Finally, an Uruguayan town that has a little more life and culture! Unlike the hustling cement prison of its capitol Montevideo or the abandoned ghost town of its beach resort Punta del Este, Colonia de Sacramento is a charming cobblestone-adorned town that almost makes up for the rest of the country (that is, for those like us who didn’t plan ahead and travel during the fall/winter season). A simple 2-hour bus ride from Montevideo or 1 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires, Colonia was discovered by the Portuguese and settled later on by the Spaniards. These colonizations are especially apparent in its historic barrio which boasts of beautiful yet modest stone architecture (note my obsession with the doors), ruins of the city gate, and remnants of its wooden drawbridge.
Aside from its alluring history, there are a few other things that highlighted this portion of our trip:
1. Food – one can eat so many milanesa (thin breaded filet of meat, think a wimpy version of our country fried steak), morcilla (blood sausage, yup you read right), or empanadas (the Russian roulette of all food, you can’t tell if they’re stale and bland or fresh and flavorful until you pull the trigger and buy the damn thing). So when we stumbled upon a handful of restaurants that stepped up their game in offering not just variety but gourmet execution and presentation, we were ecstatic! A la Pipetua had both tasty food and an atmospheric terrace at a reasonable price (even for backpackers like us). For $420 pesos or $16 usd, we ordered the seafood paella that was big enough to share between two people. Add in a few liters of cerveza, it was the sweet combination to kick back and enjoy a rare sunny day in Colonia. Another standout spot we discovered was the romantic cobblestoned patio of Buen Suspiro. For under $20 usd, we were presented with a nice bottle of white Sauvignon Blanc, charcuterie plate, mini torta bites, and an array of regional cheeses. Service was exceptional and it was the perfect setting for a lil’ night cap!
2. Lodging – As a backpacker, where you sleep at night is mostly dictated by cost, but that’s not to say you can’t find nice places without forking over your wallet. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s all about being a savvy shopper. In Colonia, we found Rio Hostel & Suites at only $14 usd pp per night. It was by far one of the cleanest hostel we’ve stayed at and provided plenty of amenities! We had complimentary breakfast each morning outside in its courtyard and were able to cook lunch and dinners in its detached craftsman-styled kitchen. It’s these little details that can upgrade an experience based on convenience to that of comfort.
3. Friendly porteños– Also while there, we were fortunate enough to run into some porteños (those residing in a port city like Buenos Aires) who made us realize that our dreams to go to Patagonia was not lost. Spending more time from their weekend vacation than they should, the super friendly couple basically gave us a pro bono tour guide of places to visit as well as things to do at each location. Sure, there is something nice to be said about having privacy at a hotel but if we had not bunked with them at the hostel, we would have passed on the opportunity of a lifetime!
Despite Colonia being a refreshing change of scenery for us, as with all small touristy towns, it was an infatuated affair that could only last a few days and not much more. Time for us to move onwards and visit its more glamorous celebrity sister across the water, Buenos Aires!!