hostel exclaims, as she engulfs the Bear with a hug and a kiss for each cheek. I narrowly dodge the hug, but receive the 2 kisses, as Marta trills on in enthusiastic spanish, punctuated by several more “mi amors” and “mi carinhos.”
It turns out that Marta is always like this. Without fail. Even at 7 in the morning, when we’re desperately trying to get a few more hours of sleep. She is the sunniest of women in the sleepiest of sleepy colonial towns.
Villa de Leyva (also spelled Leiva, and pronounced Vee-ya de Leiba) was declared a National Monument in December of 1954. A quiet town of 10,000 people, and perhaps just as many peaceful stray dogs, the town’s colonial architecture is almost perfectly preserved. Along with lanes and lanes of cobblestone streets, there’s a huge Plaza Mayor, a large church and several quaint restaurants.
In truth, there’s not much to do in Villa de Leyva, besides walk around, enjoy the sunshine and soak up the absolute peace of it all.
Unfortunately, the Bear and I have just started our travels and have a bit of difficulty getting into the rhythm of nothingness. We feel like we need to be DOING something. Anything. The feeling is nothing more than a ghostly remnant of our lives in non-stop hurry-hurry Seoul, but it still takes us until our third and final day in Villa de Leyva to calm down enough to appreciate it fully.
Tips for traveling from Bogota to Villa de Leyva by bus
From mini-buses to cruisers, there’s a lot of different companies traveling the route from Bogota to Villa de Leyva. You can simply show up at either the Terminal de Transporte or the Portal del Norte and see what’s available.
Take the Libertadores Bus
The cheapest option is definitely one of the mini-buses. These don’t run on a particular schedule, but depart whenever it’s full of passengers. They can drive recklessly up the mountain roads, so I recommend taking a Libertadores but from Bogota to Villa de Leyva instead. It’s the only bus that goes direct. You can also count on it departing on time, as well as driving safely around those guardrail free mountain roads.
Stay at El Solar Hostel
This recommendation comes with a caveat. Be prepared to be woken up at 7am every morning by Marta’s enthusiastic voice. If you’re okay with early mornings and shared bathrooms, El Solar is a great place to stay. At just $15/night, it’s a real find. Marta even makes free coffee and tea for you in the mornings. Plus you’ll get at least 25 kisses and 45 hugs during your stay there.
Don’t rush it
t takes a bit of time to get into the rhythm of Villa de Leyva, so leave yourself the luxury of space. We had to leave, just when we were starting to really chill out. Take along a good book and relaaaax. We wish we had.