I’m in a small town in central Colombia, just north of Bogota, Villa de Leyva. It’s just the sort of place dreams are made of; white colonial homes with red tiled roofs, the largest central plaza in Colombia, no cathedrals (the small parish church on the plaza seems just the right proportion), and cobblestone streets. I’ve been here a week and a half and have met a number of people, so when I walk down the streets and to the market, I am greeted and sometimes sit down for a chat or a beer.
The charm isn’t just in the physical beauty, but mostly in the people I’ve met here. Last night I sat out on the town square with a Colombian man who has spent most of his last 30 years in Europe, mucking about doing interesting things. He is back with a desire in staying in this town, though he is from Bogota.The people I’ve met seem quite thoughtful and aware, and environmentally tuned in. A number of Europeans have settled here, making things like wine, beer, sausages, pasta, and such. You can even go gluten free if need be- there is a niche for that at the organic foods market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
It is 2 to 3 hours from Bogota, so flights to the States are relatively cheap and often. Also there is the big city, Bogota, with museums and culture when so desired.
It could be an interesting place to settle, but there is a strong interest in developing mass tourism, which of course will bring the end to its charms, and probably to its charming local citizens. I’ve seen it too many before, especially Miami Beach and Saigon.
The other big stumbling block for me is that though it is cheap now, once it becomes a bigger tourist magnet, the cost of living will go up. It goes up now on weekends when the cashed up people from Bogota arrive. The peso is very cheap to the dollar at the moment, but even a year ago it was 2/3 of what it is now. If it goes back, the cost of living increases by that amount.
The climate is perfect in terms of temperature, but there is a water shortage, so bad that the expensive hotels cannot use their pools. But maybe the positive side of that is lack of water may curtail development to some degree.