Extreme Sports in Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Villa de Leyva is one of Colombia’s most beautiful and well-preserved colonial towns. It is located about 4 hours from Bogotá. When you arrive at Villa de Leyva, it feels like you are stepping back in time. The cobblestone streets, the big plaza where people congregate, the traditional balconies, and the horse-drawn carriages are just a few things you can expect to see as you arrive in this quaint little town. 

You may not know that Villa de Leyva is home to an array of extreme sports and activities such as cuatrimotos (4×4 ATVs), rappelling, torrentismo (canyoning), paragliders, extreme hikes, horseback riding experiences, bicycle tours, and more.

I have been visiting Villa de Leyva for 40 years, and throughout my visits, I have delved a bit into a few of these extreme sports. Many companies around town will be happy to take you on a group or individual tour. The prices are all very similar, but for me, it boils down to where I feel more comfortable and secure with these extreme sports. 

Although heights terrify me, the team at 90 Grados Territorio Aventura is excellent at explaining everything, putting your mind at ease, and being next to you every step of the way. When I say next to you, I mean it literally and figuratively. The owners, Victor and his wife are welcoming and full of energy, and it is clear that they love what they do. Their entire team is very well-versed and trained. 

What is Canyoning?

Canyoning is a sport where the participant navigates down a fast-flowing body of water, leading into a canyon. Participants use various techniques, including climbing, jumping, scrambling, balancing, etc. 

You already know that I am not a fan of heights. So I imagined climbing down a waterfall would have me face that fear. In most cases, I would have passed on the opportunity. Still, between the peer pressure from my cousins and how comfortable Victor and his wife made me feel, I decided this was an excellent opportunity to try this sport. I would lie if I said didn’t question it all the way there, but once I was strapped, I felt the cool water on my legs, and I realized the only way out was up or down, and up seemed more challenging than down I went with the flow … of the water and my instructor that is. 

We all met at the 90 Grados Territorio Aventura office on one of the side streets from the Plaza Mayor. We filled out waivers, requested medical insurance (just in case, better be safe than sorry), and they loaded us all into a van with a few more people. The ride up to the mountain was fun. The group included a couple from Germany, a few Colombians, and us. 

Once we arrived, we had to do a little climb to find the spot where we would be canyoning. Once there, Victor and his team set the equipment up and tested it by going down a few times on their own. We were at the top of what felt like a small waterfall, and seeing them go down with such ease gave me encouragement.

My cousins went down first; the German couple went next, and they enjoyed it so much. Finally, it was my turn. The “small” waterfall suddenly felt like a colossal waterfall when I could see the people at the bottom. Seeing them there gave me a perspective of how high we indeed were. 

To say my legs were a little shaky is simply an understatement. Victor hooked me up to the gear, and he helped me by walking next to me halfway through the waterfall. The first steps were the hardest. It felt like I was going to slip. For most of the way down, I felt like I was at a 90-degree angle, and in my head, I kept wondering if that is why the company is called 90 grados (90 degrees) Territorio Aventura (adventure territory). Did I ask them if that was where the name came from? No, I did not. It was something to keep my brain from panicking. I kept taking steps, little by little, and then I realized that the rock I was walking on and had gotten accustomed to had an end, and I still had a long way down. I looked up to see Victor giving me thumbs up and telling me I was doing well. So, I closed my eyes and took a leap. I felt the cold water falling on me and enjoyed every second of it. The next thing I remember was walking out at the bottom and feeling super energized. So much so that I wanted to do it again.

When I packed for this trip to Villa de Leyva, I was not planning on canyoning. By the same token, the cousins that joined me on this adventure live in Bogotá, and since we had not discussed this activity ahead of time, they also did not pack the appropriate clothes for it. 

What to wear for canyoning?

I recommend wearing quick dry workout clothes and water shoes. The rest of the equipment is provided by the tour company. Although more dedicated canyoning experts wear a wetsuit, I wouldn’t recommend packing one and carrying it for canyoning in Villa de Leyva. 

Another great adventure is to explore the desert of Villa de Leyva and the Cuatrimoto park on nothing less than a Cuatrimoto. 

What are Cuatrimotos?

Cuatrimotos are 4×4 All Terrain Vehicles. 

You can rent cuatrimotos in various places throughout Villa de Leyva. We are loyal to 90 grados Territorio Aventura as we had already developed a relationship with them and felt comfortable booking with them. One of their employees, Felipe, picked us up at the office, drove us out to the place where we would get fitted with helmets and assigned a cuatrimoto. 

The drive out was in a little old Jeep. That alone was such a fun adventure. My 6’4 husband barely fit in the back, and he found it amusing. He loved seeing the change in scenery and landscape as we went to the outskirts of Villa de Leyva and into the desert.

Felipe walked us through how to drive the ATV, and then he got on a motorcycle and sped in front of us. We proceeded to follow him through all sorts of obstacles. My 10-year-old absolutely loved this experience. Felipe also took us to the pozos azules, which are artificial pools that, when the sun hits them right they have a beautiful blue color. 

What to wear for exploring the desert of Villa de Leyva?

I recommend wearing layers of comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Closed-toe shoes and sunglasses are a must. There is a lot of dust, especially when doing cuatrimotos.

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