An overnight trip from Buenos Aires to visit Montevideo and Colonia Del Sacramento in Uruguay with stops in Plaza Independencia to see Palacio Salvo and Solís Theatre, Plaza de la Constitución with the Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, Mercado del Puerto, Museo del Carnaval, and Plaza Mayor with the Faro in Colonia.
“Libertad o Muerte” A motto that shows the country’s dedication to freedom. Uruguay gained independence in 1825 after a tug-of-war between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. The current democracy has a popular president and is considered one of the most developed countries in South America. It is also the second smallest country after Suriname on the continent.
Visiting the country is extremely convenient from Buenos Aires as it is just over the Rio de La Plata.
We planned for an overnight visit taking the Seacat Colonia ferry to Colonia followed by a bus to Montevideo. From the terminal in Buenos Aires we checked in and went upstairs to go through immigration. Interestingly, after exiting Argentina, the Uruguay immigration officer is also onsite stamping the entry stamp. So technically we were in Uruguay without even leaving Argentina! Country 66 complete!
The ferry was full and there were no more window seats available, but the ride was only an hour or so. There were some great views of the city from the boat, though the windows were filthy.
On arrival, the bus terminal was right there. Staff guided the passengers to their respective buses. After two hours of green farmland scenery, we arrived in the capital.
Founded in 1724, Montevideo is the largest city of the country and is highly ranked in terms of economy and quality of life. The majority of the tourist sites are located in Ciudad Vieja.
At the massive bus terminal/mall we purchased our tickets to Colonia for the evening, took out some Uruguayan pesos then headed downtown. Hopping onto a bus, we had an awkward ride with our bags and the rush hour crowds.
We got off at a main square where we stopped into a hotel to store our bags for the day. In the center of the plaza is the Artigas Mausoleum, where the hero of Uruguay, Jose Artigas, is buried.
This Italian designed building was constructed in 1925-1928. With its antennas, which were removed in 2012, it held the title of the tallest building in South America for many years.
Uruguay’s oldest theatre constructed in 1856, the structure was rebuilt in 1998. Philippe Stark even designed two columns inside that cost $110,000.
We continued into the old center and soon arrived at a smaller plaza.
Plaza de la Constitución
This square use to be the main square of Montevideo during its newly found independence. The Cabildo use to be the government house but has since been converted into a museum. Facing the square is the Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, the primary Roman Catholic church that dates back to 1740.
Mercado del Puerto
Further into the old city we found a lively steak market. This covered building houses many small restaurants serving an assortment of meats displayed on their fire grills. We sat at the bar of Don Garcia and ordered a massive asado steak with salad, fries and local beer. What an amazing meal!
Conveniently outside was a stall where I purchased my tourist shirt of Uruguay.
Museo del Carnaval
Around the corner is the small carnival museum dedicated to the carnival celebration. It was quite small and only had a few masks and costumes on exhibit. The majority of the audience was a group of school children and when we asked if we could watch the show, we were told that we were too old. Oh well…
We went by several other museums on the way back, but more interesting than the museums was a conversation with an extremely opinionated Uruguayan. He worked at one of the museums and proudly boasted about Uruguay’s President, José Mujica, and how he legalized abortion, marijuana, and gay marriage. Eventually the conversation led to how much Uruguayans dislike the US and its foreign policy. He even chanted a rhyme about how Bush is a fascist terrorist… Awkward.
To end the day we found a bar, Don Peperone to sit and enjoy a couple of beers.
Getting our bags, we took a stroll down the popular Avenida 18 de Julio to the terminal to catch our 2 hour bus ride to Colonia.
Colonia Del Sacramento
Dating back to 1680, Colonia Del Sacramento is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. It is famous for its historic quarter, Barrio Histórico, with cobblestone roads which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We arrived late in the evening and walked into the center looking for a hotel. Due to a last minute decision, we didn’t have anything planned but eventually found a small guest house with availability.
The next morning we set off early to explore the town.
Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento
This church was built by the Portuguese in 1808 and constructed of stone.
From Portón de Campo, the original town gate and drawbridge was the main square. This plaza was lined with trees and old colonial houses, like the 18th century Casa de Nacarello. Old rusty vintage cars were randomly parked on the streets.
Faro de Colonia del Sacramento
The iconic landmark is the lighthouse and the ruins of the 17th century Convent of San Francisco.
Several museums were nearby, but unfortunately they were closed.
The old center was really quiet and peaceful. The entire scene seemed almost unchanged from the colonial period and provided a window into the past. Definitely a worthwhile visit, even for a day!
As we were headed for Mendoza today, we had to catch an early ColoniaExpress ferry to Buenos Aires and couldn’t stay late. Going through immigration as we did on the Argentinian side, we boarded and bid Uruguay farewell!