Just under an hour by fast catamaran from Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata, is the tranquil small coastal city of Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO world heritage site that tells the story of Uruguay’s colonial heritage.
Founded as a Portuguese colony in 1680, Colonia del Sacramento was ruled alternatively by both Portugal and Spain. Ownership between the two changed half a dozen times in just 150 years until it was incorporated in modern day Uruguay in 1828.
The historic quarter with its narrow cobblestone streets and a well preserved fusion of Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial architecture offers a welcome day trip escape from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. Alongside the incredibly well preserved architecture, one will notice the antiquities such as old cars scattering the streets, adding to the feeling of stepping back in time.
Having been inscribed by UNESCO in 1995, the town has become a hotbed of tourist activity. However, local and national authorities and legislators have retained strict control on business operations to maintain and preserve the city’s integrity and character.
When it’s time for a refuelling stop, you will find an array of South American, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian inspired cafe’s and restaurants, owing to its colonial history, local resources and immigration since Uruguayan independence. Colonia is a little expensive when compared with Buenos Aires, but worth the trip.
Be warned, when travelling to and fro, there are often long queues at both ends and you will need to navigate both check in and Uruguayan and Argentine Immigration desks. We recommend arriving with plenty of time to spare!
But don’t let that put you off — beautiful, timeless Colonia awaits.
Study Guide: The Spanish Empire
Study Guide: Latin American Independence Movements
Main Image: Colonia del Sacramento, Victor Forjaz, Flickr Creative Commons
By Ian Cross