13 months
all galleries
next location

sunset looking west from old quarter
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay; Apr 22, 2005

the low down (colonia del sacramento)

Disclaimer: We did *not* explore much of Uruguay; all we did was take a ferry from Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata (which is the widest river in the world or a finger of the Atlantic Ocean, whichever you prefer) to Colonia del Sacramento, a cute little seaside town in Uruguay. Originally, we were planning just a daytrip, but after reading more about it we decided to cut our stay in Buenos Aires a little short and stay a few nights. To be consistent, we should name this whole section "Colonia del Sacremento," but most people (including us, previously) would have no idea where that is, so we’re calling it "Uruguay."

What we did: 4 days, 3 nights exploring the Old Town (a Unesco World Heritage Site) on foot and the surrounding area (little towns and beaches) on moped (no helmet or experience required).

Overall: The old part of the city looks like a town from a fairy tale: a scant number of people walking on well-worn cobblestone streets, a stray dog running around from here to there, pink and purple bougainvilleas blooming from the side of buildings, and soft music playing from an unknown source in the central plaza somewhere. Yes, there are tourists, but not too many; it remains a charming, unspoiled place. Small shop owners seem like they really do care if you have a nice day. Though we've only seen a sliver of Uruguay, we've learned enough to know that we'd love to come back and see more someday.

Essentials: Although most vendors here speak a little bit of English, knowing a bit of Spanish will help you out greatly. Be ready to relax here – there are a few sights, but mostly you’re here to simply enjoy the environment.

Food: Parilla - mmm... the grill. They throw everything they can think of into wood-fired grills and most everything comes out juicy and delicious. If you want fish, try to ask for whatever is fresh that day. It’s a treat!

Friendliness: In general, every interaction we had was positive. People were patient with our slow and rusty Spanish.

Cost of living: Very reasonable. A meal for two including a steak, chorizo sausage, bottled water, a large appetizer, a fresh squeezed juice and a jug of the house wine will set you back about $12 US. FYI - house wine is good and cheaper than bottled water or juice!

on the outskirts of town

Daily budget: Ours was about $85/day, including lodging, food, and a scooter for one day.

Exchange rate: $1 US = 24.5 Uruguayan Pesos

What's fabulous: The feeling of being put back in time, the scenery along the beach and, of course, the food. Also, we’ve seen some of the *most* incredible sunsets here that the locals claim happen every night. We also found some of the local art and craft to be not only great quality, but also very affordable (usually, we feel that we can’t afford the nice stuff, but we bought a few things here).

the Faro (lighthouse) in old town

Weather: We're here in winter and we had 3 nice, sunny days and 1 that poured rain and gale force winds.

Getting there & around: Walking around is pretty easy as everything in the Old Town is close together. Renting a moped was tons of fun and enabled us to explore more of Colonia and the nearby towns and beaches. You can take the Buquebus ferry to Colonia, Urugauy to/from Buenos Aires. They have a fast ferry or slow ferry, both are about $40 USD/person. Their website (when it works) also wins the award for the absolute worst theme-song ever, but somehow we kept humming it anyway.

Major difficulties: Nothing really except for avoiding stray piles of dog poo in the street, but after Buenos Aires, we are experts in long-range poo-spotting and avoidance.

Specific places we visited/things we did:
  - Barrio Historico (founded in 1680): Mainly walked and relaxed around this beautiful part of town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We feel like we could have stayed here a few months. Walked through the fort entrance called Puerta de Campo and visited the Faro (lighthouse) within the Convento de San Francisco, and Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo.
  - Plaza de Toros: Our trusty rental moped got us out of town to visit the Plaza de Toros, a 10,000 seat bullring built at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the ring is closed down and fenced in so you can only take a look from the outside, but it’s still worth it. And the ride or walk along the beach to get there is nice, too.
  - Playa Ferranda: A pretty beach in the opposite direction of the Plaza de Toros. The locals will tell you it's the best beach around. It's good for a day of lying around or taking a long walk. Watch out for the mosquitos in the shade though. Drove through Parque Ferrando and down several random streets in the outskirts of town, all having a much more rural feel than the areas closer to the center.
>> Recommended accomodation: Posada del Angel <<
website; email; phone: +598 52 24602; address: Washington Barbot 59
Cost was $45/weeknight and $50 on weekends but we stayed for 3 nights for $120. It has very nice owners, with a decent breakfast and an excellent 80’s one-hit-wonder cd. You can checkout as late as you like, so we stayed until 4:30pm, right before our Buquebus ferry ride back to Buenos Aires.
>> Recommended restaurant: El Asador <<
Wonderful (and cheap) family-run restaurant serving grilled meat (steaks sausages etc), flan and (dessert) pancakes and home-made wine.

