Colonia del Sacramento is a small Portuguese colonial town listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a city that is quick and easy to get to from Buenos Aires, which makes it perfect for people who want to get out just for a day or two for sightseeing, visa runs or to pick up usd for exchange at the Argentinean Blue Market. The 50 minute boat ride costs around 30 dollars one way or around 38 dollars if you buy a boat and bus combi ticket that takes you even further to Montevideo.
The city is really small with its around 20 000 inhabitants, and the city can easily be seen in a day. We arrived early in the morning and rented bicycles (4 dollars/hr) to ride around on the rough stone paved streets that made up the old city. It was a really quiet and relaxing place with plenty of small parks to have a picknic and many small restaurants with ocean view for dinner. The main attraction of the city is probably the lighthouse (faro), where lots of people go up (about a dollar entrance) especially around sunset to get a view of the city.
There are also a few hotels and hostels, but I think as long as you get there early and take a evening bus or boat out you will feel that one day is enough to explore the small city of Colonia del Sacramento.
When arriving in Montevideo, a city with around one and a half million people, we were surprised about how small the Uruguayan capitol felt. From our hostel downtown, we could walk to about everywhere in the city center and got to see the main sights and all of the main street just in a few hours on a morning walk. When we got to the coast we continued to walk along La Rambla, the seaside promenade for many kilometers and many hours. It continued forever and after we had walked our feet sore we regret not just renting a bike for the day (14 dollars) from our hostel instead so that we could have seen even more beaches along La Rambla without getting too exhausted.
Montevideo really is the capitol city with the nicest beaches that I know of, and I would have loved to travel onwards to more Uruguayan coastal cities to see how they are like. Unfortunately we were there at the start of winter, and although people still were surfing in the ocean, there were little activities at the beaches. In the summers I have heard rhumors of the locals getting all bronzed up, playing beach volleyball and going rollerblading along the beach, just like in Santa Monica, California.
Food was good here as well, and we have grown especially fond of “Chivito”, the local variety of a hamburger, which is much more tasty, cheaper and bigger than a regular hamburger. It is consists of a sandwich bread with either a piece of beef or a chicken filet together with egg and vegetables. We had also planned to go eat at the “Estancia del Puerto”, a meat bar feautured in Anthony Bourdains show, but when we were told by others at the hostel that it had turned into a tourist trap we decided to go to a regular “parilla” (steak house) to get some beef instead. Meat is something Uruguay is famous for, and the beef we had almost lived up to the gourmet meals we had gotten used to in Argentina.
If there is one thing I have noticed about Uruguay, it is that there are a lot of horses! On the busrides between Colonia and Montevideo we saw a lot of horses walking freely, in the cities we saw a lot of horses used as delivery trucks and garbage trucks and the capitol also had the most horse statues I have ever seen in one place. With Uruguay being one of the richest and most developed countries in South America I would not have expected horses and horse carriages being that common any more.
With it being almost winter and all, there was not a lot to do in Montevideo but to walk around and I think a couple of days here was enough. If we would have had more time I would have loved to travel around more in Uruguay to visit a Bodega (winery) and a Guancha (horse ranch), had a few days with beachholiday or to travel onwards to one of the many nearby Uruguayan cities.