This self-guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento will detail the best things to do in the town and also show you how to visit on a day trip from Buenos Aires. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Buenos Aires, heading to Colonia del Sacramento is a fantastic day trip option, where you can easily do a self-guided walking tour. It’s a fantastic way to get a taste of Uruguay if you don’t have time to visit the country in depth. For sure, by using this article, you can discover the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento on a day trip from Buenos Aires.
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Colonia del Sacramento Day Trip
Like many places throughout the world, Beck and I 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 would have to suffice for us and may have to suffice for you. Luckily, it’s easy to visit Colonia del Sacramento on a day trip from Buenos Aires and it’s just as simple to do a self-guided walking tour.
Personally, our trip to Patagonia would dominate the early stages of our travels in South America. 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 and self-guided walking tour to our itinerary. That way, we could experience the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento.
This self-guided walking tour highlights the main attractions and best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. There is a decent mix of historical, cultural and artistic artefacts to enjoy. By following this guide, you’ll know exactly what to see in Colonia del Sacramento during a day trip from Buenos Aires.
Free Guided Colonia del Sacramento Walking Tours
Of course, it’s possible to do a free guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento, run by Strawberry Tours. Indeed, some people consider this type of tour to be one of the best guided Colonia del Sacramento walking tours on offer. These free tours are another great option for experiencing the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento. But, if you’re keen to follow in our footsteps, and do a self-guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento, then please read on!
Why Is Colonia del Sacramento Famous?
The charming town of Colonia del Sacramento has 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 Walking Tour: Best Things to Do
Below, you’ll find our self-guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento. We believe there’s no real need to do a guided tour here. Most of the attractions on this itinerary are complemented with evenly scattered information plaques throughout the 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 Colonia del Sacramento.
Colonia del Sacramento Walking Tour Map
If you’re visiting Colonia del Sacramento to do this self-guided Colonia del Sacramento walking tour, you’ll want to use a map to help with navigation. The map below orders the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento in geographical order of what to see if walking from the port. Rest assured, we show the exact location of the walking tour’s main attractions.
Colonia del Sacramento Walking Tour Itinerary
Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Colonia del Sacramento, which can be easily experienced on this self-guided walking tour and day trip from Buenos Aires.
1. Puerta de la Ciudadela (Old Town Gate)
From the port, you’ll begin walking by incredible colonial-style houses. However, the Old Town Gate is the entrance to the actual old town that you’ll explore. You’ll find lots of tourists hanging around the gate here. Walk through to find more interesting colonial architecture.
2. Street of Sighs
This is an 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! This is a cool spot for a photo.
3. El Faro Lighthouse
The white lighthouse is hard to miss. You’ll see this almost immediately as you enter the historic centre. Interestingly, it was built over some old ruins, which 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 (they are in English).
5. Colonia del Sacramento Plaza de Armas
This self-guided Colonia del Sacramento walking tour will then take you to the colourful colonial-style buildings surrounding Plaza de Armas. This is a great spot for a coffee at one of the many cafes that line the plaza. There is some green space here and benches. Thankfully, the benches were covered in 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 the oldest church in Uruguay. Though, it has been restored a fair few times. We had a peek inside. In all honesty, it’s nothing extraordinary. But, it’s still worth a look.
7. Centro Cultural Bastión del Carmen
We didn’t plan on going there but stepped inside to escape the heat. And, we’re glad we did. Inside was a gallery of nice portraits of the town. The inner garden of Centro Cultural Bastión del Carmen was lovely too.
There is also an outdoor area with shaded parts to sit and relax, overlooking the water. You’ll find 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 – they’re 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. I suppose you’ll have to 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 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!
Self-Guided Colonia del Sacramento Walking Tour Recap
That’s a wrap on this self-guided walking tour of Colonia del Sacramento, which shows you the best things to do during a day trip. So, is it all worth it?
Is it Worth Visiting Colonia del Sacramento?
Doing a day trip and walking tour in 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 that 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.
Colonia del Sacramento Walking Tour Packages
If you don’t mind Colonia del Sacramento walking tour costs, you may want to consider doing an organised day trip. For sure, if you want to avoid the hassle of organising a day trip yourself, let someone else do it for you!
Organised Colonia del Sacramento Tour
How to Get From Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento
Using Directferries.com, we booked return ferry tickets in advance for $79USD/person.
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. Certainly, 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 minutes. 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!
Accommodation in Buenos Aires
Of course, you’ll need a place to stay when you’re in Buenos Aires! Below, we’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options in Buenos Aires.
Best Accommodation in Buenos Aires
How Long to Spend in Colonia del Sacramento?
We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the town on a day trip. For sure, we think a day trip is enough time to spend in the town. You’ll 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 and want to prioritise visiting other places.
Travel Essentials For a Day Trip to Colonia del Sacramento
Here are some gear essentials for a comfortable day trip.
Anker Portable Power Bank
Keep your phone, laptop and other accessories charged while you’re on the go with the Anker Portable Power Bank. We wouldn’t travel without this high-quality portable charger.
Sea to Summit DryLite Towel
The Sea to Summit DryLite Towel is the best quick-dry microfibre towel. This compact, lightweight and super-absorbent towel is perfect for travel.
EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter
Having an EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter is one of the best accessories to travel with, especially if you’re travelling to multiple continents during your trip.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly yet high-quality noise-cancelling headphones for travel, then look no further than the Anker Soundcore Space Q45.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite travel gear, camera gear and hiking gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
- Currency: Colonia del Sacramento relies 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 often economic instability in Argentina, it’s wise to avoid using ATMs there. Instead, it’s best to exchange $USD for $ARS. If you’re running short on $USD or didn’t take any to Argentina in the first place, withdrawing $USD in Uruguay is a great idea to avoid ridiculous fees. However, we have read that ATMs in Colonia del Sacramento can run out of $USD on the weekends. So, it’s best to do this on a weekday 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.