Colonia’s Style Wars

luxury travel uruguayYou don’t hear to too much about Uruguay, until you hit Buenos Aires. The town of Colonia del Sacramento is a mere hour boat ride from the Argentine capital and is a key player in its colonial history. Set up by the Portuguese in 1680 as port to smuggle in riches to BA, Colonia was so strategically situated that the Spanish got jealous and went to battle to snag the city– 11 times over the course of 150 years. With the perma-flip-flopping of power and nationalistic renovations, Colonia has become one of the most confused yet charming colonial towns in South America– mashed up with the architectural styles from three distinct cultures and one wacky history.


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We came to Colonia to celebrate our first wedding anniversary so we classed it up a bit with a stay in the romantic La Mission Hotel. Built originally as a house in 18th century, we loved the bright colors, original stone walls, contemporary decor, and central locale.


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Colonia was originally walled city and with their UNESCO heritage status they got the funds to restore it quiet nicely. Colonia is about 25,000 big and expands well past these walls but the charming historic quarter lies within. We took a fantastic walking tour by the proudest Uruguayan (she is looking for investors to help further spruce up the city a if anyone is interested. Honestly.)


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Calle de Suspiros (Street of Sighs)  is said to be the most well-preserved street in town and the best example of the style war between Spanish and Portuguese design. The Portuguese always built with slopping tile roofs while the Spanish underdogs always made quick-dry flat roofs since they never had much time before they were under attack again.
Here are the ruins of 17th century Convento de San Francisco and the renovated lighthouse behind. For a couple pesos (Argentine money is accepted everywhere in Colonia) we climbed up for great views of town all the way to Buenos Aires.


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Looking at this crazy expanse of coast and water you are convinced you are on the ocean but oh no, it is the Rio Plata–the widest river in the world. Its main water source is the gush from Iguazu Falls which is so powerful it makes what would be ocean, brackish all the way past the coast of Montevideo. The milk chocolate color, weeping tree-lined coast, and a few islands make it a unique city river.


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The irony of the constant Spain vs Portugal battle is that they kept canonballing the town they considered home. In the case of the church, both cultures were catholic and neither had the time to rebuild it fully so the architecture is like a patchwork of Portuguese rock mixed with Spanish stucco and cement filling in between.


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All the restaurants along the plaza have a amazing seafood and colonial ambiance but for something a little more unique and funky, we went to Drugstore. They couldn’t have fit more colors or art on the wall and the food was just as all over the map–but in the best possible way.

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With the smoggy metropolis across the river, Colonia is supposed to have some of the best sunsets and with a wild rain storm right before sundown, we got the full spectacle in the sky.

Spending the night in Uruguay is a nice getaway from the ber urban BA but if you do a day trip, book the latest boat back so you can catch the sunset and see the candle-like street lights twinkle at night. For more photos from the picture-perfect Colonia del Sacramento, see the slideshow on