Hopping across the river to Uruguay

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South America » Uruguay » West » Colonia del Sacramento
December 15th 2012
Published: December 20th 2012
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Colonia del Sacramento is one of the short trips recommended from Buenos Aires. I can hear you thinking "hey, is that also in Argentina then?? Coz I thought.." Yes, exactly, it´s in Uruguay! So the opportunity to see yet another country, without even needing to board a plane, was too good to pass up. A weekend in Uruguay it was! When I first checked ferry ticket prices at Buquebus, it was a bit of a shock though. Arrhg, that´s what you get for ´keeping things open and flexible´!! But after a bit more research I found there was another ferry company, Colonia Express, that offered much lower prices, at the times we wanted. The downside was that the boat was a bit smaller (so you feel the waves more, especially if the weather is bad) and slower (90 mins vs 1 hr), but hey, we have to watch our budget a bit at times.. 😉

So there we went, on Friday morning, to the docks, to check in for our flight, uhh, ride. Everything was super easy, wih the Argentinian and Uruguayan border control agents sitting on desks right next to each other, and although our boat was about 45 mins delayed, we were in Uruguay before we knew it.

You may wonder, how different both countries feel. Culturally, it didn´t seem too different for us. After all, it´s only an hour by boat and heaps of people travel back and forth. Punta del Este, a Uruguyan beach town, is for instance the most popular beach destination for well off Porteños (people from Buenos Aires). But one of the most obvious differences is the openness of the economy. Uruguay is often called the Switzerland of South America, and quite a few Argentinians have a US$ bank account there to benefit from the bank secrecy. The currency is held relatively stable vs US$ at around 20, and it´s easy to pay with US$ at an okay exchange rate at most shops, restaurants and hotels. So no ´blue market´ or anything alike, which seems to fit the overall more relaxed attitude of the Uruguayans (or at least they like to think they´re more relaxed than their neighbours..)

Colonia del Sacremento, originally founded by the Portuguese to sneak goods into Buenos Aires, is a cute town with a beautiful historical center which was designated an official Unesco world heritage site. The historical center has lovely cobblestone streets, some nice plazas, and beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture. Oh, and its own lighthouse! There are lovely restaurants and bars, many with live music over the weekend, and great sunsets over the river. You get the picture, quite the romantic town.. 😊

The only downside is that you don´t really need more than a day to see it all (and that´s a generous assessment). So our plan had been to use the second day for a day trip to Montevideo, about 2.5 hrs away from Colonia. But when the time came, we just couldn´t quite motivate ourselves to spend another 5 hours traveling.. The fact that the weather was ´blah´, i.e. hot, very humid but cloudy, didn´t really help either in getting us ready for an active day. Therefore we figured we´d spend the morning wandering along the boulevard towards the beach north of town, grab lunch, relax, and wander back along some of the other sights that weren´t in the historic center. Well, let´s say it sounded nicer than it turned out to be 😉. The walk was uninteresting and hot, and the few sights on the way were, uhm, not really worth the term ´sight´. A little bit disappointed we went back to our hotel to shower, relax, and plan for our evening in town. But fortunately that´s exactly what Colonia does well, nice evenings out. Walking across some cute streets, wine and cheese at the enclosed patio of a wine bar, sunset at the beach, and a tasty dinner in an atmospheric restaurant, that did the trick quite well. So fortunately we ended a so-so day with a perfect evening!

The next morning it was raining cats and dogs, and even thundering a bit, so I was concerned about our ferry back. Fortunately, it only meant the boat ride was a tad rougher, but no delays, and after two quick pass throughs, we could finally start some proper sightseeing in Buenos Aires!

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