When I was growing up, I always had a large world map on my wall, often with pins in each country I wanted to travel to. While the majority of Latin and South America were pinned, I never had one in Uruguay. To be honest, I just never knew much about the country and thought it was small and not worth my time. With powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina bordering this nation, I never made it much of a priority. But, was I proven wrong!
When I was in Buenos Aires, my two travel mates and I decided to take a boat across the boarder for a day trip into Colonia, Uruguay. At the beginning, I honestly just wanted to do it for the stamp on my passport and figured it couldn’t hurt to check the town out for our last day before Patagonia.
Apparently, many people from Buenos Aires make this trip because the boat service that runs between the two cities and Montevideo was very nice, affordable, and well structured. The ports were very nice and it was an equivalent experience to riding a plane, but much cheaper and quicker. If you find yourself wanting to take a similar trip, I recommend looking at Buquebus for tickets and times, we had a great experience!
When we arrived, we had no real plans for the day and so we just took to walking down the tree-lined cobblestone streets and exploring. We first stumbled upon a sailing port where we walked the long dock to look at the boats. The town had a general sleepiness to it, and definitely felt like a vacation town you went to get away from big-city life. Old cars casually putted by and people walked slowly, not needing to be anywhere particular. The weather was perfect and the day couldn’t have started better!
After the port we got lunch at a very cute cafe where I, surprisingly, got chicken curry. It was the only Indian dish on the menu, but they did it so well I didn’t mind that it was the odd dish out. There were plenty of cute cafes lining all the streets, some more touristic than others, but the overall food vibes were nice. Even though the town was small I feel like they still had lots of quality options. After eating I felt the siesta sleepiness sink in so I walked around the corner as the others were paying to grab a coffee. As I wait for my order, I hear Bombay Bicycle Club playing in the background and notice the cutest interior decorations. It was like this cafe stepped straight out of Minneapolis in the summertime, and I sat and thought to myself, what is this gem of a place we have stumbled upon! The vibes are hard to pin down, but it was like Californian-Mediterranean-Minnesotan hipster classy and I just thought how odd it was that nobody knew of this place. For almost skipping Uruguay altogether for the bigger, flashier countries seemed like a grave mistake to me in the moment. In a place like this, I felt home.
As the sun warmed our shoulders, we walked to the town lighthouse and climbed up for a panoramic view of the town and the beach that surrounded it. The cool thing about Cologna is that is is a peninsula, so the view was really amazing, having ocean and a river mouth three quarters of the way around! We met a family from New York on the top and had a very hard time describing why we were in Uruguay because we were studying in Rio, but visiting Buenos Aires. We left them with slightly confused looks on their faces after our attempted explanation, but they were kind enough to not prompt us anymore and we said goodbye as we headed down the windy lighthouse again after we took in the view.
After the lighthouse, we took lots of pictures and found ourselves in a gift shop that had handmade quartz jewelry, where I bought two beautiful pieces and immediately put them on. We then continued to mozy around along a boardwalk until we came across a little alcove next to a hotel with a beautiful willow tree. We simply just sat and enjoyed the silence and beauty of the day for a while before sunset and watched the waves gently lap the shore as the wind ruffled the willows. I personally took the moment to reflect on my life and how incredibly fortunate I was to be sitting in that very spot, worshiping God and thanking Him for all his blessings. I realized that I was finally become the person I had always wanted to be. Someone who thrived in travel, who made discoveries, someone who was comfortable in the unknown and ran towards adventure. In that moment watching the sun go down, I was fulfilling my own childhood dream and was so emotional I got misty eyed.
Colonia is the beautiful hidden type of place where you really can go in with zero plans and end up having the best day. It’s the town you go to if you really need rest. Its quiet, semi-residential, but really beautiful and refined. It was, for me, a highlight of the whole trip because it was so unexpectedly good. A true diamond in the rough! So, although I don’t have pro tips and pointers for this post, I think that’s okay because for this type of trip you don’t need them. Go, most definitely go, and just let the day take you where it will! Sometimes the unexpected is the best.
Next to read: The Ultimate Three-Day Guide to Bariloche, Argentina