Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay is reached easily by ferry from Buenos Aires, and makes for a nice day trip you can organise yourself. The novelty of reaching another country was also certainly not lost on us, and so we decided to make a quick journey to Uruguay. To help others decide on how to do it and what you can do whilst in Colonia (as the locals call it), here’s a compiled guide!
How to Get to Colonia de Sacramento
Colonia is situated across the bay from Buenos Aires, making it easy to go across via ferry for the day. Of course there are some options for the ferry which vary in price and duration. Here are the options:
If you are able to book in advance (by at least a few days), this company is your best bet as they are the cheapest. Whilst all companies supply same-same service, if you can get onto the promo tickets on Colonia Express you will be able to go and return same day for 598ARS per journey (total for return journey being 1196ARS). The boat takes just over an hour to get to Uruguay with them.
The main difference between Colonia Express and the others is that they leave from a different area in Buenos Aires so you’ll have to plan in advance on how you are going to get there!
SeaCat is owned by the biggest ferry company (and 3rd option), Buquebus. However, SeaCat is a bit cheaper than its owner with tickets coming in at around 605ARS each way (1210ARS total for a return ticket).
The benefit of paying slightly more than with these guys is that they leave closer to public transport options in Buenos Aires. They also take 1 hour to get to Colonia de Sacramento.
These guys are the most expensive of all options, coming in at around 700ARS each way for their cheapest ticket. They also provide a slower option (a 3 hour journey) which includes the added benefit of taking in the trip and watching live music. Unfortunately though taking the slow boat does not make it cheaper!
What To Do in Colonia de Sacramento?
Colonia is very much a colonial style town, and it certainly provides enough for a great day out. We would say that staying here overnight might not be advisable, unless you are looking to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. With that being said, here is what we ended up doing whilst in town:
1. Plaza de Armas
One of the quaint little squares (you will see many), this one is surrounded by great photo opportunities and leafy spots to sit. Don’t forget your camera and explore the surrounding streets to see some classic cars and cobblestone streets
2. Basilica of the Holy Sacrament
There are many churches in and around Colonia, with this one taking up one corner of Plaza de Armas. It is of Portuguese design from the 1800s and makes for a good detour to check out whilst in the Plaza
3. Archaeological Site of the Governors House
Completing your stop in Plaza de Armas is the original site of the Governors house. There is not much that remains here though it is an interesting look into how the Spanish treated the Portuguese as they destroyed it in 1777.
4. The Main Square, Old City Gate and Walls
Moving further through the cobblestone streets of Colonia you will come across some more history in the original main square of the town, named Plaza Mayor del 25 de Mayo. This square was originally destined for military displays but today is a leafy spot with orange trees and some small market stalls. Walking on from here you will then encounter what was once the main city gate (now partially rebuilt) and original walls. They provide a great view out over the bay and an insight into how they historically wanted to defend the city.
5. The Street of Sighs
Near to the city gate is the Calle de los Suspiros or the Street of Sights. This street gives another good photo-op with very pretty scenery looking down towards the water. The street itself is also a prime example of a Portuguese street, with the original cobblestones of the era and a drain running down the middle of the street.
6. Climbing the Lighthouse
Probably one of the highlights of a relaxing day, you can pay a small fee (prices below as of July 2017) to climb up to the viewing platform of the lighthouse. After you wind your way up to the top you will be treated to 360 degree views of both the town and the surrounding water. Definitely take your time up there and soak it all in, the town looks even prettier from above!
7. Seeing the Rio de la Plata
The river (that seems more like a bay) borders the town and off course leads you back towards Argentina. From town you can start following the river by walking the streets and keeping it on your left and eventually you will be led out of town. If you continue you will eventually reach the old bull ring and train museum which are not really worth visiting (though the journey to get there makes it worth it).
8. Visiting the Best Coffee Shop in Colonia – Colonia Sandwich Coffee Shop
It had been a while since we had really tasted good coffee, having gotten used to drinking free hostel coffee in most locations! That all changed upon visiting Colonia Sandwich Coffee Shop, where we were greeted by 2 lovely Argentinians making what smelt like great coffee. We ordered a coffee and were amazed by the quality, and the great price.
We sat and talked with the guys that run it for well over an hour, as they recounted living in Australia and wanting to bring good coffee to their home and to Colonia (which was filled with bad coffee!). We would highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a caffeine fix, as we would go back in a heartbeat!
9. Walking Amongst the Local Artesan Market
The local feria or artesan market is a small setup of stalls that we just had to check out. We had heard Uruguayans were just as obsessed (or even more so) with mate as Argentinians, and the market helped to prove that. You could buy almost anything tea related including a thermos, mate pots, straws, or even complete tea sets. We had a great time rummaging through this place, trying to find a bargain to take back with us to Argentina
10. Seeing the Many Museums
Colonia has many available museums that you can visit when you come into town, with many only costing a small amount of money. You can make your way to see anything from tiles and naval artefacts through to historic representations of the Spanish, Portuguese, and of the past. Be aware that most museums do not open until after 11am (if at all), which is also a common rule for a lot shops in the area. I guess when they say it’s a relaxing town the people take it literally!
Once we completed our time in Colonia de Sacramento we made our way back to the port to catch the ferry back to Buenos Aires. We ended up having a really good day in Uruguay, and it made us want to come back one day to see more of this beautiful space.