Uruguay, that little country that sounds so exotic. A sister city to Buenos Aires, Montevideo, its capital , is a hop skip and a 2 hour ferry ride away from the Puerto Madero section of Buenos Aires, on the Muddy Rio Del Plata. I saved Uruguay for the last but absolutely not the least as it was one of the highlights of my whirlwind adventure through Argentina and Chile.
You will be surprised how amazing Uruguay is, not just as a place to visit, but with how amazing their ideologies and government is. Here’s a brief breakdown on Uruguay courtesy of our lovely friends at wikipedia.com
Uruguay), is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the “Río de la Plata” (River of Silver) to the south and with the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo. With an area of approximately 176,000 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.
Uruguay was inhabited by the Charrúa people for approximately 4000 years before the Portuguese established Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the early 18th century, signifying the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It remained subject to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics until the late 20th century. Modern Uruguay is a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government.
Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, e-government, and is first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class and prosperity. On a per-capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peace-keeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per-capita income and inflows of FDI. Uruguay is the third-best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It is regarded as a high-income country (top group) by the UN. Uruguay is also the third-best ranked in the world in e-Participation. Uruguay is an important global exporter of combed wool, rice, soybeans, frozen beef, malt and milk.
The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013, acknowledging the innovative policy of legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed, outstanding regionallyand ranking highly on global measures of personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues. courtesy of Wikipedia
As you can see by reading this brief excerpt on Uruguay, that this country is amazing , and I couldn’t wait to visit it. Who doesn’t want to visit such a democratic country where they take care of their people all while contributing to the betterment of the world?
Since my timing wasn’t the best, and I only had 3 days and 2 nights to spend in this small but gorgeous country, I had to maximize my time. I started in the oldest part of the country Coloñia Del Sacramento.
Colonia Del Sacramento:
I chose to visit this very old Portuguese settlement for a few reasons.
- It is accessible from Buenos Aires by a 1 hour Ferry ride which makes it a great day trip for people in Buenos Aires.
- The old town is full of beautiful architecture, and is full of color. And I really wanted to see it
- I’m Portugues ( well part) so I had to see where my peeps ended up.
- It’s only a 3 hour bus ride from there to Montevideo so a great way to maximize my time.
I arrived around 10 am from Buenos Aires : Buenos Aires. Its never enough. after riding a lovely 1 hour ferry in business class on Buquebus, the official Ferry carrier for Buenos Aires and Uruguay . There are other ways that are less expensive to get here.
- SeaCat : a less expensive Ferry that during the slower months, uses the same boat as Buquebus’
- Colonia Express: a slow and smaller ferry that could cause some serious sea sickness for the weak stomached people, but considerably cheaper.
I purchased my Buquebus tickets ahead of time on their website Buquebus Uruguay. You can also visit their Argentinian site as well to secure tickets. You do not have to buy a round trip ( I didn’t) because there is no price savings with it The prices are always based on one way fares. With that in mind, I booked a one way ticket on Buquebus to Colonia del Sacramento and a one way First class ( Especial class) ticket from Montevideo to Buenos Aires ( 2 hour ride )on their grand San Francisco Ferry, for the ride home. The price was decent in my opinion, but I was traveling during their off season ( June) .
The Ferry port in Buenos Aires is gorgeous . You check in, then go through customs. You go through Argentina passport control, then you move to the Uruguay passport control for your stamp into the country all while in Buenos Aires. The same is done upon leaving Uruguay where it is all done at one time. Very efficient. I waited and watched the sun rise ( 8:45 am) and finally boarded my boat for the 1 hour journey over to Colonia .. It was a lovely and very smooth ride. The business class is located upstairs and has very comfortable seats in a more relaxed lounge type chairs. After about 15 minutes into push off Duty Free opens, and everyone gathers around to check out what’s for sale. You can also exchange your money on board, but I waited until I got to the port in Colonia to do so.
I arrived at 10 am pulling into the gorgeous port of Sacramento Del Colonia. Disembarking was swift , and I found myself grabbing my luggage, exchanging money and heading out the door within 15 minutes. That’s quick. I proceeded to exit and go to the right onto the main road towards Terminal, the bus station for Colonia. It took me less than 5 minutes walking and I was there. Because I didn’t secure a push through to Montevideo by bus through the company, an option that is given, because I wanted to visit the city, I needed to secure my own bus ride, and store my bags. Thanks to the help of Trip Advisor , I found it so simple and easy.
