A day-tripper’s guide to colourful Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

In a bid to add more passport stamps or perhaps do a visa run, day-trippers frequently flock to the charming city of Colonia, Uruguay. Located on the country’s east coast, it’s just a one-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires across the Río de la Plata, making it easy to squeeze in a visit from neighbouring Argentina. The historic quarter Colonia del Sacramento rewards those who make the trip with colourful facades, vine-draped shops and palm-fringed boardwalks set within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the type of laid-back place where one simply wanders around losing track of time.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, UruguayOriginally founded by the Portuguese in the 1600s, the city passed between Portuguese and Spanish rule for decades, and the influence of that melting pot is apparent in the resulting colonial architecture and vibrant streetscapes. Today, visitors come to explore the streets of Barrio Historic which is now under UNESCO protection, ensuring it retains its old-world charm.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, UruguayThe gateway to the historic quarter is a drawbridge called Puerta de la Ciudadela, leading into what used to be a fortress. One needs only a couple of hours to navigate all of Colonia’s wedge stone walkways, which wind past treasured spots like the enchanting Street of Sighs. Calle de los Suspiros is lined with houses dating back to the first colonial period, framed by the river on one end and Plaza Mayor on the other making it a popular stop for photographers.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento, UruguayPerhaps the most important landmark in Colonia is the Convent of San Francisco, which was reduced to ruins during a fire in the 1700s. Despite rubble being all that remains, visitors are welcome to wander through the pathways and old stone walls which lead to a new addition: the Colonia del Sacramento lighthouse. After paying $1 admission, guests climb 111 steps up a winding, narrow staircase to the very top, and get to soak in the city’s best views.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Back on solid ground, the Basilica of the Holy Sacrament is one of the oldest churches in all of Uruguay, and found just a short walk away from the lighthouse. But perhaps even more impressive is the street leading up to it: Calle de Portugal, where foliage and flowers spill out of antique cars parked along the cobbled street. Auto enthusiasts will be pleased to know this isn’t the only spot to find vintage cars—VWs, old Fords and Hillmans are parked all around the historic quarter, giving Havana a run for its money.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento, UruguayThe final stop on a tour of Colonia del Sacramento should be the waterfront which overlooks the vast Río de la Plata. Even on an overcast, windy day it’s still a dramatic scene, and the perfect spot to finish off a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento before hopping back on the ferry.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

PRACTICALITIES:

How to get to Colonia: Most visitors get to the city from either Montevideo or Buenos Aires. It takes just over two hours to drive to Colonia from Montevideo, and can be done by renting a car or booking a seat on one of the comfortable buses operated by Turil. There are also a handful of fast ferries, which take about one hour to cross the river between Colonia and Buenos Aires.

Currency: The Uruguayan Peso, though Argentine Pesos are accepted in some places. Credit cards are also accepted by most merchants.

Top tip: Arrive first thing in the morning to get the streets to yourself. Colonia gets quite busy starting around 10:30 a.m. when the tour buses pull in, so those who arrive earlier can enjoy some solace before hoards of day-trippers descend on the town.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

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#Colonia rewards those who make the trip with colourful facades, vine-draped shops and palm-fringed boardwalks set within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

#Uruguay | #Travel | #SouthAmerica

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16 Responses

  1. Karen Higgs says:

    Uruguay deserves SOO much more than a day trip! 🙂

  2. Lauren says:

    You captured it beautifully! Your photos truly transport me there. Uruguay – I need to get to you, ASAP!

  3. Silke says:

    Colonia does look like a worthwhile day trip destination. Your pictures of the historic quarter are just beautiful. There is such a rustic charm to it. And the cars… wow, indeed, they give Havana a run for their money!

  4. What a picturesque place – I’d be more than happy to wander the streets of Colonia – it looks so unspoilt. Your photography is really stunning too – all those vintage cars and scooters!

  5. I can’t believe this is just an hour away from BA and I missed it. What a picturesque place Colonia is. The tip to get there early, before tours, is most helpful; pretty much the case in every place on tour bus (or worse, cruise) circuits. Early morning is my favorite time to explore places anyway, looks like Colonia del Sacramento would be ideal for that.

  6. Kirstie says:

    Wow! It is a very vintage place with vintage cars and vintage structures! I love it. Instagram-worthy and feels like you are traveling back in time! 😀

  7. Eloise says:

    Colonia looks stunning. These cars made me feel like you were traveling back in time, or like time had stopped. I’m glad to know it’s been added to the UNESCO Heritage List, so, hopefully, it will stay as charming as it is now! I’d love to explore Latin America, and Uruguay would surely be on my list.

  8. Wow, you’ve done a great job of selling me on Uruguay, even though it is high on my bucket list anyway. 😉 I love UNESCO sites so Barrio historic area is where I would want to begin. Such great photos, typical scenery but you have a great eye for angles and such.

  9. Mags says:

    I have to admit, i don’t know much about Uruguay, but Colonia del Sacramento looks so charming. I may have another destination to add to the list.

  10. Del Sacramento is indeed a revelation. The old world charm is so enchanting. I loved at the pictures of the vintage cars and scooters. Your photos have capture the charm and elegance of the place in lovely fashion. I am sure a trip to Del Sacramento is an opportunity to travel back in history and enter a world which fascinates.

  11. Tami says:

    So charming, isn’t it? I love the stone walkways, the pastel colored buidings, and your photo with the bougainvillea growing up a lamppost!

  1. November 21, 2017

    […] A day-tripper’s guide to colourful Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay […]

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