“From The Old I Travel To The New…”: Backpacking in Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay

“From The Old I Travel To The New…”: Backpacking in Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay

I had a taste for travel in Uruguay but merely picked out four main places to see, which by coincidence were all on the south coast of the country, the part which is most accessible and to be honest where the majority of the population live. It was a country that endeared me so much I decided to stay with Perla in Montevideo for a couple of weeks and do a Spanish course before travelling again.

Colonia del Sacramento is often visited by tourists on a day boat trip from Buenos Aires. Some people merely do this to tick another country off the list and say they have visited Uruguay. I had already seen Punta Ballena (Casapueblo), Punta Del Este and Montevideo by the time I got round to visiting Colonia del Sacramento. But it was always my plan to visit Colonia, an old walled city which is popular to visit.

I had arranged my homestay with Perla in Montevideo but had a day and a half to kill so this was the obvious time to visit Colonia. The way things went I’d have had time later on as well as I later left the Port of Colonia del Sacramento by boat to Buenos Aires on route to Iguazu Falls and Asuncion.
But anyway I boarded my bus from Montevideo and I was off along the peaceful Uruguayan Coast. Ironically at the same time, my girlfriend Panny Yu had gone the other way and was now in Punta Del Este. While I had been in Punta, she had been in Colonia, long before we were going out! (Finally we would meet when I returned to Montevideo anyway).

Panny Yu had been on the Antarctica trip with me, but another Antarctica surprise was in store. On the bus to Colonia I overheard someone speaking in English on a phone. This was very surprising and attracted attention, I noticed it was another couple from the Antarctica boat! It was Christina and Orie, from Canada and Israel (via USA and Switzerland) who I knew briefly from the trip. They too were spending just the one night in Colonia and after getting off the bus, we agreed to walk to the hostels together and meet up to tour the city.

Their hostel was closer to the bus station so we passed by it first, I then said I would meet them there at the reception half an hour later after checking in at my own hostel, El Viajero (The Traveler). My hostel was also close by and was very comfy, cosy and homely. It is housed in a beautiful 19th century building. Pretty buildings are the forte of Colonia del Sacramento. I shared an eight bed dorm with 3 other girls, from Poland and Sweden. The hostel was great, and will document it separately as is my plan to report on all the places I’ve stayed!

It was off to see the city. Across the bridge and the city is contained within these walls. Plus the avenue is called “the street of the sighs” that reminded me of Venice from some reason…

This stone is at the entrance to the walled city. The inner walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another Lighthouse – I wasnt at all in any mood to pay the entrance fee and go to the top. I has already seen the lighthouses at Montevideo and Punta del Este.

You pay a donation and play a game of outdoor chess. It wasn’t busy the day we visited.

The entrance to the lighthouse – Christina and Orie wanted to pay and go up to the top so they did.

I enjoyed seeing these old colonial style buildings – similar but on a smaller scale to those in Montevideo – which was itself a walled colonial city – the remains of which can be seen in the Ciudad Vieja.

You are here in the walled city of Colonia Del Sacramento. Estas Aqui.

The very pretty cafes and restaurants. I travelled alone and stuck to eating cheaply on bread, cheese and ham. With yoghurts, crisps, tea and beer added for good measure. This is my own way of travelling, every now and then I splash out on eating out alone.

The defining picture of my visit to Colonia del Sacramento. An old cart without the horse. Just pretty.

A nice wee plaque of how the walled city once looked – fought over between the Spanish, Portuguese and the natives, this also somehow resembled Roman architecture and ideas.

Plaza Mayor is actually a posh hotel inside the walls. Might be nice to stay in as a couple, but I was happy with my bed in the cheap ass hostel!

Local transport from days of yore. A vintage tram.

Vintage vehicles became a theme in this pretty city. An old fashioned car.

Down by the waterside. I enjoyed the tranquil port. Dirtier water than Groomsport and a bit warmer. Other than that draw your own parallels.

Buenos Dias Colonia del Sacramento.

Pretty red ruins from the past.

Catholic Churches play a major part in Uruguayan life. This one in the centre of Colonia del Sacramento. Went inside and said a prayer, as I often do. Some people find an irony in a Protestant praying in a Catholic Church. I don’t – it’s a church of God, rather than a mosque…

The local shop where I bought my bread and cheese! The budgeter that I sometimes am. I get that from my Mum. This wee shop was called “Market of the Sun.” The irony being they didnt even sell Pepsi.

Local kids enjoy the evening sun by the leisure centre. They were throwing their hats up in the air for some reason and kept looking at us – the 3 foreigners.

We visited a free museum by the harbour. Nice views of the tower, a pretty garden and some information and models of the colonial past.

I stayed at El Viajero hostel – a pretty yellow building very central. Nice place – met a few interesting travellers there and loved the all you can eat breakfast.

