Colonia Del Sacramento is one of the oldest and most beautiful towns in Uruguay and you can easily visit on a day trip from Buenos Aires! Read on to find out the best things to do in Colonia Del Sacramento, as well as how to get here from Buenos Aires.
The small charming Colonial town of Colonia Del Sacramento, often abbreviated simply to Colonia, is a popular day trip from Buenos Aires. Located in the south of Uruguay and separated from Argentina by the Rio de la Plata, it takes just over one hour to cross the river on a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia.
Colonia Del Sacramento makes a really popular day trip from Buenos Aires due to it’s close proximity (27 miles/ 50km). Also, it is very straightforward to get there, you don’t need to do a tour – plus you get another stamp in your passport! Many nationalities don’t need a visa in advance to enter Uruguay either, which is brilliant! Not only do lots of tourists take the ferry across on a day trip, but many who will be continuing their travels from Argentina into Uruguay use this as a crossing.
How to visit Colonia Del Sacramento from Buenos Aires
The easiest way to get to Colonia Del Sacramento from Buenos Aires is by ferry as they are just across the river Plata from each other. Visiting Colonia from Buenos Aires by ferry is very easy. You just need a little bit of planning.
As the Buenos Aires to Colonia route is pretty popular, whether for locals, expats on visa runs or for tourists, the ferry can get quite busy. You should buy your ferry tickets a few days in advance to ensure tickets don’t sell out for the day and time you require. This is especially important if you’ll be visiting over a busy time, such as the Christmas or Easter holidays or in January/February, which is peak holiday season across South America. During these times try and book your ferry as soon as you know the date you’ll want to travel.
How to book ferry tickets between Buenos Aires and Colonia Del Sacramento
There are three ferry companies that operate several daily ferries between Buenos Aires and Colonia. They are Colonia Express, Seacat and Buquebus. When you know the date and time of the ferry you want, check all 3 websites for prices. Buquebus seems to be a little bit cheaper and it’s ferries cost the same price whatever time of day, but still check all the websites just in case. With Seacat and Colonia Express, what actually seems to affect the price of the ferry is the particular time of ferry you want to catch.
For example, the morning ferries from Buenos Aires across to Colonia are more expensive, and the later ones from Colonia coming back to Buenos Aires are more expensive. So basically, if you want to visit Colonia from Buenos Aires on a day trip departing Buenos Aires early in the morning and arriving back late, you’ll have to pay for the more expensive ferries with these 2 companies.
You can book tickets on all 3 websites, although sometimes if you are not in Argentina whilst you are using the websites they can be a little temperamental. If you can’t seem to book the tickets, wait until you get into Argentina to book them. That is if you can afford to wait that long and have at least a couple of days in Argentina before you plan to take the ferry.
All of the ferry companies have a similar time schedule, with 3 ferries a day from Buenos Aires to Colonia and back. For all 3 companies, the first ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia leaves at 8.15am and costs roughly 2,000 Argentinian pesos (£25), although this may vary depending on the time of year. There is a later ferry at around midday and then one again around 6/7pm (exact times vary slightly between the companies).
If you will be continuing your travels into Uruguay and won’t be returning back to Buenos Aires it’s worth getting a later ferry to Colonia as the ferries will be less crowded.
Where to find the ferry terminal in Buenos Aires
Puerto Madero is the port in Buenos Aires that all the ferries to Colonia depart from. However, Colonia Express ferries depart from a different ferry terminal to Buquebus and Seacat. They still depart from Puerto Madero but at the southern end near to the entrance of the harbour. Click here for the Google maps location of Colonia Express ferry terminal. Click here to see the Google maps location of the Buquebus and Seacat ferry terminal (they are located in the same building). These ferry terminals are 4 kilometres apart, so make sure you remember which company you booked your ferry with so you turn up at the right ferry terminal!
- Turn up about an hour before the ferry departs. This is important. This is not like a normal ferry: you need to pass Customs and Immigration before you get on the ferry and the queues can be quite big.
- Have your passport handy as you’ll need to show it to Immigration (both before you embark the ferry and after you disembark).
What to do in Colonia Del Sacramento
When you get off the ferry you can walk west for about 10 minutes to reach the Old Town of Colonia (Barrio Histórico). Lots of people from the ferry will be walking to the Old Town so you can just follow the crowd. If you want to see the location of Barrio Histórico in relation to Puerto de Colonia port on the map so you know which way to walk, click here to see the highlighted area of Barrio Histórico on a map.
