The Perfect Day Trip From Buenos Aires To Uruguay: Colonia
As part of my recent five-night trip to Buenos Aires, I decided to spend one day in the small town of Colonia del Sacramento across the Río de la Plata in Uruguay. Usually referred to as just Colonia, this coastal village is the perfect day trip for anyone in Buenos Aires who may be looking to collect a couple of additional passport stamps and earn the right to say that they’ve been to Uruguay.
However, Colonia impressed me in nearly every way; its historic streets and laid-back vibe are much better reasons to visit than the fact that it’s across an international border. The town itself was so quaint and relaxed, which stood in contrast to the lively energy of Buenos Aires. It’s also incredibly green. Have you ever seen those articles that say that seeing or being surrounded by plant life is good for our health? Well, that felt absolutely true, because I ended up just being in a great mood the entire time I was here!
This is a short post because organizing and booking a day trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia is pretty straightforward. However, Colonia deserves more than just a footnote in my Buenos Aires post [coming soon], which is why I’m covering it here. Anyone planning to spend more than a day or two in Buenos Aires should make the ferry trip over to Colonia. Keep reading and I think you’ll be convinced!
Things That Made Colonia So Great
1. The Old Lighthouse
The most prominent attraction in Colonia is its lighthouse. It isn’t directly on the waterfront (which, by the way, isn’t very sandy or beachy), but it’s definitely a very interesting structure with its partially-remaining brick portion and regal white tower.
If you check this out early in the morning, be sure to come back after lunch. It opens up to visitors to climb in the afternoon, and the panoramic view from the top is worth the small entrance fee.
2. The Food (I Think)
I only had time to try one single restaurant here (and also a cafe), but I enjoyed the meal so much that I can only assume that there are other great restaurants here to compete.
The Charco Bistro, which appeared to be connected to an adjacent boutique hotel, is a nice but unpretentious restaurant with a modern vibe and a waterfront view. I was offered the option to sit indoor or on their covered patio, so I chose the latter.
They had a pretty big menu, and since I had eaten a snack on the ferry ride over, I tried their roasted pumpkin ravioli and lemon thyme with mushroom cream. Despite being a lighter meal, it was one of the most satisfying of my entire trip. Perhaps it was just refreshing to have a vegetarian dish after eating so much steak in Buenos Aires, but the pumpkin filling and creamy sauce were just so good!
If you’re curious what that pitcher with fruit in it is, be sure to try the clericó. They offer white wine or rose which is poured over all the fruit, and the resulting mixture is truly delish (and healthy too…right?)!
3. The Small-town Vibe
The town of Colonia has a rather small historic center that clearly caters to visitors. There are pastel-colored buildings, cobblestone roads, boutique hotels, and numerous restaurants.
However, you should also walk a little further into town where the locals appear to live (for example, this area). To be honest, there wasn’t anything truly remarkable about these streets, but it was still interesting to see the non-touristy part of Colonia.
In fact, this area reminded me of some non-specific small American town with its tree-lined streets, parks, schools, baseball fields, and small restaurants and shops. It was unexpectedly endearing to know that this little town 6,000 miles away from the States somehow shared a little resemblance to home, even if that was just a random coincidence.
There’s also a long stretch of beach to the north of Centro which, despite the brown waters of the Río de la Plata, is still quite nice.
4. So Much Green
As I mentioned before, Colonia is just so incredibly green. Right from the minute you step off the ferry, you’ll be surrounded by lush plant life: fields of grass, palm trees, and tons of flowers.
I can’t guarantee that it’s this nice all year long, but the day I spent here in February had some great weather: not too hot and partly cloudy. It was perfect for being out and about for nearly the whole time I was here.
How to Get to Colonia
You have a number of options to travel between Argentina and Uruguay by ferry, but I decided to go with Buquebus, which has a ferry terminal in Buenos Aires that is centrally-located in a safe neighborhood here.
The first step is to book your ticket online, which can be done at this website. You’ll find that you can book a return ticket for a separate day, but the pricing might be different than if you opt for the day trip. (On a side note, I kind of wish that I had spent a night in Colonia. I liked it so much that I think a full 24 hours here could be worth it.)
Once you get your email confirmation, you’re good to go; just be sure to bring your passport to the ferry terminal. You don’t need to bring a printed out confirmation to board; they can print you one upon checkin. I would try to arrive to the ferry terminal an hour before the boat departs. I ended up running a bit late, but luckily didn’t encounter any lines or delays while checking in. The ferry itself is huge; they’re definitely not going to delay departure for any late passenger!
One interesting thing to note is that you are supposed to go through both Argentinian and Uruguayan customs in Buenos Aires. You should also be clearing customs for both countries at the ferry terminal in Colonia. For whatever reason, I didn’t end up going through Uruguay customs in Buenos Aires (i.e. I never got an entrance stamp). This clearly was wrong; when the Uruguayan customs officer in Colonia didn’t see an entrance stamp, he asked to see the paper ticket from the ferry that morning, which he then collected. Moral of the story: you should get an Uruguay entrance stamp at the Buquebus ferry terminal in Buenos Aires, and just in case you don’t, hold on to the ferry ticket stub!
A Day Trip That's Worth the Effort
I was so pleasantly surprised by Colonia’s historic district and green spaces, and the town definitely sparked my interest in Uruguay as a whole. I’m now interested in trying to see Montivideo sooner than later, and if it wasn’t for this trip, who knows how many years it would’ve been before stepping foot in this small South American country!
Buenos Aires is so fun and lively, but it’s also hectic and busy. And in all honesty, I think I was able to see all the major attraction in Buenos Aires in about three days, so Colonia was truly the perfect way to explore something different for one of the days of this trip.