Check out the uruguay gallery for pix of all the above!

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


I enjoyed reading your website. My family of 4 (with 2 boys ages 6 and 13) is headed to Buenos Aires on March 19th for 10 days. We will be somewhat on a tight budget but want to make it to Uruguay considering how close it is. Based on my research, Colonia is the cheapest place to get to. Other places farther down the coast take serveral more hours to get to and cost substantially more (I believe Montevideo is double the price. When multiplied by 4 the cost could be prohibitive). Conlonia seems like a great contrast to Buenos Aires and worth visiting. However, we are really BEACH people and would like to spend a significant part of a day at the beach. Are there any decent beaches in Colonia? Also, my husband has his heart set on going fishing. Any recommendations? You mention that we could get around in COlonia by moped or golf cart. These options sound very appealing to me. Can you name some places where we could rent these? Finally, are Buenos Aires and the Uruguay coastal towns kid friendly?

--Anonymous (Tennessee, USA); Jan 25, 2007

Colonia is cheapest to get to simply because it's the closest! It is just a short (few hours) ferry ride. Obviously, the other advantage here is that if you have a limited number of days, you're spending less hours in transit, which is good.

Colonia does have some beaches, but in the immediate vicinity of the town it's more about the seaside feel; there are a lot of restaurants looking out over the water and docks and piers and things. Fortunately, good beaches are only a short moped ride (15 minutes) out of town. We didn't go swimming, but we did hang out on a very nice beach for a couple of days. There were hardly any people there, too, which was nice. It is not, however, anything like, say, Rio, where there are miles and miles of gorgeous (and very crowded) beaches.

We didn't go fishing, so sorry, no info there. :(

Kid friendliness... Colonia is excellent for kids. Very safe, lots of local families, no problem. B.A. is a typical big city. It's certainly not especially un-safe by any means, but you should exercise typical big-city caution and common sense.

--Grace & Susan; Feb 25, 2007


hey thanks for a few of your tips. ive been looking into catching a ferry from buenos aires to colonia/uruguay but wasnt having much luck. but after looking at your site its made my trip a little easier.

--Daryl (Sydney, Australia); Feb 1, 2006


Are there any car rentals in Colonia del Sacramento?

--Karen F. (Bremerton, Washington, USA); Jan 3, 2006

Yes, there are, but we were extremely happy with our scooter since a car seemed like overkill for the small town and surrounding area, but I suppose if you wanted to take longer trips or a whole family somewhere, a car might come in handy. Or, just for a laugh, you could rent something that looks remarkably like a (we thought is was funny to see these with the Thrifty branded). And if you want still more options, you can grab an at the same place.

--Grace; Jan 6, 2006


Thanks for the pics and info on Colonia. I'm heading to BA at the end of February for a week and a half. I was planning on taking the ferry to Colonia, or to Montevideo as a side trip. Did you take the slow boat, or the speedy boat?

--Michael K. (Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA); Dec 28, 2005

Well... we took the fast ferry on the way there and, due to bad weather, took the slow ferry on the way home. A sudden storm hit the afternoon we were to return to Buenos Aires and the water got amazingly choppy. Apparently the water was going up and down too much for people to board the fast ferry, so we were all delayed and put on a humongous slow ferry. And really the boat was enormous - it seemed more like a cruise ship than a ferry. I was hoping that the size of the ferry would shield us from the upsies-downsies, but unfortunately I spent the entire journey on the deck in the freezing rain trying not to toss my cookies. Susan managed to stay inside, however. But don't worry, 99% of the time the water is totally calm, so it doesn't really matter which boat you take. Here's the website for the ferry company, Buquebus (don't forget to check out the horrible theme song).

--Grace; Dec 30, 2005


Unbelievable site. Hopefully there is room at the Possada you recommended in Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay for my wife and I this New Years. Keep up the good work and Happy Holidays...

--Peter M. (Brazil); Dec 27, 2005


Thanks for the great pictures and comments. It seems like you made the best out of your time in Colonia. I never stay more than an afternoon, but I guess its pretty nice if you want to relax. Reading your comments helps "locals" appreciate what they have a few kilometers away.

--Gonzolo (Uruguay); Dec 7, 2005


Thank you for sharing your website. It is excellent! Have a friend visiting my husband & I in Buenos Aires from the US and we were wondering if we should take him to Colonia for the day or a night. We're sold. We're going! Thanks again and great job on your site!

--Jen (temporarily in Buenos Aires, Argnentina); Dec 1, 2005