Colonia is situated on the east bank of the Rio de la Plata. It is 180km west of Montevideo and only 50km across the water from the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. The historic quarter of this city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is incredibly quaint with cobbled streets and pretty colonial buildings. The setting is spectacular as the city is flanked by the shores of the river and has beautiful vistas all around.
It is a great destination for a day trip. Given its proximity to Buenos Aires (it only takes one hour on the fast ferry), it’s popular with Argentinian tourists - especially at the weekends and during the summer months. A trip across the water to Colonia is also a good idea for those tourists who wish to renew their Argentine visas.
Colonia’s history dates back to 1680, when it was founded by the Portuguese governor of Rio de Janeiro, Manuel Lobo. As it’s almost directly opposite Buenos Aires, it was considered to be strategically very well placed. Battles between Spain and Portugal ensued over the following years until 1777 when Spain finally took control of the city. However, from then on its importance declined as imports headed straight to Buenos Aires instead.
Colonia is not a big place and can easily be visited in a day. If you don’t fancy doing it by foot, you can rent a bicycle, scooter or even a golf cart to get around. There are plenty of things to do and see there including 8 small museums, a lighthouse, souvenir shopping and very good places for eating and drinking. It’s an excellent place to eat steak and ice cream while washing it down with either local beers or wines. You can also rent rowing and sailing boats from the marina. Close to the ferry terminal there is a very helpful tourist office where you can get all the information you need to the most out of your trip.
Although it can be done in a day, Colonia is a lovely place to spend the night and there are a few inviting hotels to choose from. Why not make it the first port of call on a trip to Uruguay and spend a couple of days there acclimatising before heading to Montevideo, the countryside or the coast. Have a look at Historic Haciendas for some wonderful places to stay in Uruguay and also near Colonia.
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