MONGUI, Colombia – Villa de Leyva and Mongui, two pueblos of stone-paved streets and houses with balconies in central Colombia, preserve enormous architectural and artisanal riches that take visitors back to the days of the Spanish conquest.
These two pueblos in Boyaca province are among the 17 Heritage Towns the government seeks to promote as tourist destinations with cultural and gastronomic attractions.
“The Tourist Network of Colombian Heritage Towns is a program created by the Trade, Industry and Tourism Ministry. It’s a network of 17 towns and villages currently declared of cultural interest,” the head of the Fontur tourism agency, Jose Manuel Pacheco, told EFE.
Visiting the two pueblos, which lie some 76 kilometers (47 miles) apart, requires a road trip from Bogota, which in turn offers interesting stops along the way in Cundinamarca and Boyaca provinces to see the Spanish colonial constructions and archaeological discoveries.
Villa de Leyva is a national monument whose stone-paved plaza follows the traditional Spanish design from the time of the colonization, and is the site of Our Lady of the Rosary Church built in 1850. Also bordering the plaza is the house of the first Congress, where in 1811 representatives of the recently independent United Provinces of New Granada met during free Colombia’s earliest days.
This town, founded 444 years ago, offers visitors innumerable colonial buildings of great historical and cultural value, as well as archaeological sites and some enchanting festivals.
Colonial history and architecture also enrich Mongui, home of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mongui consecrated in 1966 by Pope Paul VI, along with the Franciscan convent, the Chapel of San Antonio and the 17th century Bridge of Calicanto, four sites declared National Monuments in 1975.
Outside of Mongui is a treasure for nature lovers, the Oceta heath, named after an Indian princess so full of sorrow when her loved one was killed in battle that she came here to die of hunger and cold.
In this upland valley one can also visit La Mesa, a stone table where pre-Hispanic inhabitants offered sacrifices to the gods, and the Penagos Falls, which according to legend was formed by Oceta’s tears.