This Colonia del Sacramento itinerary will detail how to smartly day trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay). If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Buenos Aires, heading to Colonia del Sacramento is a fantastic day trip option. It’s a way to get a taste of Uruguay if you don’t have time to visit the country in depth.
Like many places throughout the world, we would want to spend more time than what we have allowed for. This certainly applies to Uruguay. If only time and money were limitless! So, a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento may have to suffice for you.
Our trip to Patagonia would dominate the early stages of our travels. We booked just a few days in Buenos Aires to get the ball rolling. This would be before flying down to Ushuaia prior to hiking the well known W Trek. We didn’t want to leave Uruguay completely out of the picture. So with the opportunity to easily visit from Buenos Aires, we gladly added the Colonia del Sacramento day trip to our itinerary.
Colonia del Sacramento | Day Trip
This day trip guide highlights the main attractions and sites of Colonia del Sacramento. There is a decent mix of historical, cultural and artistic artefacts to enjoy. By following this guide, you’ll know exactly what you need to do in order to plan your day trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento.
Brief History of Colonia del Sacramento
Brief history lesson: The charming town of Colonia del Sacramento was made to be by a fascinating history. It was initially colonised by the Portuguese in 1680.
Thereafter, the Spaniards and even the Brits threw their hats into the colonisation and ruling mix over the preceding century and a half. Such events gave rise to a historic centre. A melting pot of mostly Portuguese flavoured architecture intertwined with Spanish style housing. Independence was finally gained in 1825.
However, the uniquely fashioned town would uphold its colonial construction for years to come. Subsequently and not surprisingly, the town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Colonia del Sacramento: Top Things to do
This is our self guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento. We believe there’s no need for a tour here. There are evenly scattered information plaques throughout old town to give you some context. Plus, if you like walking like we do, this is a great option for your day trip to Uruguay. It’s in geographical order of what to see if walking from the port. Please use our Google Maps below to guide you.
1. Puerta de la Ciudadela (Old Town Gate)
From the port, you will begin walking past cool colonial style houses. However, the Old Town Gate is the entrance to the actual old town that you will explore. You’ll find lots of tourists hanging around the gate here. Walk through to find more interesting colonial architecture.
2. Street of Sighs
An historic old cobblestoned street with many of the colonial style buildings. We were in our flip flops because it was so hot. But it made walking on the uneven cobblestone a little tricky. Thankfully though, it was a little quieter here. So no one to knock over as we clumsily tripped on our flip flops. A cool spot for a photo.
3. El Faro Lighthouse
The white lighthouse is hard to miss. You will see this almost immediately as you enter the historic centre. Interestingly, it was built over some old ruins. They remain there today!
4. Convent of San Francisco
The Convent of San Francisco was burnt down in the 18th century. However, the remains are still very much visible. Look out for the information plaques for additional details (in English).
5. Colonia del Sacramento Plaza de Armas
A great spot for a coffee at one of the many cafes that line the plaza. There is some green space here and benches. Actually, the benches were covered in a shade. It made for the perfect spot to have a rest. Perhaps a good resting spot if you decide to order a takeaway coffee too!
6. Basílica of the Holy Sacrament
The Basílica of the Holy Sacrament is apparently the oldest church in Uruguay. Though, it has been restored a fair few times. We had a peak inside. In all honesty, it’s nothing extraordinary. But worth a look.
7. Centro Cultural Bastión del Carmen
We didn’t plan on going here but stepped inside to escape the heat. We’re glad we did. Inside was a gallery of nice portraits of the town. There was also an outdoor area with shaded parts to sit and relax, looking onto the water. Interesting sculptures line the outdoor grass area. If anything, it was a good spot for people watching. We hope that doesn’t make us sound like stalkers. But who doesn’t like a good session of people watching?
Don’t worry too much about seeing the beaches. Fairly average to be honest. The water didn’t look the cleanest. Although coming from Australia, where the beaches are magnificent, my expectations may be unfairly high. So maybe they’re not so bad after all. Go see for yourself. Pack a towel just in case you fancy a dip! The weather will likely be hot anyway.
9. Getting Lost in Colonia del Sacramento
Honestly speaking, the most fun we had here was actually ditching the itinerary! We are usually sticklers for an itinerary or plan. But getting lost and exploring the colourful and picturesque colonial style houses that line the many cobblestone streets was the highlight for us!
Colonia del Sacramento Day Trip Recap
Day trippin’ to Colonia del Sacramento will certainly be worth your time. This way, you’ll get a taste of Uruguay even if you can’t venture any further into the country. It’s a lovely day trip which starts and ends with a nice ferry trip. Once you have arrived in Colonia del Sacramento, you’ll have a nice walk to the town centre where you’ll begin to enjoy all of the town’s main attractions.
