A Secret Mountain Paradise Without Hordes of Expats

After getting some work done in the morning, I decide to head to town for lunch. On the way, I pass a small house downhill from the hostel where three little kids are singing to “Niña Bonita” amongst chickens and a few dogs. Further down, I pass a donkey standing in the middle of the street looking at me cautiously while it feeds on grass nearby. Next is the military base, where the always-polite army tells me “Buenas tardes.” The town is having some type of farm animal show, so one day I pass a park full of horses, and the next day the park is full of cows wearing ribbons around their necks. A random healthy-looking stray dog joins me on my walk for awhile. Then I get to the town center, where the road becomes cobbled and the houses are all white with brown roofs and green or café-colored trims. Several have flowers in intense shades of purple, pink, and red spilling over the walls. The majority of the people I pass make eye contact and exchange greetings with me. On my walk, the breathtaking view of the mountains around town distracts me from thinking too hard. The air is unbelievably free of pollution, cars drive at about 1 mile an hour, and dogs, horses, donkeys, and people exist harmoniously. This is Villa de Leyva.

Villa de Leyva in Boyacá, Colombia, is one of those worry-free towns with friendly locals in an amazing setting. The biggest shock – it’s not overrun with foreign expats (yet). There are quite a few Rolos, or people from Bogotá, that move here to enjoy a higher quality of life or use it as a weekend getaway. In fact, the only thing to look out for here is stepping in horse poop or tripping over a cobblestone. The police act more as traffic directors (since there are no traffic lights, and only a handful of stop signs on the outskirts of town) and information providers. The army presence is apparently here due to Villa de Leyva being a great place to relax, and not due to necessity.

What? Has it been 5 days already?

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