Colonia del Sacramento

9 June 2012. Filed under category Travel.
Closing the gates of Colonia against yet another invasion.

Closing the gates of Colonia against yet another invasion.

Colonia was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese in an attempt to piss of the Spanish. Colonia faces Buenos Aires from the opposite side of Rio de la Plata (the silver river) and its main purpose was to avoid the trading taxes imposed by the Spanish crown. Put another way, the Portuguese settled a smuggler’s port next door to one of the most important trading posts of the Spanish.

The Spanish showed their displeasure by invading Colonia, and thus started one of the more ludicrous territorial tug-of-war conflicts between nations. Colonia was conquered and re-conquered by the Spanish and the Portuguese (later Brazil) no less than ten times between 1680 and 1828 when finally the region had had enough and declared themselves independent from Brazil and formed Uruguay. Since no one messes with Uruguay (no one!), Colonia has been left in peace ever since.

Well, in as much peace as a UNESCO World Heritage site can expect. The invasions of Colonia are re-enacted daily as tourists from Buenos Aires cross the river to get away from the big city and enjoy a day in Colonia, walking down the cobbled streets and lunch at one of the many lovely restaurants.

Curiously, one of the things that make Colonia stand out is not the lighthouse, the typical Portuguese blue-on-white artwork or the bohemian looking people drinking mate on the street. Nope, it is the prevalence of vintage cars. How these cars have survived driving over the roughest cobbled streets I’ve ever seen (Seriously, check that your travel insurance covers twisted ankles!) is beyond me, but they are a pleasure to see.

Practical Information

The cheapest way to visit Colonia is with the Colonia Express. They sell a day-return ticket that is about half the price of what you’d pay if you spend the night or use their competitor, Buquebus. And seriously, you don’t need more time to see Colonia than what this day-return ticket offers.

The Colonia Express terminal is located in a decrepit garbage-riddled ugly-as-sin part of town underneath a motorway overpass, but don’t let that discourage you. Just bring your switchblade for the walk back at night and you will be just fine.

Renewing your Argentinian Visa

If you plan to stay in Buenos Aires for more than 90 days, then you’ll want to time your visit to Colonia just right. I had been in Argentina for 85 days when I went to Colonia, and I had no problems at the border and now have a new stamp in my passport allowing me a further 90 days stay. Sweet!


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  1. Simon Vandi says:

    Certainly love to visit Colonia! You’ve fueled by curiosity !

  2. Allan says:

    Hello Gustav. About 5 years ago Ju, Wilson and I took a holiday to Brazil and Buenos Aires. However, when we were in Brazil, it rained and rained. And then it rained. Wanting some sun on our hols; we looked at the weather foecast and the whole of mid and south Brazil was raining, but Uruguay was sunny. So we booked some Gol flights (Brazil’s easyjet) and flew to Montevideo and on to Colonia! The only problem was that I actually, bizarrely, confused it with Punta del Este, an upmarket beach resort in the south. So I had sold it to Junior and Wilson on that basis! I loved it, but I think poor Wilson was a bit disappointed (its no party town). It certainly was not a bling beach resort. However, for me it was an amazing discovery. The town has a very unusual atmosphere with beautiful old crumbling buildings. I am glad you liked it too. Love. Allan

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      Ha ha! Thanks for sharing that little story. And no, a party town it is not! I might actually go and visit Punta del Este shortly.

  3. Seems like such a wonderful place. Man, the more I travel the longer my must visit list gets.

  4. Jon says:

    Please judge the Argentine people for us. Less tourist information, more judgement of character.

    1. Allan says:

      I like the tourist information.

  5. Crys Klier-Hoffman says:

    looking at the rough cobbled street I think “How charming” and I suppose the natives say ” Shit, this street still sucks.”
    I too enjoy the tourist information. I am puzzled by the tree in the car. Was is put there? Did it grow up through a hole in the floor of the car? Is it some unique type of gardening? Unusual in any event.
    Glad to see your hair is growing out, you look like your old (young) self again.:-)

  6. Brother Henrik says:

    I olso like the tourist information but you are allso welcome to judge the argentina people if you will.
    And i have good news to you i will leave Denise for tow and a half week and join mom to Buenos Aires.

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