Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, Colonia del Sacramento, or Colonia as it is known, occupied a strategic position in resisting the Spanish almost exactly opposite Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata. Today it is a charming slow-paced town whose Colonial Barrio Historico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town attracts few foreign tourists but attracts many Argentine visitors particularly on weekends. It is easy to reach by high speed ferries from downtown Buenos Aires. It is a pleasant 45 minute trip. Remember to bring your passport as you are entering another country. The ferry company is Buquebus.
Walking is the way to see this small town of 29,000 people. You will see the old fortified walls, the attractive Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo or main square, an old lighthouse just off the southwest corner of the Plaza and the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco. I really like the pace here compared to the faster paced Buenos Aires. You will enjoy the flower-laden windowsills, stone buildings, churches dating back from the 1680’s and attractive single-story homes from its time as a Portuguese settlement.
We found a wonderful spot for lunch in a lovely restaurant courtyard and saw many nice shops and art galleries. I bought a wonderful piece in the afternoon.
I recommend going for the day, but if you want to spend the night there are some hotels in the historic center. My brother, wife and youngest daughter were just there and thought the Charco Hotel was really outstanding with great design. They also enjoyed the Charco Bistro, the hotel’s restaurant with great food and decor.
I ave read about a lovely Four Seasons Carmelo Resort a half an hour’s drive from Colonia that offers bungalows, a spa, golf course, horseback riding and winery tours. It is Asian inspired and very attractive.
The New York Times recommends La Vigna ECOlifestyle , Estancia Thierra Santa and Puerto Carmelo, where the Carmelo Resort & Spa is located, as good options to stay not too far from town.