The well-preserved historical quarter (barrio histórico) of Colonia Del Sacramento has earned itself UNESCO World Heritage status. The laid-back town is full of colourful buildings, vintage cars lining the streets and picturesque vines draped around doorways. It’s certainly a beautiful place for photography and makes a refreshing change from the busting streets of Buenos Aires. Colonia will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, and despite many tourists coming to explore Colonia every day, it never feels crowded and you’ll see many quiet streets. The Old Town is pretty compact and is easy to explore by foot. and you shouldn’t need to use any taxis or public transport when you are in Colonia.
Plaza De Armas
Plaza de Armas is the main square in Colonia and the heart of the barrio histórico so make sure to spend time in this charming area. Here at Plaza de Armas you’ll find the grand Catholic Church Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, also known as Church Matriz. This impressive church is the oldest church in Uruguay.
Colonial buildings and charming streets
You can spend your day meandering down the beautiful cobblestone streets and admiring the Colonial houses. There are so many unique and picturesque streets in this town that the best thing you can do is just to walk around and explore! One of the most iconic streets however, is Calle de Los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), full of stunning Colonial houses.
Many of the Colonial buildings here are home to galleries and artisan shops, so head inside these if you would like some local paintings, handicrafts or clothing. Note that almost everywhere in Colonia accept Argentinian pesos so you don’t need to exchange any money beforehand! Do check the exchange rate they are giving you though! If it is not favourable you can always exchange money at a bank here.
Visit one of Colonia’s many historic museums
Despite Colonia Del Sacramento being a small town, it has several museums in it’s historic district: 8 to be precise. If you go to the Museo Municipal first, you can buy a ticket for UR$50 (£1), and this actually grants you access to all of the museums! At a price of £1 for 8 museums – there’s no excuse! The museums are all compact so they won’t take you long to walk around. You can visit the Museo Indígena to learn about the local Charrúa people, or visit Museo Español to learn about Colonia’s past.
Stroll around the marina
The marina offers some beautiful views. You can see the yachts, people fishing, or you can even venture down onto the sandy beach and go for a dip – the water is surprisingly clean.
Climb up Colonia Del Sacramento Lighthouse
Also known as El Faro lighthouse, this white lighthouse was built on top of the ruins of San Francisco Convent. Built over the ruins it does look a little strange, but for about UR$30 (£0.70) you can climb to the top (100+ stairs!) and look out to the view from the viewing platform.
Drink mate on the outdoor cafe patios
If you’ve spent a bit of time in Argentina or Paraguay already, chances are you’re familiar with mate. Mate is pronounced like the French word Pâté, a 2 syllable word, not like mate (a friend). Mate is the National Drink of these countries and mate culture is a big thing here, so make sure to try some! It is a caffeine-rich infused drink (mateine) with dried leaves of Yerba mate.
Colonia has some really cute cafes and fancy bars, so grab an alfresco seat and watch the world go by whilst you sip on your mate! Mate is always served in a hollow gourd with a metal drinking straw.
Things to know before you visit Colonia
- Despite many tourists visiting Colonia, English is not widely spoken here.
- Prices are more expensive in Uruguay than Argentina.
- You can pay in Argentinian pesos here.
How long should you stay in Colonia Del Sacramento?
As Colonia is quite small it can be easily explored in a few hours and you can cover all the places mentioned above. Therefore if you are only here for a day trip you should have ample time to explore Colonia Del Sacramento. Coming on a day trip also means you don’t have to bring all your luggage with you from Buenos Aires, search for another hotel, and pack up all your things.
Colonia is a beautiful place to stay overnight, so if you won’t be returning back to Buenos Aires I do recommend staying here for the night before moving on to another part of Uruguay. This is such a charming town, and even more special once all the tourists have gone back to BA on the last ferry.
Is Colonial Del Sacramento worth visiting?
Absolutely! Colonia feels like a different world and you just can’t believe this charming place is only 1 hour from Buenos Aires! If you have at least 2 days in Buenos Aires make sure to pop over to Colonia on one of them – you won’t regret it!
Is Colonia Del Sacramento safe?
I felt extremely safe in Colonia. The town has a really nice vibe and you will feel very relaxed here. Sometimes tourists can feel on edge travelling in Latin America as petty theft is common, but I have never heard of any stories like this in Colonia. Nevertheless, always use your common sense :).
Suggested Uruguay Itinerary
If you will be continuing your journey from Colonia Del Sacramento to other parts of Uruguay, you can take a 2.5 hour bus from Colonia to Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital. There are a couple of bus companies that depart several times a day.
After Montevideo, head up to the north of Uruguay where you can try your hand at staying on a working ranch! We stayed for 3 days with the gauchos at the estancia (farm) learning how to feed the sheep and care for the horses – it was really fun!
Pin it for later!