After a quick less than 5 minute walk to Terminal, I headed towards COT , a bus company, kiosk, and purchased my bus ticket to Montevideo. The cost was amazing. At 330 Uruguayan Pessos ( $10 USD) I chose my seat and was all booked up . I had roughly 2.5 hours to enjoy Colonia and walk around which was exactly what I needed. You can check their time tables out here: COT BUS
Next I crossed the short hall to baggage / luggage storage. It was so convenient, I stored my 3 bags: 1 suitcase, 1 large duffle, and 1 tote carry on , for $6 total for 2 hours of storage. OMG this is proving to be a very good decision for me.
Coloñia Del Sacramento: I crossed the street from the bus station with just my cross body bag in tow, and headed towards the old town of Coloñia Del Sacramento . I stopped First at the TI ( Tourist Information) office for an official map of the city. I just made my way north and towards the ocean, and in no time, I was coming across the old city walls and bombardment with canons and everything. The old city is absolutely gorgeous. Even though the weather was horrible with dark clouds and some light drizzles all in anticipation of a huge storm, it was still so beautiful to walk around. The old city is very colonial style , with low roofed buildings, centered around an old church and light house. The old charm was just so colorful and beautiful. I stopped for some coffee in a little tiny cafe, and enjoyed watching the few people ( locals) go by. Time definitely has stopped here . You can see all the old cars lined up like a show case show down. The cobbled stoned streets may prove a little difficult to maneuver through at times, but it just adds to the charms. Sadly my 2 hours were up and I needed to head back to the Bus station for my short journey through Uruguay onwards to Montevideo. It was a perfect day.
The bus ride although extremely comfortable, even better than some first class plane ride seats, took longer than expected. I thought I would be in the city by 4 pm but didn’t arrive till almost 5 pm. The sun will set soon, and I was a little bummed about it as I wanted to at least get some of the city in that day. The journey was lovely seeing the beautiful country side of Uruguay. Once we got closer to the city however, I noticed a lot of what looked like shanty towns. A bunch of little brick huts all crammed together . I’m sure their lives are wonderful, but I couldn’t help to feel a little sad.
Once we entered the city, it was massive ( in comparison to Coloñia ) and very busy. The Bus station was teaming with a good few hundred people with a plethora of large comfort busses lined up. I secured a taxi, showed him my address, and we were off to my hotel.
I was staying in the Viejo ( old town) section of the city. In prior posts on Trip Advisor, I was advised not to walk alone at night in the area as it could be a bit sketchy. Fortunately I didn’t find that to be a fact for me during my stay. We finally arrived at my hotel, which was a little discreet , and right across from a beautiful park called Plaza Zabala. I was watching the meter on the taxi the whole ride, and saw the number 83. I was thinking OMG really? a 10 minute ride only cost roughly 2.5 us dollars? Well just so you know, the number on the meter corresponds to a sheet you can look at where the numbers are equivalent to the amount the fair would be . So 83 was actually $210 Pessos or ( $7) Not bad at all.
I rang the door bell outside of the hotel. Gave my name, and a buzz and click clack, the door was opened by a lovely lady named Ruth. She knew exactly who I was , which was amazing , but probably due to the fact that I was either the last to check in or the only one to check in.
Alma Histórica Boutique Hotel: Was quite a find. I am so pleased with my decision to stay here. Located in a refurbished Mansion, This 15 room hotel is a true boutique . Beautiful marbled staircase, gorgeous reception, fabulous Library with all the books, magazines, coffee, cocktails, and 60″ screen tv all set amongst deep burgundy leather couches and chairs, and pure comfort, lovely dining room for breakfast , and spectacular rooms some like mine, with a drop dead gorgeous Veranda that over looks the Old town. I was in heaven. The rooms pay homage to honorary greats of Uruguay’s past. My room , with no number, was on the top floor and paid tribute to Dona Juana an amazing poet who’s romantic literary mind transcribed her deepest desires to paper. She is one of the more famous poets of the country. The room was gently colored in a lovely lavender and white hues. The bathroom was gorgeous with a jet pool tub, rain water showers, bidet and toilet, and 2 person sinks. The Linen was exquisite and the bed divine. But the Veranda and the view was just spectacular . I really scored one of the best room in my opinion. But what set this Hotel apart from everything else, was the service. Ruth was amazing and met my every whim. She was kind, and funny and such an asset to their hotel. You can read all about my review on this hotel on Trip Advisor by Clicking Here
After check in, I really didn’t have much time left to see anything. It was getting dark, and fast. I decided to go and withdraw money since there were banks around my hotel. So I left, walked though the already dark Plaza Zabala and headed towards bank row. I tried a few ATMs in the banks, but for some reason they were not accepting my card. It took me a while to figure out what I was doing wrong. I had to choose foreign credit card, then it asked me everything in English, to which I was able to choose the right accounts etc. Boy that was trouble hahaha.
