Beyond Buenos Aires: A day trip to Colonia del Sacramento
Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires is packed with cultural and culinary attractions, as LAFL team member Heidy A. experienced during her visit last month. Watching tango, witnessing the city’s frenetic soccer energy and cruising the local markets of San Telmo made her time in Buenos Aires memorable. But it was the unexpected charm of Colonia de Sacramento, a town in Uruguay accessible from Buenos Aires, that turned out being the highlight of her trip. Heidy tells us more about this little town and why more people should consider an excursion to Colonia during their visit to Buenos Aires.
A day trip to Colonia de Sacramento offers a nice escape from the fast pace of city life.
“Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, but it’s large and hectic,” said Heidy. “The small town of Colonia is so nice and peaceful.”
Travelers take a ferry from the Puerto Madero Waterfront in Buenos Aires for a straight shot across Rio de La Plata to Uruguay. While some travelers may think going through customs would be a hassle to spend just the day in Colonia, Heidy explained that it’s a convenient process – just remember to bring your passport!
Buquebus is one of the principal companies that offers ferry service from Argentina and Uruguay.
“We went through an immigration check at the ferry terminal in Buenos Aires and then boarded the boat. Busquebus was very modern and comfortable. There was even an area where you can buy snacks.”
“It was only a 50 minute ride to Colonia,” said Heidy.
She took the fast ferry option that delivered her to Uruguay by mid-morning and then she had all day to explore Colonia’s sites and cobbled streets before boarding her return crossing in the afternoon.
Heidy learned about the Portuguese and Spanish history of Colonia during a city tour. “Colonia is a romantic town with bright 17th century colonial buildings. There are a lot of historic sites, like an old lighthouse, and visitors can even walk through some of the colonial houses to check out the old furniture,” Heidy said.
Several art galleries, small shops selling souvenirs, beautiful hotels and nice restaurants line the streets. Heidy explained that tourists with limited or no Spanish won’t have trouble communicating with the locals. “Colonia attracts travelers from around the world and most shop owners know English, or at least enough of the basics.”
“Springtime is the best time to go to Colonia. The sun was out, but it wasn’t too hot, and everything was green. There were a lot of beautiful flowers too,” said Heidy.
Tourists and Buenos Aires residents flock to Colonia’s waterfront during the summer months from December to March when high temperatures are matched with high humidity. Here people can cool off in the waters of Rio de La Plata, lounge in the soft sandy beaches and enjoy a wide variety of water sports.
“We would have loved to stay the night in Colonia and rent a golf cart and spend a next day driving through the town and surrounding countryside.”
Like many visitors, Heidy took a day trip to Colonia. But she thought the town warrants at least a two day stay: one to take a full guided tour of the city’s historic sites and another for some relaxation and independent exploration.
Heidy enjoys some yerba mate, a common drink enjoyed in Uruguay and Argentina.
All photos courtesy of Heidy A./Latin America For Less
“ If travelers can fit it into their Buenos Aires agenda, I definitely recommend taking a trip to Colonia,” Heidy said.
The ferry ride makes a trip to Colonia more expensive than other excursions in Buenos Aires, but the idyllic scenery and peacefulness that awaits you in the small town is well-worth the price tag. Plus, you get to add one more stamp to your passport!
To see more pictures of the Colonia and learn more about the town’s history, read this article from our blog.
Insider tips & know-how
Here are some of Heidy’s suggestions:
- If you plan a day trip to Colonia, take an early ferry and the last one back to Buenos Aires to maximize your time in the town.
- Don’t forget about the time difference: set your clocks one hour ahead in Uruguay.
- Most stores in Colonia accept a variety of currencies: the local Uruguayan Peso, the Argentine Peso and the U.S. Dollar.
- Don’t forget to bring your passport!
Photos, videos and more
Plan your own tour to Colonia
Britt is a California native with a passion for globe-trotting. She left home for South America in 2013 and now has a family and permanent address in Peru.