Of course limiting my visit to only the colonial walled part of the city was hardly doing any justice to the current larger city of Colonia del Sacramento. Therefore on the second day – the morning – after breakfast I walked freely round the new city. Here a local red bus passes the City Hall.

The very pretty City Hall.

A car rental area and taxi corner by the main bus station on a busy roundabout (well, by Colonia standards).

I walked as far as the welcome sign – however this wasnt actually on the edge of the city – quite a bit more central actually.

The road out of Montevideo to the East!

Uruguayans are nuts on football. I went to 3 matches in Montevideo, and even in a day and a half in Colonia visited 2 football stadiums. This one wasn’t open so I couldn’t get in and the team plays in the same colours as Penarol.

The second stadium has an open door so I just wandered on in…and as ever took way too many photos, but you’ll only go to these places once eh! I found out this was the Suppicci stadium, and the team there is Plaza Colonia, who play in the second division in Uruguay. Althought I had a map I found out that it wasn’t that surprising that I found both stadiums in Colonia, especially looking at this map!!:

That aerial map I found on the internet of Colonia shows clearly the 2 football stadiums I saw, their proximity to the old city. But for me the most interesting thing is the city’s unique symmetrical, uniform layout. Each street is neatly lined up together, creating squares – easy to navigate and hard to get lost in. The city certainly looks pretty from the air.

On my walk round the city on my own the next morning I also caught a live ladies basketball match…

Colonia has its share of cool things too. I loved the idea of the live radio studio with a window looking on the street. This was Radio Libertad (Freedom Radio) on 107.7 FM. I was almost tempted to pop inside and ask for an impromptu radio appearance, given my many years of experience on FM and internet while at Nerve Radio in Bournemouth. One of the ladies gave me a look out the window – they are probably not used to foreigners walking by or even taking photos.

It was just after passing the radio station that I noticed the second football stadium. I slid down a hill to get there. The streets were so quiet and it was a hot day. The city only has a population of 22,000 so that’s probably why.


I also visited the small beach near the main football stadium, where even on a very hot day there was only one other person.

I also visited the above nice park in a square, behind which was the local post office. There I was able to post a postcard to my kid brother.

From a shop round the corner I also bought a new iron on badge for my green Northern Ireland fleece. 

I collect one flag and name badge from every country I visit and I now had Uruguay.

Of course Colonia is also an international port, boats from it go to Buenos Aires many times a day. 

I had a lot of fun in Colonia del Sacramento and this was another of life’s wondrous journeys. 

I left by bus directly to Montevideo’s Tres Cruces (a station which became oh so familiar to me during my time in Uruguay) and moved into my lovely comfy room in Guana, with my host Perla. I was going to study Spanish in Montevideo and enjoy a real experience with a local family.

My original plan for later on was to get a direct bus from Montevideo to Asuncion in Paraguay, but this option was only 3 times a week and took slightly longer than the option of getting a boat to Buenos Aires, so as fate would have it, I ended up back in Colonia del Sacramento a matter of weeks later, and it became my departure point and passport stamp from the elegant, relaxed country of Uruguay…

City – Colonia Del Sacramento

Where I stayed – El Viajero Hostel (room 3),  Washington Barbot 164

Nationalities Met – Polish, Swedish, Israeli, Canadian, Uruguayan

Familiar Currencies – very much the Uruguayan Peso

Transport Used – COT Bus in and out and the Seacat on my final journey out of the city. Seacat reminded me of Northern Ireland to Scotland boat journeys in the early 1990s.

Historical Ownership Table (think I forgot to mention above, this was another fascinating part of Colonia’s history – its changed hands so many times…)-

The rule from 1680 to present (with flag of the period) is:

From To Rule Reason for Handover
1680 1680 Flag Portugal (1667).svg Portugal     conquered by José de Garro
1680 1681 Flag of New Spain.svg   Spain Provisional Treaty of Lisbon
1681 1705 Flag Portugal (1667).svg Portugal conquered in the War of Spanish Succession
1705 1713 Bandera de Costas 1700-1771.png   Spain Treaty of Utrecht
1714 1762 Flag Portugal (1707).svg Portugal First Cevallos expedition
1762 1763 Bandera de Costas 1700-1771.png   Spain Treaty of Paris (1763)
1763 1777 Flag Portugal (1707).svg Portugal Second Cevallos expedition
1777 1811 Flag of Spain (1785-1873 and 1875-1931).svg   Spain Revolt led by José Gervasio Artigas   
1811 1817 Flag of Artigas.svg Liga Federal Luso-Brazilian invasion
1817 1822 Flag United Kingdom Portugal Brazil Algarves.svg Portugal Brazilian Declaration of Independence
1822 1828 Flag of Empire of Brazil (1847-1889).svg Brazil Argentina-Brazil War
1828 present Flag of Uruguay.svg Uruguay


As fitting as ever, the song “One more step along the world I go…”, which contains the line “from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.”







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