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We are an expat community that live and feel Colombia; we write in our native languages and love to travel through this beautiful country. Here you can find our travel stories where we share sensations, flavors and smells from Colombia. We invite you to read our experiences.
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Recently I visited Villa de Leyva, the historic town in the state of Boyaca. I also made a quick side trip to Ráquira, the colorful village famous for its ceramics that lies only 45 minutes away by road.
The square and the main road running through Ráquira are the attractions, as they are lined with wildly colored store fronts, one of which (see photo) seems like something you might find in Kathmandu. Almost every shop is stocked to the rafters with equally colorful arts and crafts. Almost the entire population is in one way or another involved in ceramics, a local tradition that goes back to times before the Spanish arrived. Popular purchases are pottery, stylized statues of the Virgin Mary, and campanitas (mobiles of small clay bells), all created locally.
After you have had your fill of Ráquira, make sure you visit the Monasterio de la Candelaria, a 17th century monastery in a spectacular mountain setting just a few kilometers away (see photo below). Tours are offered by the monks and include a peek at the caves where many of their predecessors isolated themselves from the outside world for prolonged periods , immersing themselves in prayer. Adjacent to the monastery is a hotel that perfectly matches its architectural style.
As you head back to Villa de Leyva, a mandatory stop is the Tienda del Tagua in Tinjacá, an otherwise unremarkable town. Tagua is often referred to as vegetable ivory. Tagua is in fact a nut from a palm of the same name. Strange "fruit" (photo below) grow on these palms and these are embedded with the nuts. The nuts are extracted, their shells removed, and their centers are left to dry, becoming as hard as elephant ivory (but sparing the elephants!). Artisans work the nuts into a wide variety of objects, particularly jewelry. The Tienda del Tagua has on display, among other things, a miniature tagua chess game which you will need a magnifying glass to appreciate.