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Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento

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Colonia del Sacramento | Uruguay | Americas

[Visited: January 2004, December 2011]

Often, I do not go back to places I have already been, but for Colonia, I was more than willing to make an exception. I had been there in the mid 1990s, and after winding down from my impressive and spectacular trip to Antarctica in Buenos Aires, I felt like visiting this old colonial town again. Taking the first boat on an early Saturday morning, I could only travel first class, which turned out to be quite a treat: sitting in a luxury couch made the trip very easy. Still, I had much preferred to be outside, on deck, but this is simply not possible on these catamarans. Even so, the views are not very special, as the wide river is mostly brownish, and has a dull, flat shoreline. A short walk from the dock in Colonia, which has grown into a sizable town on the shore of the Río de la Plata, took me to the entrance of the historical centre of Colonia del Sacramento. I would spend several hours in this small area which is full of colonial buildings along cobble-stoned streets, all oozing history.

Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Cobble stoned street and stucco houses lining romantic Calle de los Suspiros

The location of Colonia del Sacramento, right across Buenos Aires, and at the entrance of the Uruguay river and the Paraná delta, proved so strategic, that many battles were fought since it was founded in 1680. The town changed hands no less than 9 times, sometimes because of treaties, mostly between the first conquerors Portugal and Spain, until it finally settled as one of the towns of independent Uruguay in 1828. I walked to the northern side of the town, where I found the old port, the famous old pier of which was unfortunately under reconstruction and closed to visitors. From here, it was just a few more minutes to reach the bastion on the western side of the town, jutting right into the Río de la Plata. Sweeping views of the river, and of the defensive walls on the coast here. I walked down on the rocks for a better view, and continued southward. From here, cobble-stone streets linked the boulevard to the inner heart of the historical centre, but I continued following the shoreline until I reached the old city wall on the south-eastern side, which runs right into the sea. Following this wall inland, took me straight to the old city gate, the Portón de Campo, first erected in 1745, but since reconstructed.

Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Views over the Rio de la Plata from one of the old fortifications of Colonia

On this wall, you can still find old cannons pointing outwards, towards where possible invaders could approach the town. I walked through the gate, for the best view: a drawbridge was part of the defence of Colonia, and the decorations in the old stone lintel above the Portón de Campo were especially good-looking when the sunlight fell on them. I entered the historical heart of the city again, walked streets like the Calle de los Suspiros which is the oldest street of Colonia, and has some exceptionally beautiful, rustic houses in old Portuguese style. An abundance of colourful flowers adorned the houses and streets all over Colonia, adding to the extremely romantic atmosphere of the town. From here, I walked to the Plaza Mayor, or Plaza 25 de Mayo, a square full of trees, and stumbled upon the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco, in which a lighthouse has been constructed, with a curious effect: a bright, white tower rising from the ruins of a religious building. I cruised more streets from here, spotted many ancient cars parked forever on the old stony streets, some of them with plants growing out of the broken roof. More old, picturesque houses and streets followed, some with arches of yellow, orange, and red flowers. Colonia del Sacramento might have seen lots of fighting in its long history, it now is a very peaceful, and interesting, place steeped in times gone by.

Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Colonial houses and cobble stoned streets are the norm in the historical centre of Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Portón de Campo, the old (1745) city gate of Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): The Convento de San Francisco with lighthouse in the middle of the ruins
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): One of the streets with flowers in the historical centre of Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Looking up at the Iglesia Matriz in Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Antique car with vegetation growing out of it in one of the cobble stoned streets in Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Old stone houses on cobble-stoned Calle de Solís
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Close-up of corner of Calle de los Suspiros with plastered wall and lantern
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Cobble-stoned street corner in the historical heart of Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Defensive wall of Colonia with one of the old cannons
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Corner of the defensive walls of Colonia, at the eastern side
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Red stucco on an old colonial house in the historical heart of Colonia
Picture of Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay): Plaza Mayor, or Plaza 25 de Mayo, of Colonia

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