If you’re anything like me, you need to get out of the city every once in a while. Between my TEFL classes and teaching practicums, I didn’t have too much time, so my best bets for a day trip from Buenos Aires were the Tigre Delta, and Colonia, Uruguay. Unfortunately, I never got to see the Tigre River Delta. I did, however, spend a day exploring the amazing and colorful Colonia del Sacramento.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Colonia del Sacramento is located by the Río de la Plata, across from Buenos Aires. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay, and really goes to show just how significant an influence European affairs had over the development of parts of South America. Due to its long history of being fought over by Spain and Portugal, Colonia is a town prepared for siege. You can still find parts of the original wall surrounding the older sections of the town.
Below I’ve included a chart from Wikipedia, so you can see just how many times Colonia traded hands.
It’s amazing, really. Colonia, Uruguay is almost a patchwork quilt of Spanish and Portuguese influence. A beautiful, colorful patchwork quilt that I highly recommend you visit.
Getting from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay
The best way to get to Colonia, Uruguay from Buenos Aires is by ferry. There’s a fast ferry and a slow ferry, and we shelled out for the fast one. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes. If I remember correctly, the slow one would have taken three hours. Seeing as we only had one day to enjoy Colonia, we didn’t want to spend half of it on the ferry. Using Buquebus.com, we booked not only roundtrip tickets, but a package that combined the tickets with a tour of the city and lunch. Currently on Buquebus, that package is being sold for $93.
“A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd
The tour of the city was definitely worth it—and the only reason I know anything about Colonia del Sacramento—but the lunch was kind of meh. You could only go to one restaurant, which had a crappier menu for those on the tour. I would recommend either finding a ticket that doesn’t include the lunch, or just taking the hit and buying a different meal. While Uruguay has its own currency, most businesses in Colonia will accept the Argentine peso…they get a lot of tourists.
If possible, try to book you ferry tickets for a day with good weather. It took us two tries to get to Colonia from Buenos Aires due to poor weather. On our first try, we showed up at the port at 6AM, only to be told that the ferry was cancelled due to high winds. Buquebus said they couldn’t refund our tickets because the wind was not in their control. It was basically airline rules. Instead we just went on a different day (but didn’t pay again).
What to do in Colonia, Uruguay
While you can spend two days in Colonia, I didn’t feel like I missed anything by only staying one day. We explored the old historic district, did some souvenir shopping (I bought geode wind chimes and dulce de leche), and had some amazing white wine flavored ice cream. We were even able to take a bus up a hill to a giant Hollywood-style sign that said “COLONIA” in large letters.
You can see the river from most of the town. The water is brown, which originally surprised me. According to our tour guide, it’s actually very clean. The older buildings were very colorful and the town gave off a slow-paced and happy vibe.
Overall, Colonia, Uruguay was the perfect day trip from Buenos Aires, and a much-needed contrast to the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. It’s a great place to just amble around the cobbled streets, eat some good food, and enjoy the sights.
Did I mention the wild dogs that just ran around everywhere? They were the CUTEST!