Montevideo is one of the smallest capital cities in the world with under 1.4million inhabitants but its considered to be one of the safest.
Colonia del Sacramento | All the sights in two days
Colonia del Sacramento is generally the first town you’ll encounter if coming from Argentina into Uruguay and not flying direct into Montevideo. If you’re in Buenos Aires then its a short and easy ferry journey across the channel of water separating Argentina from Uruguay, the Rio del Plata. Most people take a day trip from Buenos Aires which is enough to explore this cute little colonial town but as we were venturing further into Uruguay we decided to stay for a day or two and we’re really glad we did. Colonia del Sacramento is a beautiful little town with bags of charm and UNESCO World Heritage status. It would be a shame to miss it if you’re in the area.
How did we get to Colonia del Sacramento?
The easiest way to get to Colonia del Sacramento is to take the ferry from Buenos Aires directly to Colonia. The Colonia Express ferry service is the most convenient and most cost effective. We made our way to the office which is down by the beautiful docklands area of Buenos Aires the day before to buy our ticket. It is a pretty busy service, especially at weekends, so we would advise to buy your ticket in advance if possible. If you’re in Montevideo you can visit Colonia del Sacramento as a day visit and there are buses throughout the day running between the two.
Where did we stay in Colonia del Sacramento?
Colonia del Sacramento isn’t a big town but there’s a fair few hostels, hotels and guest houses to choose from. We chose a fairly cheap option as we were only staying a few days and wanted to save our pennies for other things such as food as we found Uruguay extremely expensive. We chose Casa Granate and it wasn’t a bad choice at all. It was rustic and basic and I think there was a frog in our room but it had hot water, a comfortable bed and there was a shared kitchen & dining area which you could use and decent wifi. It was about a 10-15 min walk into the centre of town which was pretty ok.
What is there to see and do in Colonia del Sacramento?
Visit the lighthouse
Colonia del Sacramento has a lovely little lighthouse which is still in use today warning ships of the danger of the Rio del Plata. In olden times, when the Portuguese ruled, the base of the lighthouse was a convent, the convent de San Fransisco, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in the early 1700’s and never rebuilt. You can still see the old walls of the convent which are still there to stabilise the lighthouse. You can visit the inside of the lighthouse and climb the steps to the top but unfortunately on the days we visited it was closed.
Check out the Calle de los Suspiros
La calle de los suspiros is a historical street located at Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. This is probably the most photographed street in Colonia and the name translates to “The Street of Sighs”. The street was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995 and can be located off the Plaza Mayor in the old part of the town. Its a delightful street leading down to the water and is lined with tumbled down houses, some which are still lived in and a cafe bar at the top with the same ramshackle, days of old, aesthetic. Top tip, if you want a picture that has no other people in there, get their early as its usually busy with tourists. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon is when you’ll get the best light on this well photographed street.
Visit the fortifications of Colonia de Sacramento
It was in 1680 when the Portuguese founded the then fortress of Colonia del Sacramento as a strategic force opposite the Spanish city of Buenos Aires. The city changed hands many times between the Portuguese and the Spanish and the town today demonstrates the fusion between the Spanish and Portuguese styles. The beautiful cobbled streets and fortified walls of Colonia de Sacramento are remnants of that time. The fortifications stood as a barrier against invasion and although most of the walls were taken down in the 1800’s there are still parts of it remaining today. You will also find the old city gate which housed a drawbridge and in the centre of the old town, near the basilica you’ll find the remains and foundations of the viceroys’ house. All these are found in the centre of the old town adjacent to the Plaza Mayor.
Soak up the sun on a local beach
Colonia has a few local beaches that are perfect for getting away from the crowds in the town and enjoying the sun. Take a picnic to any one of the gorgeous local beaches or visit later in the day to witness some spectacular sunsets. The water here in the Rio del Plata does look a little brown and not as sparkling blue as further up the coast but its ok for a dip and the sands are vast and wide. Playa Real de San Carlos is probably the closest and nicest beach in the area and wonderful for a stroll or cycle along the promenade. Its quite busy in high season but you can almost have the beach all to yourself in low season. Some of the local beaches have hotels and beach bars right on the sands in high season so you’ll never be far from a cool refreshing cocktail or snack.
Admire the beautiful Basilica
The Basilica of the Holy Sacrament or Iglesia Matriz is considered to be the oldest church in Uruguay and you can see the twin towers of the basilica as you enter Colonia by ferry from Buenos Aires. The exterior and interior are quite simple and plain but its a beautiful calm place to escape the hot sun of the town. The door to the church is always open during the daytime without an attendant and you’re free to walk in and around at your leisure and admission is free.
Dine in one of the many local restaurants
Colonia de Sacramento has an abundance of restaurants ranging from pizza and burger bars to the more traditional meat BBQ type parilla meals to a little more high end dining with some authentic local dishes. We decided to splurge on our last night in Colonia and visited one of the best. Casa Viera is a wonderful little traditional restaurant with bohemian decor and a small but very tasty menu. It was suggested we try the empanadas as a starter and they didn’t disappoint. I was really keen to try the steak and it was amazing, flavoursome and cooked to perfection. The house wine we had was a local Uruguayan wine and the service was impeccable. I would really recommend this restaurant if you’re visiting Colonia
Colonia de Sacramento is a really beautiful place to visit. After the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires the peacefulness of this little place was just perfect. Its a superb destination to visit for one or two days but remember, Uruguay is an expensive country to the prices are much higher than you’ll have found in Argentina, especially with the blue dollar rate. Even so, this charming little colonial town is well worth the visit.
Booking resources for your stay in Colonia
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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La Paloma is a small seaside town on the Southwest coast of Uruguay just north of Montevideo. Much smaller than the more widely known beach resort of Punta del Este.