Colonia del Sacramento is a city in southwestern Uruguay, by the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and capital of the Colonia Department. It has a population of around 27,000. It is renowned for its historic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After settling into Buenos Aires Argentina for a few days, we decided on another day trip. This time to Colonia del Sacramento and its Historic Quarter, which is actually located in southwestern Uruguay. Again we’re with out trusted guide and now friend Andres Miguel from Tours by Locals.
Colonia’s charm and proximity to Buenos Aires draw thousands of Argentine visitors each year. As background, Colonia was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese and occupies a strategic position on a beautiful peninsula that protrudes into the Río de la Plata (River of Silver) almost exactly opposite Buenos Aires. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and is picture postcard charming.
And although Colonia and Montevideo are both located in Uruguay (a country sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil), Colonia is much closer and easier and cheaper to access by ferry boat from Buenos Aires.
Buquebus runs the main ferry system fleet between Buenos Aires and Colonia de Sacramento. We took the “fast ferry” which takes an hour each way. Our ferry departed at 8:15am and we returned on the 4:00pm boat. Cost was $90 per person round trip. There is a slower ferry, less expensive, which takes 3 hours each way. At least for the fast ferry, I’d advise purchasing tickets a few days in advance (either at the ferry terminal or Buenos Aires city locations – I found online purchasing very difficult as the website is in Spanish or Portuguese).
There are large, modern wheelchair accessible terminals in both Buenos Aires and Colonia with accessible elevators and restrooms. The fast ferry interior is very large with plenty of space to walk or roll around and includes food and a tax free retail area. The fast ferry had a large accessible elevator, one wheelchair accessible restroom and ship boarding was easy with a long jet way type ramp with no steps. You can also drive your car onto the ferry (more expensive) and by law you must park your car on the ship and come upstairs during sailing. We walked (rolled) onto the ferry.
When you get to Colonia, the “old city” is within walking distance, but it’s principally heavy cobblestone streets, so there’s really only way to travel if you’re in a wheelchair: Rent a Golf Cart. The rental office is located directly across from the Colonia Terminal which was a reasonable level walk or roll along concrete/asphalt, not cobblestones. The summer rental rate was $80 for 6 hours.
The “old city” was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. If you make it here, which I highly recommend, be sure to drive up and down each street, past the many small shops, retail stores, along the old fortress wall, the riverfront lighthouse and past the tree-lined Plaza Mayor (main square) where you’ll find pretty rows of sycamores that offer protection from the summer heat. And you’ll find many, many cute local restaurants to stop for lunch. We sat outside on the waterfront street patio of the El Correon restaurant and had a relaxing lunch.
Our visit to Colonia was absolutely spectacular, from the picturesque ferry boat ride to exploring this historic old city dating back hundreds of years. And its all been beautifully maintained. The ferry and terminals are very wheelchair friendly, and the golf cart and cobblestone street just a small challenge.
But as always, people are willing to help, and we had a fabulous day. Rich in culture and history. Colonia del Sacramento is not to be missed! And give Andre a call – he’s the best tour guide in all of Buenos Aires! We had another great memory.