A few weeks ago my two friends and I took a day trip to Colonia — a (very) small town on the coast of Uruguay, about an hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires across El Rio de la Plata; to me, the trip seemed like the South American equivalent of crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain to Morocco.
We had been told that there wasn’t much to do in Colonia, which was true, and that the city was an hour ahead of Buenos Aires, which it wasn’t. Uruguay also has a different currency than Argentina, though we didn’t have a problem paying in Argentine pesos, or even dollars. The waiter at the restaurant where we ate lunch may have screwed us over with the exchange rate, but I don’t think we ever quite figured that out…
The difference between Colonia and Buenos Aires is stark and sudden. A sleepy little pueblo seemingly sustained almost completely by tourism, Colonia is calm, and offers a languorous reprieve from the busy city. After spending three weeks in the latter, I had forgotten what open space and grass looked like. In fact, Colonia reminded me a bit of Nicaragua’s coastal towns.
People go to Colonia more for the general atmosphere than for any specific activity or event — indeed, other than a small lighthouse and an old fort (which we didn’t have a chance to see), eating and shopping are pretty much the only options. There are plenty of artesian stores offering all sorts of knickknacks and souvenirs for the tourists (the heavenly fluffy hand-made slippers were very tempting), and a variety of cafés and restaurants for the foodies. Apparently goat meat is the must-order dish in Colonia; according to my friend, it tasted like chicken.
After walking around for a bit we did find a small, nearly empty beach — another slightly strange sight after three weeks in the city — where we admired the probably frigid water from afar.
All in all, I highly recommend Colonia as a nice, peaceful, and relatively cheap daytrip.