Picture this. It’s 6 PM on a Wednesday afternoon and you’ve just gotten out of work. Your half-hour walk home leaves sweaty and agitated as you pass people on the street. The dogs won’t stop barking, car horns won’t stop honking, and the noise of the city might just drive you insane.
If you find yourself experiencing any of this, you might just need a weekend getaway. If that’s the case, look no further than one of the most dependable weekend trips for porteños since the beginning of time: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Trust me, I’m a city girl. I love falling asleep to the sound of dogs barking, sirens wailing, and life simply being lived. But I have to admit, going to cute, quaint Colonia was one of the best decisions I’ve made for #selfcare in the last year. If you need a way to hit the reset button on all your stresses, read on and get all the details that you need to know.
Besides being absolutely gorgeous, Colonia is amazingly versatile in the currency it accepts. Since many of its visitors are Argentine, nearly every shop and restaurant accepts pesos, American dollars, and even Brazilian reales in certain places.
Ferry Ticket (Colonia Express)
- Photo via ámbito
My group booked with Colonia Express a few weeks in advance and found a deal online, so our totals came out to around AR $3,375 each. Alternatively, there’s Buquebus or Seacat that will also get you there for around the same price. The trip lasts about 45 minutes, just enough time to enjoy some mate or hit the duty free shop for some crunchy snacks. It was my first time on a ferry and I found the view outside to be unforgettable. I also found the crying babies to be unforgettable as well, but for other reasons you can probably imagine.
Housing & Getting Around
Funnily enough, our Airbnb turned out to be a 20-minute drive from the small downtown area of Colonia. Since we didn’t have a car to ourselves, we spent some time roaming the streets with our luggage until we were ready to leave the more populated area for the night. Our Airbnb host had a family friend that they connected us to for rides to-and-from the town everyday, since Uber wasn’t available in the area.
While it wasn’t the fastest option, it was the most reliable. Our total for the weekend (with four trips in total) came out to AR $400 per person. Our night ride to the Airbnb was filled with questions and recommendations for things to do in the area. When we got to the house, the only lights we had available were the ones coming from the cars and our phones. It was a lovely, secluded place with no air conditioning and a windmill, but it really worked for us.
Rented Golf Carts
Okay, so this actually turned out to be pretty darn cool. Why would you need to rent golf carts you ask? Did you not read about our aforementioned Airbnb situation? We wanted a way to get around all of Colonia and Viaggio turned out to be our savior. Viaggio is one of many suppliers in the area that will hook you up with means of transportation. Besides golf carts, they have scooters and motorcycles as well. We ended up splurging a little by getting these but ended up using two four-seat carts for a total of AR $2,655 ARS (AR $331 per person).
THINGS TO DO
If you’re smarter than my friends and I were and find a closer location to town, you’ll feel so much better being able to drop off your personal belongings before exploring the area. If you arrive during daylight, you’ll find yourself in awe of many of the colonial homes and buildings that make up Colonia. Blues and greens and pinks and oranges dance across your line of vision as you walk on the shaded sidewalk to your first stop.
The Historical Area
The historical area is made up of the oldest buildings in Uruguay and has become a little touristy, to say the least. It’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage site due to its importance to Spain and Portugal dating back from the 1600s. In addition to having hotels, brunch nooks, and heladerías everywhere, there are plenty of quaint shops to serve your gift-buying needs. Forgot your mate? Check out any one of the kioskos to find the mate of your dreams or just some hot water to keep you going while you browse.
- Photo via Kara Stevik
The lighthouse can be found in the historical area at and charge is AR $50 to climb it. The stairs are very narrow, so consider yourself warned. There are two levels to the lighthouse, the first being a square wrap-around about halfway up. From here, you can take in the surrounding area of Colonia and the expanse of the River Plate. If you dare to climb to the top, you’ll be faced with even scarier stairs until you literally hit a ladder to take you the rest of the way. It’s a tight space, so you have to leave your belongings on a platform before you exit to the top. The view, much like the other level, is very insta-worthy. Do mind your time at the top, they only let so many people at one time.
El Faro | De San Francisco, 70000 Colonia del Sacramento | AR $50 | More info
The last few hours we were in Colonia, we happened to stumble upon a Sunday market that included fresh fruits and vegetables, mate sets, touristy knick-knacks, and a bunch more. Food stalls were strategically scattered in between the vendors and would make a great place for an afternoon pick-me-up before heading back to Buenos Aires. We also ended up revisiting the historical area and found locals doing some fishing.
Also to be found in the area lies a plethora of local shops loaded with art for sale or unique items like carpets, leather belts, and handmade pieces of home décor. When you leave the historical area, the surrounding neighborhood is home to small but adorable clothing boutiques, ready to bless you your new favorite summer dress. And if none of that floats your boat, Colonia offers plenty of chilled-out beaches along the River Plate to soothe your soul. (The water is much warmer than Lake Michigan, thank you very much). Pack a swimsuit, some sunscreen, and soak it up.
PLACES TO EAT
This classic informal restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating with friendly waiters. And by waiters I really mean a dog who stopped by for head pats and scraps (very good boy, 10/10). The food itself was delicious in our tired and hangry state.
La Pasiva | Gral. Flores 444 | More info
One word: NAPKINS. You’ll need them for this monster of a creation. The Chivito, the beloved national sandwich of Uruguay, is your one-stop-shop for everything delicious on a bun. Ingredients include thinly sliced grilled beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, a fried egg and soooo much more. It comes in a plastic bag to catch all the things that fall while you eat it (and if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will). It is best enjoyed with a cold beer to wash it down. Oh, and heads up, Los Farolitos is a window-style eatery so be sure to have a friend snag a table while you order.
Los Farolitos | Gral. Flores 272 | More info
If you find yourself in need of a cheap eat, look no further than Del Centro. It has a variety of food options, but our favorite was the all-you-can-eat pizza for AR $315. With a tall glass of beer, it was the perfect way to forget about the heat for a second and enjoy great ‘za. Del Centro serves one of each style of pizza offered, like pepperoni, olive, pesto, and a delicious pineapple pizza with crusted sugar on top (I know what you’re thinking, but just trust I’m right on this).
Del Centro | Gral. Flores 404 | More info
Looking for something a little more upscale? A little more romantic? On the edge of the historic center looking right out over the water lies a hotel and bistro called Charco. It offers incredible views with great food to accompany it. Visiting on a colder day? There’s a weather-proof clear plastic cover so you can still take in the view without suffering the elements. Charco also has an outdoor lounge area so you can truly bask in the fresh air while you sip on your wine and indulge in some much-needed rest and relaxation. The menu offers smoked salmon, lamb, crab, steak, and much more.
Charco | 70000 Colonia del Sacramento | More info