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- 23 Nov 2019, 3 nights
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Colonia del Sacramento in southwestern Uruguay is UNESCO World Heritage-listed for its well-preserved fusion of colourful colonial architecture. With 18th-century buildings in shades of earthy red, pink and cream and cobbled streets shaded by sycamores, the old town centre is like taking a journey back in time. Escape the hurry of Buenos Aires across the Río de la Plata estuary and watch the world go by from a pavement café.
The town's hostel scene is varied. You can stay in a cosy Colonia hostel close to the beach, a spacious 19th-century townhouse in the centre or even a farm in the countryside with its own sauna. Most have free Wi-Fi and many provide a complimentary breakfast. Some hostels in Colonia organise activities such as winery trips, barbecues and walking tours. Stay cool in the Uruguay heat with in-room air con.
The town's most famous area is Barrio Histórico, the historic district, with buildings influenced by Spanish, Portuguese and British styles – look out for the hand-painted tiles. Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) is particularly attractive, with vines creeping up its rustic houses. Nearby Calle de Portugal has repurposed some of the town's less road-worthy (but still photo-worthy) vintage cars into flower planters. On the other side of the wide peninsula is Puerto Viejo, the old port, still packed with sailboats and used for trading and transport today.
Top sights in town include the 19th-century lighthouse; you can climb all 111 steps for a fantastic view of the coastline. You'll find gorgeous beaches stretched out along the coast in either direction from the town centre, and the inland countryside around is filled with wineries. Visit the oldest and most traditional, Los Cerros de San Juan, or Bodega Familia Irurtia for award-winning wine. Barbot is Colonia del Sacramento's first craft brewery, offering live music and international snacks as well as local beer.
The closest airport is Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires. A taxi to the port will take 45 minutes and the ferry ride across Río de la Plata is a pleasant one-hour journey. You can also fly into Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport, which is a 3-hour bus ride away. Colonia del Sacramento's centre is small and easily walkable (the ferry terminal to the heart of the old town takes 10 minutes), but you can also rent a bike.