While I was in Ecuador, the locals gave me one piece of advice before I travelled to Colombia. They said, I need to make sure to visit Villa de Leyva and Barichara because they’re beautiful towns. Apparently, when local Colombians go on vacation, those are the two towns they take their families to.
The idea of traveling to places that local Colombians would go to on their vacation days sounded appealing to me. Immediately, I began planning on how to visit these two old colonial towns.
Here are seven reasons to visit the old colonial cities of Villa de Leyva and Barichara when you visit Colombia:
1) To admire the old colonial buildings in Villa de Leyva and Barichara
Villa de Leyva and Barichara is full of beautiful colonial buildings back when the Spaniards colonized the country. This makes for amazing photography as you admire such well preserved buildings. I went during low season and there was hardly any tourist in both cities. Outside of Bogota, Colombia, Asians are pretty much non-existent so I keep getting stared at by the locals. I think the weirdest thing is when they look at me and yell “Jacky Chan!”. I guess all Chinese people looks like Jacky Chan.
Regardless, I can’t help but admire the authenticity of both towns and knowing what I now know, I will most likely return here in the future.
2) To hike the Camino Real in Barichara
Camino Real is roughly 5.5km long pathway made of cobble stones that was built by German settlers during the colonizing period. The hike starts in Barichara and ends in a small town called Guane taking you about 1.5-2 hours to complete the entire downhill hike.
As you hike down the cobblestone path, you will see amazing landscapes, farmlands, and random houses selling food and beverages to tourist. This is a must do when you visit Barichara!
3) To witness the second biggest canyon in the world: Chicamocha
Located between the town of Barichara and city of Bucaramanga, the Chicamocha Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world right after the Grand Canyon. Most people go here to do some paragliding or sight seeing.
4) To walk on streets made of cobble stones
Both Villa de Leyva and Barichara has streets that are made of cobblestones. It’s quite fun to explore both cities and walking on these cobblestones and seeing what you will discover at the next corner.
5) To explore the nearby small town of Guane
Guane is a small town located at the very bottom of the Camino Real hike. I see many locals coming here to play basketball or soccer and to relax. Because I’m the only Asian traveling in this town, I kept getting weird stares from the locals. The tourist themselves were friendly and tried speaking to me a few times.
After spending some time in this tiny town, you can take a bus from the town centre back to Barichara for 2,000 COP.
6) To check out the view in Barichara
If you love taking pictures, then Barichara is heaven for you. At every corner, you get beautiful mountainous and city landscapes. I kind of wish I have a drone while traveling here so I can take a bird’s eye video and picture of this beautiful city.
7) To live a simple small town life in Villa de Leyva and Barichara
Both towns are very peaceful with tons of friendly locals. I definitely felt welcome. The hostel I stayed at in Barichara is called Hostal Casa Nacuma and the owners were very friendly and helpful. They spoke really good English and I was able to talk to them about the local culture and what life is like living in this area.
It seems that many people who live in Bogota prefer to live a simple small town life and would move to smaller towns like Barichara to raise their family. They also expressed interest in learning more about other people’s cultures and by running a hostel, they get that chance to meet foreigners. They aspire to open a Spanish school for foreigners and I can see that doing very well because of the attractive small town lifestyle you can experience while in Barichara.
How to take the bus to Villa de Leyva and Barichara:
The best way to reach Villa de Leyva is by taking a bus from Bogota. Simply ask a taxi driver to take you to the Bogota north bus terminal and buy your ticket there. I personally paid 24,000 COP for the bus ticket and the journey took roughly 4 hours to complete. Buses often arrive late because of the horrendous traffic in Bogota. Don’t worry if your bus is 1-1.5 hours late, this is normal in Bogota.
Most people go to Villa de Leyva first before going to Barichara. To reach Barichara from Villa de Leyva, simply go to the bus terminal and buy a ticket going to a town called Tunja. I personally paid 7,000 COP for the the ticket. After reaching the Tunja bus terminal, purchase another ticket going to San Gil, it should cost roughly 30,000 COP. The bus ride will take roughly 4 hours before you reach the terminal.
Once you arrive in San Gil, you need to go to a smaller bus terminal just over the bridge. That’s where you will take another bus to Barichara. Simply ask a taxi driver to take you to the “Barichara bus terminales” and he’ll know where to take you. Another method is to ask the bus driver that drove you from Tunja to San Gil to drop you off at the bridge near the bus terminal. This is what I did and I walked the rest of the way to the bus terminal that takes you to Barichara.
The bus from San Gil to Barichara cost roughly 4,800 COP and it’s a short ride taking roughly 30-40 minutes.
Enjoy your time in both Villa de Leyva and Barichara! I know I will return to both places in the future because I truly loved my time there and so will you!