Our month in Buenos Aires had come to an end and it was time for us to start planning our trip south into the wilds of Patagonia. However, we wanted to do a quick diversion across the River Plate to Uruguay for a little while before heading south.
After an easy 1 hour ferry crossing we arrived in Colonia del Sacramento, founded in 1680 Colonia is famous for its historic centre an crumbling colonial architecture. It is now a well deserved UNESCO heritage site.
The most notable thing about this small town is the architecture itself, which even on a miserable day (which could pretty much describe the weather during our entire stay!) is beautiful.
The most famous street in the old town is called Calle de los Suspiros (translated as the street of sighs) and there are many stories that surround the name. The street and buildings in it are very old and colourful.
The street is also home to an amazing old ‘picada’ restaurant where we indulged in some Uruguayan wine and picada (meats, cheeses and other deli items) all sourced from around the Colonia area. Yum!
Of course picada isn’t the most famous Uruguayan food export – that accolade would probably have to go to the ‘chivito’, which is basically an ultimate sandwich. Trying this once was certainly enough!
The historic centre is also home to the old city gates (complete with working drawbridge!), church and lighthouse on the grounds of an old convent.
You can go up the lighthouse for a lovely view over the town and our across the River Plate. Apparently when there is good visibility you can see all the way across to Buenos Aires.
Another major feature of the town which adds to the feeling that you have stepped back in time is the abundance of old cars and carts which are scattered strategically around. This is seemingly to get peoples attention, for example outside a restaurant, museum, or in the case of the fish in the car below, outside the aquarium!
If there are two things that I love it is some pretty tiling and a good map! Fortunately Colonia has both in abundance and sometimes even a map made out of pretty tiles – amazing. We wondered if this is reflective of the Portuguese influence in the area, reminding us of trips to Lisbon and Porto.
Finally no trip for us is complete without a little walk in and out of town, usually tracking down some interesting street art en route. Followed by a few stray dogs we found some good examples by local artists mainly chronicling views around Colonia.
Colonia’s romantic situation on a peninsula on the River Plate is stunning and you can walk down the central street with river views down the side streets to the water, both to your left and right simultaneously. The bad weather while we were there meant that everything was shrouded in a blanket of mist, fog and low cloud when we were there, adding to the sense of mystique and making it seem like we were on an island, back in time, in the middle of nowhere.
After a few days it was time to catch a bus and head for the capital city of Montevideo to complete our little Uruguayan excursion.