The small colonial town of Villa De Leyva is located northeast of Bogotá. As we planned to only stay for one night, we decided to store our big bags in our hostel in the city and only take our small day bags with a change of clothes. This proved to be very handy as we faced a long, cramped bus journey to get there and back!
When we arrived in Villa De Leyva we were immediately struck by how beautiful and picturesque the town is. Cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings and a huge central plaza make this the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering around, admiring the views and enjoying the quiet, laid back atmosphere. Our plan was to do just that, before starting the second half of Dan’s birthday celebrations with a nice dinner and a few drinks.
However, when we arrived at our hostel it turned out we were in for a bit of a frustrating wait. We booked a night in a dorm at Family World Hostel, which had great reviews and looked like a lovely place to stay for the night. But from the minute we arrived we all got this strange vibe from the staff, and generally felt very unwelcome. We got there at around 1.30pm and were told that check in time was 2pm, and having been told that luggage storage was in the hostel garden (i.e. just leave our bags outside), we thought it would be a better idea to wait until the room was ready. 2pm rolled around, but we heard nothing. At 2.30 I asked again, only to be told that we couldn’t actually check in until 3pm. Feeling frustrated as we only had one afternoon in Villa De Leyva before heading back to Bogotá, I asked if we could just put our bags away in the lockers so we could go out. Looking miffed, the girl on reception grudgingly allowed us upstairs – where we discovered that our dorm was ready with all the beds made up, and nobody cleaning or doing anything to it! We were thoroughly confused as to why they hadn’t allowed us to just check in when the room was apparently ready, but we shrugged it off and headed out quickly after locking away our bags.
We had a lovely stroll around the cobbled streets, enjoying the sunshine and taking pictures, before finding a restaurant on the main square for an early dinner. For some reason Italian food seems to be extremely popular in Colombia, something that is taken to an extreme level in Villa De Leyva – you can barely walk a single block without hitting an Italian restaurant or pizza place! So naturally we chose to have Italian for dinner, and all enjoyed delicious gourmet pizzas while watching the sun go down over the square.
Afterwards we went for a couple of drinks, first at a deserted bar in a little side street and then to a small, cozy place right on the corner of the central square. It was a great place that played old school 70’s rock (Dan was in his element) and had cheap drinks considering where it was located, but we were all surprised as the night unfolded and the streets and square remained almost deserted. Granted it was a Thursday night, so perhaps it was busier at the weekends, but the town seemed almost eerily quiet to us all the same.
Unfortunately we had another frustrating incident awaiting us when we returned to our hostel. We picked up a few beers on the way back to enjoy in the hostel garden, but on arrival we discovered that the door to the hostel was locked, and the receptionist had failed to give us a key earlier before we went out. After banging on the door for a few minutes the girl eventually let us in, only to look grumpily at the beers in our hands and inform us that if we wanted to drink those in the hostel, we would have to pay $2,000 pesos per drink! We were thoroughly confused by this, as when we had read the rules and regulations earlier there was no mention of not being allowed to bring your own drinks in. The girl told us that this charge was because they have a bar – they don’t, it’s actually just a bucket with lukewarm beers in it out in the garden that people can help themselves to – and was adamant that we weren’t allowed to drink in the garden without paying.
The next morning we got up and checked out of our hostel as soon as possible, having got fed up of the strange atmosphere and unfriendly staff. Luckily we only had our small day bags with us, so we were able to take them to visit the Terracotta House. Just a short walk outside the centre of town, this odd looking house is entirely made of clay, and is the largest piece of pottery in the world. Created by eccentric artist Octavio Mendoza, the house was actually inhabited for a while before being turned into a museum. It is delightfully quirky and well worth a visit if you go to Villa De Leyva.
After wandering around the grounds for a while and taking lots of photos, we headed back to the bus terminal for our journey back to Bogotá.