I walked around a bit, bought a bottle of wine for my room, and some nuts, some water, and a razor to shave the forest on my legs. Its been a month hahahaha. Ok more like little weeds but you know ….
I came back and asked Ruth, where should I dine tonight. She came up with a most excellent suggestion, and made me a reservation for 8 pm ( very early for this neck of the woods) I was exhausted from my traveling from Canceled flights in El Calafate, to red eye flights at a 4 hour buys ride nearby airport of rio Gallegos, and an early arrival into Buenos Aires, and a 3 hour wait for my ferry ride to Colonia followed by a 3.5 hour bus ride to Montevideo. It was an adventure, and I was spent.
Dinner was at the most amazing and perfectly recommended restaurant called Jacinto Cafe and Restaurant. You can read my full review here: Jacinto
Morning broke well after I already was up. 6 am to be exact and the sun didn’t start rising till 8:30 am. Ugh. Why am I up so early. I didn’t even get a full 8 hour sleep. It’s probably because I was so excited to explore the city , and that I only have 1 full day and night to do so. Breakfast was lovely and filling and I was armed and ready to take the city on.
I started first across my hotel at the beautiful Park Zabala to greet the day and breathe in the fresh air . The park is named after Bruno Mauricio de Zabala who protected and helped to create the city of Montevideo . He is their founding father and protector.
Since the city was still asleep at 8:45 in the morning, I decided to walk towards the Piers and try to see if the famous Mercado Del Puerto was open. Sadly everyone was just putting their stalls together so besides that type of activity, there was nothing for me to engage in. However, the walk towards and around the area was beautiful. I love old cities, and this section of Montevideo is definitely old. I enjoyed walking around this part of the neighborhood. It was so peaceful. School kids were all lined up and ready for school
I walked completely around this area until I found myself on Calle Sarandi. Local artisans were setting up their street shops selling their creations on payed out blankets, the stores were beginning to turn their lights on and set up shop and I was just enjoying this pedestrian only street.
First stop along this long street was at the Plaza Constitution, where the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitan stood. I always pop into the main church or temple of a city no matter what country I’m in so I just had to visit the Cathedral. It had a very Baroque feel to it inside where light and dark play on each other to let people know that God is greater than all. First thing I saw though was a huge sarcophagus of a priest or bishop all carved in beautiful marble. The rest of the church was really beautiful, especially the baptismal chapel . Absolutely stunning
Plaza Constitution was pretty and already filled with antique dealers setting up shop next to the pretty fountain. The facades of the buildings around the area are also equally beautiful .
Following the street I came across a beautiful looking Roman Style Arch followed by a most impressive monument . I was now in Plaza Independencia. Surrounding this plaza were a team of law enforcement, the gorgeous Teatro Solis, and the royal mausoleum of the founder of Uruguay and the Stunningly monumental Palacio Salvo
I was going to enter the Palacio Salvo, but I was so enjoying just walking around and soaking in all the beautiful architecture and people watching. I continued my stroll past the Palacio Salvo which was met by the famous Avenue, Avenue 18 De Julio. Here’s the traffic, the people, and the life. Everyone moving so quickly. Galleries upon Galleris of shops, museums, and a CASINO 🙂 I had to check it out. $100 lost in 15 minutes. Just like Vegas hahahahaha.
I sat on a corner near a park of which I can’t remember the name and had a cafe con leche and a lovely cigarette. The weather was a bit chilly but not too cold to sit out and enjoy the sun. There was a group of people who had set up a recycling awareness booth with games for the children to teach them the importance of recycling. There was also some awesome creations made out of recyclables i was very pleased to see this.
Right next to where I was having coffee was a fabulous Artisan Shop where many local artisans sell their creations in a organized space. I found so many great gifts here.and did most of my shopping at this lovely place. It’s really genius. When you find something you like you tell the person manning the stations and they’ll write you a script. When you’re done and have all your scripts, you go and pay for them at once. Then move to pick up where they wrap your gifts perfectly well for travel. And it was so inexpensive I was so impressed and happy to find this place.
After enjoying this part of the city, I thought it time to visit the waters end of the city toward Punta Carretas . A 10 minute cab ride later, and I was there. Where I was going to go I had no idea, so I decided on the best place to start…. AT their mall. I don’t like to really visit malls unless its filled with only local stores, but since I had no idea where I was going, I thought it be a good point to start and stare at my map. The mall is clean and beautiful, but as thought, nothing I wanted . I escaped the trappings of the Mall and headed towards the nearby Sheraton For Lunch. Oh Im so glad I did. The service, and food was spectacular and it was a perfect time to readjust myself and see where I’m off to text.
