Before writing nasty things in the comments and telling Gringos to go home, please read Colonia Del Sacramento is Great. Why You should go to Colonia. This article is tongue-in-cheek, don’t take it too seriously.
It’s impossible to live the expat life in Buenos Aires for very long before becoming aware of the existence of Colonia del Sacramento, commonly referred to as simply ‘Colonia.’ That’s mostly because it’s a short boat ride from Buenos Aires that offers the opportunity to renew your three-month tourist visa (it’s across the Río de la Plata in Uruguay).
Colonia is not just a ‘visa run’ destination for perma-tourist expats though. It’s also a popular tourist attraction in its own right. This popularity is not surprising, as its old quarter has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sources including Lonely Planet heap praise such as “its charms attract visitors from all over the world” upon it.
So there’s no doubt that Colonia has good marketing. But is it actually as interesting or fun a destination as they’d have us believe? Let’s take a look at what you can do in Colonia:
• Walk around the old quarter and thrill to sights such as cobblestone streets, a pile of rubble that used to be a convent, and one small, old church;
• Hire a golf cart so you can slowly drive around the streets of the old quarter instead of walking
• Eat at a touristy, mediocre and overpriced restaurant serving exactly the same food you get in Buenos Aires;
• Take photos that will make your friends back home think that maybe they aren’t so jealous of your jet-setting ways after all;
• Read a novel that you brought with you (a very good idea);
• Go to the ‘beach,’ a long stretch of river sand fronting a flat, brown expanse of water containing the poo of literally millions of Porteños;
• Get charged far too much for accommodation;
• Try to avoid the mosquitoes, which at various times of the day number in the trillions and settle on anyone moving at less than a full sprint like a thick, black cloud;
• Think for a moment you are in a small boring town in the middle of Iowa before realizing no, you are in the famous Colonia, a must see destination
• Lose money playing slot machines at the Casino which are specifically designed to suck the money out of desperate tourists who are so bored they don’t mind losing money for 4 hours straight
• Purchase some tourist tat you’ll unquestionably throw away when you leave Buenos Aires; and
• Climb to the top of the lighthouse, where you can marvel at a view of some cobblestone streets, a few houses and a large, flat, brown expanse of water containing the poo of millions of Porteños.
Excited yet? Given its skull-numbing dullness, the strange thing about Colonia is that if you ask other expats what it’s like they’ll invariably talk it up, if mildly. “Oh yes,” they’ll say, “it’s…very nice.” “Quite good.” “Really not bad at all.” “Cute, with places to eat AND places to sleep.” “It has…erm…golf carts and stuff.”
So why is this? It’s because they were told Colonia was worthwhile, and because it doesn’t suck quite enough for them to return to Buenos Aires and confront people they probably don’t know very well about it (“Hey you! You jerk; you told me Colonia was interesting! I demand satisfaction!”), they feel that they have no choice but to fall into line and perpetuate the Colonia,-really-it’s-quite-interesting myth. Like robots. Dare to be different.
Read: Why You SHOULD Go to Colonia
What are your thoughts? Is Colonia worth going to? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know!
I’m argentinian and I’ve been to Colonia 3 times. It’s true that there’s not much to do, but I think you are missing the point because this is a relax destination. Argentinians like Colonia mainly because it’s so much different than Buenos Aires and very close. Not crazy traffic, silence, quiet, calm, etc. Apart, it’s the best way to enjoy the river because you know Buenos Aires does not have a nice shore. It also gives us the idea of how Buenos Aires was in the time it was founded.
Colonia is a nice place to walk and do nothing. Sometimes I’ve seen american tourists don’t like to do nothing much. When I went to places like Mexico, americans are the ones who buy all the tours and they seem that they need to spend money in order to feel they’ve done something or they enjoyed a place. Maybe I am different in that and I like quiet places.
But it’s true that it’s not a place to spend more than 1 or 2 days. It’s also true about the prices; very expensive.
Hi Marcelo! Thanks for reading and your comment. Check back tomorrow as I will be posting about WHY you should go to Colonia and mention a lot of the points you made.
Great, I’ll read it
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I wish I had read this before I went, for my take go to tangogales.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/colonia-january-2008/
I doubt I will ever go again and will certainly discourage others, but hey until you have been yourself you will never know. Pleasure is what you get when things go well, experience is what you get when they go badly.
Oh my goodness, I went to Colonia yesterday and was totally disappointed. I read your article and it hit the nail on the head. I couldnt believe the mosquitoes! I didnt have any Uruguayan money so I decided on the cheap “thrill” of walking the 12km to and from the old bullring. (That involved the entire beach, and how really crap it is.) Turns out the bull ring wasnt worth it either, all falling apart and useless. And lots of stray dogs running round chasing traffic.
What a dump.
Oh man, I found this blog after searching google for reasons why Sacramento (CA) sucks. And this place sounds almost as bad. It must be something ethereally crapifying in the name.
But if anyone reading this wants reasons for why our American Sacramento sucks, feel free to read my blog.
Also, I am now going to refer to any poo log that I see floating around a Porteño.
I agree with Marcelo Ruiz. It is a place for relaxation. And if you stay overnight is beatiufl. I suggest to go to a hotel with swimming poo; , in spring or summer. One day an a half enough.
I don’t think people go to Colonia in search of similarities to BsAs, in fact they go to get away from BsAs. I found it to be the perfect respite.
