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Colonia del Sacramento



Paved with cobblestone roads aligned with 300-year-old stone houses overlooking the RĂ­o de La Plata, Colonia del Sacramento is a fine example of grace. Its youth was turbulent, the center of an extended custody battle between Spanish and Portuguese rulers. But Colonial del Sacramento, being the resilient city it is, evolved into an enchanting village even with the steady conflict it bore. Today this tranquil, down-to-earth town possesses authentically elegant grace. Remaining true to its small town roots, it is not an overdeveloped commercial Mecca, but rather a magnetic pull for those wishing to escape the hubbub of energetic Montevideo and sparkling Buenos Aires.


Colonia, as it is nicknamed, is one of the most charming destinations south of the equator. Situated 110 miles from Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo and two hours (via slow boat) across the river from Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento is the calm between the two urban storms and is virtually a place to take a step back into time—as well as to retreat from hectic travel. You’ll find an atmospheric town with history, delightful cafés, fine food, and a wealth of rentable motorbikes and beaches that fit Colonia’s unpretentious, naturally picturesque image.


A point of contention between the Portuguese and the Spanish, Colonia del Sacramento was founded as Nova Colonia del Sacramento in 1680 by the Portuguese. Colonia del Sacramento’s location on the Río de la Plata—with its direct access to the Atlantic Ocean—was prime real estate. The Spanish refuted Portuguese claims of sovereignty and shortly after its founding, they attacked. Battles ensued for the next hundred years, during which time control of Colonia shifted between both countries. Finally, with the San Ildefonso Treaty, Colonia del Sacramento was ceded to Spanish rule.


During the extended conflict, after each conquest, the victorious faction would build upon already existing infrastructures to mark their territory. The result: a distinctive architectural blend of Spanish and Portuguese culture. Ceramic tiles laced throughout the town remain from the Spanish conquest; Portuguese saddle roofs blanket homes.


This cultural and historic legacy becomes evident with a stroll through the historic district, Barrio Histórico. Named a UNESCO heritage site in 1995, the district is utterly charming—seemingly untouched, but observably well-maintained. The beautifully restored entrance to the old city, Puerta del Campo, continues to evoke a sense of awe. Built in 1745, the drawbridge, the only entrance to the city, was designed to safeguard it. Along the edge of the historic quarter, which juts out like a small peninsula, sits El Faro, literally, “the lighthouse.” Built in 1857, this still active structure was constructed of stones from the Convento de San Francisco ruins. In present day, as visitors leave and depart Colonia by boat, the lighthouse has become the symbol of Colonia. To enjoy a spectacular sunset, for which Colonia is famous, the Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) is highly recommended.


History and architecture might be the obvious draws, but so are the peaceful and retreating beaches. Colonia del Sacramento’s beaches, lined with soft crème sand and hardwood trees, are perfect for a day away. Rent a motorbike (or even cheaper, a golf cart) and cruise through the town to Playa de Ferrando. Off the beaten trail and a few miles from town, this is the perfect spot to picnic, play soccer or just sleep. The water is mild and soothing, like everything in this tiny town. In fact, any trip to Colonia del Sacramento plucks at one’s heartstrings, making you relax and crave more of this hidden, gracefully aging treasure.

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Graf Spee Museum, Carmelo, Carlos Gardel, Festival Of Iemanjá, Calle De Los Suspiros, Punta del Este, Rocha, Fiesta De La Patria Gaucha, Montevideo Carnaval and Punta Gorda.

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