Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Thinking of a day trip to Uruguay from Argentina? Colonia del Sacramento is a popular day trip from Buenos Aires, and an easy way to visit two South American countries on one vacation. From its sun-dried and faded facades to winding cobblestone alleys leading to the sea, this sleepy colonial town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a photographer’s dream.
What is Colonia del Sacramento known for?
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Colonia del Sacramento is known for its Barrio Histórico, an impeccably-preserved colonial quarter with a rich and tumultuous history. It was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 on the Río de la Plata and became a military stronghold in the resistance against Spain. With its wide stone walls, tiled roofs and single-story stucco buildings, the architecture is a stunning example of European colonialism.
The 17th century village is surrounded by water on three sides with a towering lighthouse facing Buenos Aires and its own drawbridge, making it feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s so well preserved for the period, it feels like a pirate may come around the corner at any moment.
Things to do in Colonia del Sacramento
Puerta de la Ciudadela
Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse
Calle de Los Suspiros or Street of Sighs
Portuguese History Museum
There are so many things to do in Colonia del Sacramento. Because the town is steeped in colonial military history, you should check out the drawbridge Puerta de la Ciudadela. It's kind of a given since you have to cross it to enter the historic center. It was built in the 1700s and was an added defense against those entering from land.
Today, it’s a great place for photos, especially at night since they’ve installed accent lighting to add more drama to the crumbling facade. The Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse made it possible to warn the people if intruders were making their way by sea. It was built in the mid-1850s on the site of the San Francisco Xavier convent that was burnt to the ground. You can see the ruins of the convent and climb the lighthouse for about a buck ($1 USD).
Not far from the lighthouse, you’ll find the Calle de los Suspiros, named the most beautiful street in all of Colonia del Sacramento. Judging by the photo, you can see why. While the origins of the name are debated, some believe the Calle de los Suspiros, or Street of Sighs in english, got its name because of the brothels that originally lined it. No word on whether or not the sighs were coming from the staff or the patrons, but there is no question they are now coming from the lips of the tourists who see the sloping colonial cobblestone and its views of the sea.
If you are a museum aficionado, you’ll be happy to know there are eight to visit in this tiny coastal town. They range from the Portuguese History Museum with original furniture and weaponry to a tile museum that features original French, Spanish and Portuguese tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries. If you go to the Museo Municipal first, you can get one pass and visit all eight for a couple bucks and see some unexpected (albeit pretty cool) prehistoric exhibits like a giant whale skeleton.
Is Colonia del Sacramento worth visiting?
The short answer is, yes.
But that also depends on you and how much time you have. Colonia del Sacramento is a beautiful place to see, do a little shopping and have lunch. If you’re a photographer or a history buff, this place is well worth the visit. Because of its close proximity to Buenos Aires, you can easily and efficiently spend half a day or a full day, whatever you choose. It doesn’t really feel like you’re going out of your way to visit because the high-speed ferry only takes a little over an hour and is a fun experience in itself. However, if you’ve only got a couple days in Buenos Aires, it may not be worth leaving the city for an entire day.
How do I get from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento?
Colonia Express ferry
The beautiful waterfront neighborhood of Puerto Madero is home to the Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express ferry terminals. It’s extremely easy to navigate the ticket purchasing process; walk up to the window and ask politely for a ticket to Colonia del Sacramento. The travel agents speak a number of different languages and will give you the departure and arrival times, duration of the trip depending on which boat you choose, and of course, the price.
The ferries typically run in the mornings and evenings, giving you plenty of time to explore the city, have lunch and get back to the terminal for your return trip. There are a variety of tickets you can choose from as well. Some include first class seating and a cocktail beverage package, all range from around $55-$85 (USD) depending on what you choose to add on. Once you dock in Colonia del Sacramento, the Barrio Histórico is a short walk from the ferry terminal.
How far is Colonia del Sacramento from Montevideo?
112 miles (181 km)
Colonia del Sacramento isn’t that far from the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo. At just 112 miles (181 km) you can drive there in less than two and a half hours, or you can catch a bus. If you decide to take the bus, it’ll be longer of course at around three hours and the tickets will cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $10 (USD).
Colonia del Sacramento weather
Mild all year round
The weather in Colonia del Sacramento is pretty enjoyable all year round. Because it’s in South America, the seasons are flipped from those in the northern hemisphere, making it warm in the months from November through March and still comfortably cool from April to October. Average Fahrenheit temperatures range from the mid to low 80s (27°C) during the day, to the low 70s (21°C) at night during the summer months. You can expect high 50s (10°C)