Restaurant La Carretas as previously mentioned was divine. The food was to die for. I may have eaten and drank way too much. I decided on the executive Menu, which came with a soup, a main dish of risotto and a desert. The soup was so huge that would’ve been enough but no greedy me had to eat it all. Well worth it as I soon found myself walking it off in the form of 16 miles of walking.
After lunch I decided that I wanted to visit the Masonic building that stands alone cramped up between its modern day neighbors, Castillo Pitamiglio. It was so well worth the walk and so cool. These masons they are just geniuses .
The rest of my day was spent strolling down the Rambla beach front access making my way back to the heart of the city where I began. The views were amazing, and dodging the runners, speed walkers, joggers, bikers, and dogs made it for a wonderful and entertaining 1.5 hour walk. Montevideo really looks towards people who have made such a positive impact on humanity . There is a part of the Rambla dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi, a park dedicated to Confucius and other important people throughout the history of the world. I was really surprised and pleased by this.
When I finally thought I was close to where I started , I turned left and headed towards the center of the city. For a few good long blocks, I suddenly thought I may have turned too soon. I consulted my worn map, and was so happy to find that I was very close to exactly where I caught the taxi. Wow, I’m amazed hahahaha.
During my walks though something funny happened, well a few weird things happened. Let me explain first…
When I first came into the city the day before, I noticed so many homeless dogs. This morning I decided no more, I can’t take one more homeless dog. So I stopped into a vet store and bought really expensive but very healthy dog food I carried it around with me all day searching for dogs. I found some here and there and left them a huge pile of food to devour. When I was walking along the Rambla I heard a bunch of Geese suddenly squawking away. I didn’t know it then, but those geese were squawking at me. They were all the way on the opposite side of the road, yet they turned their beaks up , squawked like crazy and stopped traffic crossing the road heading towards me. I was in awe and I thought it was so cute, until I realized that they are coming towards ME. Some stayed on the road waiting to see what my move was. So I called them over to get them off the road and once they did I took some pictures and walked away. Well they followed me for a while. I couldn’t understand why? Am I some animal goddess? No, I had dog food and they could smell it a mile away. I told them ” Guys this is dog food , I’m sure there are pheasants in here you’re canibals. ” To get them off me I through a ton of food at them and dashed. It was hilarious.
The next weird thing was men following me in cars and asking if I needed a ride. Now I’ve experienced the crazy machismo action of men around South America and although I found most of it irritating , this was downside crazy. I felt like a prostitute. Jeeeeez
Finally back in the center and back at my hotel, I decided to relax, and repack my bags. Dinner tonight was at the lovely Jacinto Restaurant again, since it was so good last night.
Day 3: Departure is such sweet sorrow hahahaha
I was up and ready to leave to the Ferry at 10 am. This time I was going to catch the Buquebus Ferry on their fabulous San Francisco ship straight to Buenos Aires, skipping Colonia. Well I guess the universe had different plans for me.
I got to the Port an hour prior to departure and noticed that it was pretty empty. I asked someone who pointed me to a representative of the company to whom I asked, what was going on. He said ” It’s cancelled ” WHAT? Why wasn’t I aware of this ” I called everyone and emailed everyone but we didn’t have your email” YES you do , that is how I got my tickets in the first place , through email . ” Sorry you now take a bus to Colonia and ride from there” WHAT? I paid for first class not a business class boat!!!!! and another 3 hours by bus ? UGH…. Well, there really wasn’t anything I could do, so I chilled out, collected myself, and took this as yet another part of my journey. Angry I was , yes, but not for long
The Buquebus Bus came, loaded us up and we were on our way. Suddenly we stopped at the same bus Terminal I arrived in from Colonia, was told to get off the bus, grab our luggage and go check in. ?????? confusing…. So I did just that, got checked in, and now had to wait 40 minutes for another bus that would take us to Colonia. And the adventure continues. 3 hours late, zero stops in between, I was at the Ferry Port in Colonia. Still sour that I wasn’t able to enjoy my First Class journey, but happy to be able to get back to Buenos Aires and finish off my grand tour.
Montevideo and Uruguay in general has been such a lovely experience. I really like Montevideo, and would’ve love to have explored it more. Perhaps on my next journey back to this side of the Earth, I’ll return to Montevideo and immerse myself in all her essence.
What an amazing and blessed time I’ve been having traveling through Argentina.Buenos Aires. Its never enough.
Thank you for taking the time to read my brief trip report.
If you have any questions about booking our Ferry tickets, catching the bus, or anything else, I’ll be happy to answer them.