We set sail from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, in order to catch the famous Llamadas a couple of days later in the capital of Montevideo. We were excited to first spend a night in Colonia del Sacramento. Google image the town and you will see pictures from a part of history, cobble stoned streets, horse drawn carts and white sand beaches. We made it a must see during our time in Uruguay.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires we boarded the 4 hour ferry across the Río De La Plata to Colonia. The mouth of the river is only a small stretch of water separating Buenos Aires from Uruguay. There is a faster 2 hour ferry which is the most expensive transport option to cross, otherwise the slowest and cheapest option is a 12 hour bus following the coastline of both countries. We chose to take the Buquebus ferry as it was the least expensive and time consuming option (but still not very cheap).
We were greeted at the information centre by the joke “Why are the beaches in Colonia so much better than the ones in Buenos Aires? Because all of the shit goes to Buenos Aires!”
With that joke and our tourist map in hand we set about finding a hostel for the night. We quickly walked out of a few hostels after hearing the ridiculous prices they were offering and settled into Hostel Colonia which is in need of a little love. We ended up having a private dorm to ourselves and the breakfast was ok, fine for one night.
As we had prepacked a sandwich for the boat and found an ingenious way of making fresh filtered coffee we didn’t need food and headed straight into the old town to soak up the picturesque streets.
The Old Town
Colonial del Sacramento itself is quite small and very visibly separated by the old town and the modern city. Walking from the hostel towards the sea you could be in any other city. It is not until you start to get closer to the port that things start to change. The multi floor concrete buildings are swapped for single story red brick and clay houses. The old town is now registered by Unesco as a world heritage site.
As you enter the main square every step is a step back in time. Colonia was in and out of the control of the Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilians before the Uruguayan independence. It is easy to see the colonial effect on the architecture of the old town. Not much has changed since then, expect most of the houses have been turned into tourist shops and overpriced cafes.
There is definitely a charm to this city, but it doesn’t feel like a backpackers destination. Uruguay in general is seen as a suburb of Buenos Aires by Argentinians, with many crossing the water for a weekend by the beach. For this reason Colonia especially stood out. The crowd is a full of guys in perfectly ironed shirts and chinos and girls in their Little Black Dresses sitting in the cafes while expensive drones fly over head capturing the beauty.
After soaking up the all that we could we headed back into the new part of town to try and find a cheaper place to eat. We stumbled across a food truck conveniently parked outside a backpackers hostel (he knew his market). Lured in by the more affordable prices we ended up having one of the best burgers we have had in South America. The Chivito is a national dish of Uruguay, and is made of beef, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, black or green olives, bacon, fried eggs and ham. We then had the option to add caramelised onions, mushrooms and a side of chips. Puuurfect!
With our bellies full we headed back down to the port where the private boats and fishing boats were settling in. We reached the end of the pier and took a seat to watch the sunset beside men fishing. A perfect way to end our time in Colonia. The next day we would be leaving for Montevideo to party for the Llamadas.
Cost and useful informations
Currency change in February 2017 : 1€ = 30 Ur Pesos
Ferry Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento : 33€ per person with Buquebus (buquebus.com)
Hostel Colonia : 380 Ur pp ( 12.6 €)
Burger El Colonial (on Washington Barbot st) : 110 Ur (3.7€)
Bus to Montevideo : 400 Ur pp (13.3€)