Your first visit to Uruguay should not end before going to the magical Colonia del Sacramento. When you arrive in this picturesque town, you will believe that time stopped a long while ago. Its colonial charm and architecture, along with its friendly residents, will make you fall in love and not want to leave. In this blog, you will learn about the best activities to do in this town, as well as other nearby attractions.
Colonia del Sacramento, known as just Colonia by most tourists and residents, is the oldest city in the territory now known as Uruguay. It was founded in 1680 by Portuguese conquerors as a commercial port due to its close proximity to the city of Buenos Aires. Because of its great geographic location, Colonia was the center of many disputes between the Spanish and the Portuguese. Ownership of the city went back and forth between these two empires for many decades, and even fell into the hands of the British for some time. Finally, in 1777, it became a part of the Spanish empire, and remained such until Uruguay became independent at the start of the 19th century.
The Spanish Influencia of Colonia Del Sacramento
The influence that the Spanish and Portuguese had on Colonia turned it into the unique town it is today. In its historical quarter, you will find a combination of Spanish and Portuguese colonial architectural styles, which can't be found anywhere else in the world. For this reason, it was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
One of its biggest highlights is the Calle de los Suspiros, which means "Street of Sighs." This narrow cobblestone street, which leads to the coast, is the most photographed spot in Colonia. Historians haven't arrived at a consensus regarding the reason for its name. Some believe that death row prisoners used to walk along this street just before being executed. Others say that the street was the place where sailors looked for prostitutes as soon as they arrived in town. Either way, its colorful houses and cobblestones will captivate you.
Some other attractions in the historical quarter include the Basilica of the Sacred Sacrament, which is the oldest basilica in Uruguay, founded at the same time as the city. Its architecture is quite simple and contrasts with other churches in Latin America. All around town, you will spot old cars that will remind you of Havana. However, these cars serve a different purpose in Colonia. In some cases, they are modern works of art, while others serve as unique gardens.
From all over town, you will be able to see a white lighthouse, which was built over the ruins of the Saint Francis Convent in 1855 to put an end to the constant shipwrecks in the area. Nowadays, you can visit the lighthouse and climb its 118 steps to get to the top. From here, you will have an amazing view of the entire city, as well as the estuary of the La Plata River. You will also be able to see the city of Buenos Aires, which lies on the other bank of the river.
Getting to Colonia del Sacramento is quite easy. It sits approximately 112 miles away from the nation's capital, Montevideo. From there, you can catch a bus at the Tres Cruces terminal, which takes a little over two hours. Alternatively, tourists can arrive from Buenos Aires in a ferry, which takes one hour to cross the river.
The hardest part about visiting Colonia del Sacramento is deciding on how much time you will spend here. If you wish to just get to know the historical quarter, a few hours will suffice. However, if you decide to stay for a couple of nights, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches on its three miles of coast, as well as visit nearby attractions like the Cerros de San Juan winery.