A Day in Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento

luxury travel uruguayYou don’t hear to too much about Uruguay, until you hit Buenos Aires. The town of Colonia del Sacramento is a mere hour boat ride from the Argentine capital and is a key player in its colonial history. Set up by the Portuguese in 1680 as port to smuggle in riches to BA, Colonia was so strategically situated that the Spanish got jealous and went to battle to snag the city– 11 times over the course of 150 years. With the perma-flip-flopping of power and nationalistic renovations, Colonia has become one of the most confused yet charming colonial towns in South America– mashed up with the architectural styles from three distinct cultures and one wacky history.

 

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We came to Colonia to celebrate our first wedding anniversary so we classed it up a bit with a stay in the romantic La Mission Hotel. Built originally as a house in 18th century, we loved the bright colors, original stone walls, contemporary decor, and central locale.

 

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Colonia was originally walled city and with their UNESCO heritage status they got the funds to restore it quiet nicely. Colonia is about 25,000 big and expands well past these walls but the charming historic quarter lies within. We took a fantastic walking tour by the proudest Uruguayan (she is looking for investors to help further spruce up the city a if anyone is interested. Honestly.)

 

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Calle de Suspiros (Street of Sighs)  is said to be the most well-preserved street in town and the best example of the style war between Spanish and Portuguese design. The Portuguese always built with slopping tile roofs while the Spanish underdogs always made quick-dry flat roofs since they never had much time before they were under attack again.

 

Here are the ruins of 17th century Convento de San Francisco and the renovated lighthouse behind. For a couple pesos (Argentine money is accepted everywhere in Colonia) we climbed up for great views of town all the way to Buenos Aires.

 

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Looking at this crazy expanse of coast and water you are convinced you are on the ocean but oh no, it is the Rio Plata–the widest river in the world. Its main water source is the gush from Iguazu Falls which is so powerful it makes what would be ocean, brackish all the way past the coast of Montevideo. The milk chocolate color, weeping tree-lined coast, and a few islands make it a unique city river.

 

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The irony of the constant Spain vs Portugal battle is that they kept canonballing the town they considered home. In the case of the church, both cultures were catholic and neither had the time to rebuild it fully so the architecture is like a patchwork of Portuguese rock mixed with Spanish stucco and cement filling in between.

 

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All the restaurants along the plaza have a amazing seafood and colonial ambiance but for something a little more unique and funky, we went to Drugstore. They couldn’t have fit more colors or art on the wall and the food was just as all over the map–but in the best possible way.

 

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With the smoggy metropolis across the river, Colonia is supposed to have some of the best sunsets and with a wild rain storm right before sundown, we got the full spectacle in the sky.Spending the night in Uruguay is a nice getaway from the ber urban BA but if you do a day trip, book the latest boat back so you can catch the sunset and see the candle-like street lights twinkle at night.

14 comments on “A Day in Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento

  • April 23, 2012 at 10:17 am
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    very nice … is Uruguay a good a value as I read in “International Living”? also cited > great infrastructure and low real estate prices .. along with a nice lifestyle …

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    • June 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm
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      It was cheaper than BA thats for sure. And thankfully we didnt need to test out their hospitals :). Lifestyle we can say was solid! Argentina also had a lot of full time germans and swiss, leading to some excellent chocolate and craft beers.

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      • June 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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        good place for a get away for Betsy and me?

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        • August 26, 2012 at 11:54 am
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          we wouldnt recommend it really. we hear there are lots of ex-pats there, and the beaches are sort of manufactured for tourists. that being said we had a good time in Colonia, but we would recommend lots of other places for you guys 🙂

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          • August 26, 2012 at 11:54 am
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            and to be fair, we didnt make it past Colonia, only going on what other travellers told us (partly why we didnt venture further up the coast)

  • April 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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    Happy Anniversary!  Congrats.

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  • April 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm
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    Happy anniversary to you guys!!!! What a wonderful way to celebrate 🙂

    Looks like you are still having so much fun. South America had never been on my list of places to visit, but I’m loving reading about it via your travels… Keep ’em coming!

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    • June 2, 2012 at 10:51 am
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      South America was SO very cool. The diversity down there is like the States, you can drive 300 miles and go from a rainforest, to a dessert, to a 15,000 foot peek. and the people were just so much nicer than we could ever expect. i mean if we met 5 people the entire trip with a sourpuss face, that would be a lot. everyone always had a smile, willing to give directions (or walk you there), never asked for money, never felt unsafe for a single instant (even spending an overnight in the Rio de Janeiro bus station. lol)

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  • August 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm
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    I’ve been to this place in April, shortly before you came there. I LOVED it. For me, it felt a little bit like time travelling after leaving BA behind you and coming to this peaceful place. Loved it!

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