Getting to & from Buenos Aires
Flights: You’ll likely need to get a flight to Buenos Aires in order to do this day trip. We flew there from London using Skyscanner.com. Upon searching this excellent flight search engine, we found a decent flight with Norwegian Airlines. With checked in baggage, it came to £344/person ($438USD). Admittedly, using Jack’s Flight Club we have found the occasional cheaper flight.
If you’re flying from the UK or USA, we’re sure that you can find deal flights to South America. Subscribe to Jack’s Flight Club to monitor these. If you have free membership, you’ll receive 1 email per week which includes lots of deals. However, we highly recommend paying for premium membership. You’ll get 4 times as many deals emailed to you. Plus, it’s only ($43USD) and we guarantee that by booking merely 1 flight deal, that you’ll more than earn back the price of membership.
For instance, a London to Paphos flight we booked using Jack’s Flight Club, was around ($49USD) cheaper than the usual fare. So we made our money back, and then some, with that single purchase! For Australians, we recommend using I Want That Flight for a similar flight alert service. Better yet, this flight alert system is for free! So absolutely nothing to lose by signing up to their alerts and newsletter.
Getting to & from Colonia del Sacramento
Ferry: Using Directferries.com, we booked return ferry tickets in advance for $79USD/person.
SIDE NOTE: You will be told that the last check in is 90 minutes prior to departure for both ferries. However, at least for our 8:15am ferry; the earliest departure of the day, checking in only really began 90 minutes before departure. This is because the Colonia Express office only seemed to be staffed from 6:45am. We’re generally risk adverse anyway. So perhaps don’t check in late just in case. But there’s no need to get there 2-2.5 hours before the earliest departure as we did!
The Colonial Express port in Buenos Aires was inconveniently located relatively far away from the city centre. So walking there wasn’t an option. Also, even if the local buses were running that early, there was no simple bus journey to the port anyway. We ordered an Uber in advance. It reliably got us to the port in around 10 minutes from the city centre for about $5USD. Uber itself isn’t technically legal in Buenos Aires but is commonly used. Personally, we used Uber a few times in Buenos Aires. We had no issues and always felt safe.
The ferry crossing takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minute. Upon arrival, walking to the historical centre from the Colonia del Sacramento port was an easy 20 minute walk. To return to the port, simply retrace your steps back for the return trip to Buenos Aires!
Airbnb: Of course, you’ll need a place to stay when you’re in Buenos Aires! We used Airbnb to book a place in downtown Buenos Aires for great value. For 3 nights, we paid $48USD for 3 nights for 2 people. So that worked out to be $8USD each per night! We booked an entire flat called Cordoba VIP. Check it out with the link we have provided.
Admittedly without A/C, it did get pretty hot in there. But there is at least a fan. Also, there is an old school lift that did the trick in getting us up to the apartment. The host’s communication was good before we arrived. It allowed us to organise the handover of the keys in a fairly straightforward manner.
4-6 hours: We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the town. However, you will see everything you need to in around 4-6 hours. We don’t believe you should spend longer in a place just for the sake of it. So just a day trip will suffice. Alas, no need to spend the night in Uruguay if you’re short on time in South America.
- Accommodation: $3,450ARS ($48USD) for 3 nights for 2 people.
- Return ferry: $5,670ARS/person ($79USD).
- Uber to get to the Colonia Express ferry port: $360ARS ($5USD) for 2 people.
- Coffee/food: $1,075ARS ($15USD) for 2 people.
= $6,950ARS/person ($97USD)
It is the price of the return ferry that makes the day trip relatively expensive.
Five Travel Essentials for a Day Trip to Colonia del Sacramento
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – a great way to store your belongings throughout the day.
- Karrimor 1L Clear Water Bottle x 2 – you’ll be doing plenty of walking in the sun so make sure you have plenty of water.
- Travel wallet – store your money safely.
- Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera – a great camera to capture the day.
- Ray-Ban Polarised Clubmaster Square Sunglasses – you’ll be happy to have a pair of sunnies here!
- Currency: Colonia del Sacramento rely heavily on tourism from Buenos Aires. Thus, most places will accept Argentine pesos ($ARS). For this reason, there is no need to get out Uruguayan currency if you just visit on a day trip.
- ATMs: Although, one reason you may want to use an ATM here is to withdraw $USD which is not possible in Argentina. As we explained in our Perito Moreno Glacier post, given the economic crisis in Argentina, it would be wise to avoid using ATMs there. Instead, it’s best to exchange $USD for $ARS. If you are running short on $USD or didn’t take any to Argentina in the first place, withdrawing $USD without any ridiculous fees in Uruguay is a great idea. However, we have read that ATMs in Colonia del Sacramento can run out of $USD on the weekends. So best to do this on a week day if possible!
- Explore Uruguay: Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see any more of Uruguay. But for more information on travelling to Uruguay, especially for more information about Montevideo and Punta del Este, check out Why Not Walk’s weekend guide.
Have you been to Colonia del Sacramento before? Is there anything we missed? Please let us know in the comments section below.
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