While there is plenty to keep you entertained in Buenos Aires itself, it’s also a great base for countless day trips, including some into the neighboring country of Uruguay.
Uruguay is just across the Rio de la Plata, or the Silver River, which is actually the estuary of the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers. It may look small, but it’s quite a distance, about 180 miles wide. Despite the distance, it’s just a short boat ride into Uruguay, making both Colonia de Sacramento and Montevideo great day trip options.
Colonia de Sacramento is Uruguay’s oldest city, and the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, and a charming vibe throughout the city. The Portuguese founded the city in 1680, and it served as an important defense against the Spanish. Some of the highlights in Colonia de Sacramento include:
Old Town Gate: Also called Puerta de Campo or Puerta de la Ciudadela. It was built in 1745 and, with its walls, served as the main defense against attacks. It’s still well preserved and marks the division between the newer part of town and the historic center, or Barrio Historico.
Church Matriz: The Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento is considered the oldest church in Uruguay.
El Faro Lighthouse: Built in 1857, the El Faro Lighthouse was built over the ruins of the Convento de San Francisco. Take a climb up El Faro and enjoy the views over the city and the Rio de La Plata.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay and overlooks the mouth of the Rio Plata. Take a walk around the historic old town, where you’ll see important sights like:
Iglesia Matriz: Also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iglesia Matriz was built in 1804. It’s the city’s oldest public building and is the final resting place for some of the country’s most important religious leaders.
Palacio Salvo: Standing at 26-stories, Palacio Salvo was Uruguay’s tallest building when it opened in 1927.
Plaza Independencia: One of the main squares in the city and the gateway to the Old Town, where you can see the remains of the city walls and gate.
Mercado del Puerto: Montevideo’s old port market building. You’ll find a number of steak restaurants, or parrillas. Weekend afternoons bring lots of people out, including artists, craftsmen, and musicians.
Teatro Solis: Considered the most important theater in Uruguay and one of the biggest theaters in all of South America.
You’ll find a number of similarities with the food and drink of Buenos Aires, but there are a few things not to miss in Uruguay. Mate is the national drink in Uruguay. Leaves and twigs of yerba mate are put in a small cup with hot water and the mixture is then sipped through a large straw known as a bombilla. Snacks like Choripan, grilled chorizo in crusty bread, and chivito, a sandwich with steak and ham, are common quick eats while you’re sightseeing. If you want a sit down restaurant, don’t miss asado, a mixture of meats cooked over a wood fire.
The easiest way to get to Uruguay is on the Buquebus ferry. There are multiple departures and the immigration process is seamless as Argentina and Uruguay work side by side, so you’ll exit Argentina and get cleared into Uruguay before you even depart the terminal. The ferries are comfortable and the journey to Colonia de Sacramento is just over an hour (fast ferry) and Montevideo is under three hours.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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