Uruguay is South America’s best-kept secret, especially the quaint town of Colonia, just an hour ferry ride away from Buenos Aires. Argentina and Brazil have become tourist hotspots, but Uruguay has always seemed so intriguing to me. I knew that during our visit to Buenos Aires that I needed to make it happen. Friends urged me to visit Punta del Este, which I know is gorgeous, but time constraints made this difficult. I didn’t want to have to take another plane ride during our short 9 day visit to Argentina, risking delays, etc. I did though want to explore a bit of Uruguay while at the same time still maintaining a relaxing pace for our trip.
Enter, Colonia: just a one hour ferry ride on Buquebus from Buenos Aires with tickets just over $120. (Note-if you’re staying at the Four Seasons in Uruguay have them book your tickets as they will get you a complimentary upgrade to 1st Class). This was the perfect way to get my Uruguayan fix with a jaunt over to Uruguay that wouldn’t compromise my relaxation or no airport policy. The ferry station in Buenos Aires is only about a 10-minute cab from the Four Seasons Buenos Aires Hotel. You need to arrive at least an hour before the ferry leaves so you have enough time to get through customs, which is rather painless.
The Ferry itself is lovely: clean, modern, complimentary tea, coffee, and cookies are served in 1st Class and are available for purchase with a regular fare. Overall, a very relaxing experience. When you arrive in the small UNESCO World Heritage town of Colonia del Sacramento, formerly a Portuguese colony, you will be happy you made the trip.
This well-preserved colonial town is charming and not yet overrun with tourists (yet). Stroll down cobblestone streets, explore ruins and take in the rich history. The town is quite small with just enough restaurants and bars to feed the visitors. Lunch by the water and take in the gorgeous views. Make sure you try a Chivito, Uruguay’s traditional Uruguayan dish, which consists of beef, ham, cheese, bacon and a fried egg on top! Gluttony much? Hey, you’re on vacation, right? Sure as hell didn’t come down here for a side salad.
The restaurants here along the water seem almost European. Our two favorite restaurants, which came highly recommended by the Four Season’s Concierge in Buenos Aires who was from Colonia, were El Porton (a bit outside the main square) and El Meson de la Plaza, which is a little fancier. After lunch, check out some of the shops, which offer handmade souvenirs.
I think that a visit to Colonia is the perfect compliment to the bustle of Buenos Aires. You don’t need more than a few hours here though. We spent about 3 hours walking around the small town and having lunch, which was more than enough. At that point you could either head back to Buenos Aires or do what I did, which was head over to Carmelo. Carmelo is another quaint and very small town that is about an hour ride from Colonia. Here you can visit the exquisite Four Seasons Carmelo, a sanctuary that I can guarantee will relieve all your stress. This is the ultimate luxury getaway. The resort is incredible and we had dinner and drinks at probably my favorite place on this planet, Finca Narbona (my trip highlight). The town of Carmelo isn’t much to see (at least not yet, they are starting to build it up). I recommend coming here for relaxation and rest. You can enjoy the fabulous amenities offered at the resort but if that’s not what you’re looking for then just head back to Buenos Aires, and you can be back in time for dinner!
Be sure to check out another fabulous Day Trip from Buenos Aires to an Estancia!