Buenos Aires is a big city. Full of noise and people. It’s a fun atmosphere to experience for a few days but if you find yourself needing a change of pace and a change of scenery then consider visiting Colonia Del Sacramento. This historical town in Uruguay is the complete opposite of Buenos Aires. A sleepy town with quiet cafes and wine bars, beaches lining the river, and cobble streets to explore. Sound good? Here’s how to visit Colonia Del Sacramento as a day trip from Buenos Aires.
A Little Bit About Colonia Del Sacramento
Colonia Del Sacramento dates back to 1680. It was fought over for 100+ years by Spain and Portugal. Portugal won and it is the only Portuguese town in the country. However, you can still see the Spanish influence in some of the architecture across the town. The Spanish buildings are larger brick buildings with flat rooftops and balconies. The Portuguese buildings are smaller, made of stone and have tile rooftops. The combination of the two types of architecture makes for a really unique town that is fun to photograph and explore.
In 1995 Colonia Del Sacramento was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Only about 2600 people live here, many of which are actually Argentinians who came looking for a quieter and more relaxed lifestyle.
How to Get to Colonia Del Sacramento
Getting to Colonia Del Sacramento is super easy. They are regular ferries that run back and forth between Buenos Aires and Colonia Del Sacramento and the journey takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Since it’s across a river, not an ocean, it’s very calm so you probably don’t need to worry about getting seasick.
Ferry tickets can be easily booked online in advance. I booked this tour which gives you a number of options ranging from just the ferry ticket to the ferry ticket and wine tour. Browse through the options to see what you are most interested in. I personally chose the walking tour option which was short and gave me a bit of history then allowed me my own time to explore.
There is no assignment seating on the ferry, you can sit wherever you like. There is a “first-class” section, I peeked in and it didn’t look too special. There are also toilets on board and snacks available for purchase.
What you do need to remember is that you are going to another country. So, you will need your passport and to allow extra time for customs. From Buenos Aires over to Colonia Del Sacramento, you will do all the customs paperwork before you board the ferry. Then just walk off and get ready to explore on the other side. Leaving Colonia Del Sacramento, you will visit the customs counters both in Uruguay to exit, and again in Buenos Aires to enter.
The lines on both ends can be quite long so you want to give yourself a couple of hours on each end to ensure you have enough time.
If you booked a ferry ticket with an addition like the walking tour or winery etc. Once you disembark you will stand with signs offering the different options. Check and see which one applies to your ticket. If you just got the ferry ticket, you can walk off and head into town. It’s just a short walk!
Things to do in Colonia Del Sacramento
So, what is there to do in Colonia Del Sacramento? It’s quite small, which is what makes it perfect for a day trip from Buenos Aires. That being said there are a few things I recommend making sure you do while visiting.
Eat the Local Cheese
Colonia del Sacramento also has its own local cheese. The name is very easy to remember. It’s called Colonia cheese. It’s hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Again, you can find it at a number of different restaurants to try. If you are looking for a recommendation, I suggest Buen Suspiro Colonia. They have tasting platters you can order and some great local wines.
Try the Local Wine
Speaking of wine, Colonia is known for a type of wine called Tannat, which are typical grapes used that grow in the region. Many of the restaurants will sell Tannat wine by the bottle or the glass. If you are a wine lover you might want to consider doing a wine tour while in Colonia del Sacramento. There are a couple in the area but you will need to arrange some type of transportation if you did not book a wine option with your ferry.
Wander through the City Gates
Colonia Del Sacramento was a walled city with a huge, impressive city gate that you can walk through. Unfortunately, the original was ruined but it has been rebuilt into what remains of the old walls. It’s impressive to walk through and adds to the historic atmosphere of the town.
Walk down the Street of Sighs
The Street of Sighs is perhaps the most photographed street in Colonia Del Sacramento. With the big cobblestones and old houses with the river behind it does look quite scenic. There are also a few legends on how it got its name, the main legend being because it was considered to be the ‘red light district’ of town. Sailors here would see the prostitutes walk by and sigh in longing.
Find the Flower Pot Car
One of the biggest attractions in Colonia Del Sacramento is the flower pot car. It’s an old black car parked on one of the side streets that is used as a, you guessed it, flower pot!
Visit the Shops and Galleries
Colonia del Sacramento depends heavily on tourism and many cute old Spanish and Portuguese buildings house galleries, souvenir shops, and artisans. They are fun to browse, especially if you are looking to buy a souvenir.
Climb the Lighthouse
This 19th -century lighthouse is easy to see standing tall over the buildings in Colonia Del Sacramento. It’s open to visitors willing to climb the 118 stairs to the top, where you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view. An interesting feature of this lighthouse is that it is built in the ruins of an old church.
Final Tips for a Day trip to Colonia Del Sacramento from Buenos Aires
Visiting Colonia Del Sacramento from Buenos Aires is incredibly easy; however, it is a very popular day trip. It’s also a common route taken by the locals of both countries, so don’t leave booking your tickets until the last minute. I did when I visited and had to scramble to find a route that wasn’t fully booked. Again, this is what I booked and it was so simple.
It’s also important to note that Uruguay has its own currency. Of course, exchanging money just for a day trip is kind of pain, and while they will sometimes accept Argentinian pesos it’s best to bring some USD. You’ll get much better value for it. Not all shops and restaurants in Uruguay will accept credit cards.
Colonia Del Sacramento is really beautiful and spending a day here was a highlight for me. While it may not have a big checklist of things to do I found it really relaxing and enjoyable to just walk around, enjoy the scenery and stop for a glass of wine (ok, I definitely had more than one glass). I absolutely recommend adding some time into your Buenos Aires itinerary to include a day trip to Colonia Del Sacramento.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Argentina & Uruguay
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.