Walking through the ancient streets of Colonia del Sacramento is like taking a lovely trip back to colonial times.
By Walter Raymond
With a rich history, colonial charm and hospitable population, Colonia del Sacramento—in Uruguay—has become one of the most attractive tourist destinations near South America’s legendary Rio de la Plata.
On the shores of the mighty river that divides Argentina from Uruguay, we can still observe the ancient walls of the fort built by the Portuguese sailor Manuel Lobo more than three centuries ago. These dark stones were silent witnesses to an era of adventurers, pirates, and invading armies that fought fierce naval and ground battles to conquer the area.
Colonia del Sacramento—declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995—retains many of its old buildings and is a clear representative of Portuguese and Spanish colonial architecture.
A stroll through Colonia del Sacramento
Travelers love to walk through the enigmatic Street of Sighs, a narrow road that meanders between flowery stone walls towards the river. The remains of Lord Clive, an English ship that sank carrying a rich cargo of precious metals, lays underwater near the street’s end.
Equally attractive is a tour of the Citadel Gate and the Bastión del Carmen, as well as visits to the ruins of the Convent of San Francis, the Casa del Virrey, and the Mother Church, which still hosts—within its thick walls—many religious rites. Some of the old stone houses have been updated to accommodate different institutions like the Portuguese Museum, the Indian Museum, the Regional Archives, and the Naval Museum, among others.
In addition to exhibitions, some of the museums are home to cafes and restaurants, where you can enjoy a meal served with the proverbial gentleness that distinguishes the Uruguayans. At night, the gentle whisper of the river invites a leisurely walk through the bewitching cobbled streets, illuminated by the dim light of old lanterns. The stillness of night in this quiet town makes for the ideal setting to enjoy an excellent dinner while listening to live music.
Across the River from Buenos Aires
Just one hour boat ride separate Colonia del Sacramento and the great metropolitan city of Buenos Aires. Virtually, every tourist who comes to the Argentinian capital will spend at least one afternoon visiting “Colonia”, as the area is affectionally called.
From Montevideo—the capital of Uruguay—you will need to travel two hours by road to reach Colonia. Along the way, you could stop at nearby farms, which produce excellent wines and delightful sweets. In the summer, the best option is to enjoy the river’s calm freshwater beaches.
Colonia del Sacramento will take you to a charming past along the banks of one of the world’s widest rivers. ■
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