There is a hidden side of Colonia, one with cheese producers and great organic vegetables and countryside very close to town…
I frankly do not like BA. abysmal waiters, polluted, scavengers in Sulo bins at every street corner, cloying over-rated malbecs, abysmal construction safety standards, menacing social/political undercurrents, lack of fresh green vegetables at restaurants, cash economy..frankly Colonia was a breath of fresh air and look forward to visiting Uruguay.
The problem is that most people go over and never set foot outisde the historic district. There’s an entire rest of the town to see (with restaurants that charge a good 30-40% less than those in the historic district), along with countryside, a short trip north of the city where there are two wineries to visit, various cheese producers, estancias to relax at and have some down time. And, as someone above said, that’s a lot of what people go there for, at least the ones who aren’t just trying to get another stamp on their passport.
Colonia is quiet but great.
The beaches are very good, no Porteño’s poo or something like this.
I loved this. I lived in the area (Buenos Aires and Uruguay) for over a decade. Your honesty is refreshing. Thank you for saving many people the trouble. And Caminito…. a tourist trap.
I have to agree 100% with Marcelo Ruiz – and would add the charming old buildings with their absurdly tall front doors, the rustling of leaves in the plane tree-lined streets, the occasional vintage car, the clean fresh air, etc. Its got that wonderful peaceful relaxing colonial ambience that you cannot get in BA, or almost anywhere in Argentina for that matter. I also have to agree with Caroline – I hate BA and hate it even more now that I’ve been robbed in broad daylight for the 3rd time. It is becoming really dangerous and this is not reflected in the crime stats because most victims, myself included, know its a waste of time to report such incidents.
Wow, this is exactly, exactly, exactly how I felt today — especially considering as it was a holiday, which made the town even more boring. Spot on describing the main street as something out of Iowa. Well, spot on about everything. Thank god the ferry terminal now has free wifi or I’d have gouged my eyes out with a mate straw.
This is brilliant! I will definitely be visiting Colonia, but now I will be able to manage my expectations, and also take more time to see the countryside rather than the centre. Thank you for the honesty 🙂
I lived in Buenos Aires for 2 months and after 8 weeks of being imprisoned in a concrete maze of buildings and dog poo, Colonia was a refreshing and beautiful escape from an otherwise boring and repetitive lifestyle in Buenos Aires (with only steak to eat for dinner and dried bread for breakfast). I also do not understand why Buenos Aires is considered to be the ‘Paris’ of South America… I have been to Italy, France, and Spain and with the exception of night clubs, Colonia wins the contest hands-down. Each to their own though, right?!
Hi Tim, interesting article! I have to say, I had heard a lot about Colonia, so I did have high expectations. I thought it was slightly larger, so if one goes there just to walk around, there’s not much to do in 12 hours. But as everyone here pointed out, people are mostly drawn by its relaxing atmosphere. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a great day trip from Buenos Aires.
I am in Colonia now. I came here after I read this article, lowering my expectations, thinking it was going to be a relaxing experience. It’s been a mixed bag. The place is very quaint indeed and I’ve come in contact with some very friendly people, but also had two experiences that bordered in insulting. As I walked from the bus station to my posada, a pair of boys rode by on a scooter and yelled racist remarks at me. Whatever. They probably don’t see many Asian tourists so I brushed it off. After checking into my posada I went to have a walk around the old town. Not 10 minutes into my walk, I came across a Uruguayan cadombe drum group playing in the street. I stopped, snapped a photo and listened. Not two minutes after I stopped, a man with the group approached me and solicited a donation by shaking a basket at me. I waved him off because I only had 1,000 UR notes as I had just arrived. The man mocked me and put his hand to his elbow – which is an insulting hand gesture meaning that I am stingy. I had only been in town for 90 minutes. My first impression is not great.
Must be a bit thick, the water is brown due to silt from a river basin second only to the Amazon in south america. Maybe you should get back to Tigre and get some understanding.
Ah no les gusta Colonia-URUGUAY? que lastima! Menos Gringos y Porteños que aguantar. No vengan que nadie los necesita, este es nuestro hogar no un jardin de infantes para que se diviertan. Gringo you didn´t understand? too bad… that´s because i STUDIED english, what did you do? ademas de perder el tiempo en postear pelotudeces y hablar mal de paises que no son el tuyo? GO HOME. Y a todos los porteños alcahuetes que le dan la razon. Mas Uruguaya que nunca!!
Ah! Y un datito para que archives, no le dicen “Colonia” a Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia del Sacramente es solo la ciudad de todo un departamento llamado Colonia. Now in english: Colonia del Sacramento it´s not “commonly referred to as simply ‘Colonia.’” Colonia del Sacramento is only the city of a whole departament named Colonia, which is part of a whole country named URUGUAY, it´s so much more than a “day trip” from BS. AS. Antes de postear cosas deberias informarte mas.
John e totally agreee with you,we are sooo happy that you wrote this message,we loved colonia and its people,we stayed three nights there and enjoyed every minute of It!!!!
Being a Uruguayan citizen, I feel ashamed of my countryman Magui. She belongs to a small portion of people very ignorant and with an inferiority complex towards Argentinians, that makes her say those insulting words.
Gringos and porteños are more than welcome in Colonia, Montevideo, Piriapolis, Punta del Diablo, my hometown Paysandú, and everywhere else in Uruguay.