Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia del Sacramento is a small Uruguayan town of less than 30,000 inhabitants situated on the River Plate banks, practically in front of Buenos Aires, which is 50km (30mi) away on the other side of the river. This is a pretty nice place to visit for a day or two, with its cobblestone streets full of old colonial buildings.
The Portuguese were responsible for the city's founding in 1680 in an attempt to extend their territorial domains, establishing the first European settlement in what is known today as Uruguay. This attitude, a clear violation of the Treaty of Tordesillas, which set the boundaries between the lands claimed by Portugal and Spain in the Americas, certainly did not please the Spaniards who stormed and conquered Colonia during that same year.
The city was returned to Portugal in 1681, retaken by Spain in 1704, returned again to Portugal in 1715 and passed to Spain in 1750 in exchange of the Portuguese control over the "Seven Peoples of the Missions", in the present territory of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, as stipulated by the Treaty of Madrid. The Treaty of Paris of 1763 determined the return of Colonia to Portugal until finally, in 1777, an expedition led by Pedro de Ceballos consisting of 80 ships and 9,000 men occupied Colonia one last time for the Spanish Crown, attaching it to the newly created Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. In 1818 the city was again occupied by Portugal, four years later became part of the Empire of Brazil and finally in 1828, of Uruguay.
With such a rich history, it is not surprising that the historic center of Colonia del Sacramento, which has a well-preserved architecture of Spanish, Portuguese and postcolonial influences has been declared a World Heritage site. The area hosts a number of small museums scattered through its typical narrow streets, such as the most famous of all: the Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs). Located at the western end of the historic part, the lighthouse is quite a popular attraction – from its top you might be able to see the highest skyscrapers of the Argentine capital.
Colonia del Sacramento offers a varied gastronomic offer and good accommodation options. It also hosts some beautiful scenery with the River Plate serving as a backdrop for the walls and other historic buildings.
Most visitors to Colonia del Sacramento come from the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo (located 180km / 110mi away) or from Buenos Aires (500km / 310mi by road or just a 1h15 boat ride across the River Plate). Besides Montevideo, Punta del Este is another popular destination in Uruguayan territory. This is the most famous resort of the country, located 310km (190mi) east along the River Plate, at the site where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. The Brazilian border lies about 510km (315mi) away.