Not to be missed, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, is a charming 17th-century riverside town that is a former fortress and contraband port. Just 100 mi/160 km west of Montevideo, it's now a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its distinctive Portuguese colonial architecture and sycamore-shaded streets.
Once a walled city, the old Barrio Historico is a slow-paced hamlet, a place to stroll cobblestoned lanes, linger under palm trees in the park or sit and watch local fishermen cast for the day's catch. It's also home to an increasing number of bed-and-breakfasts, quaint hotels, and sophisticated restaurants and bars.
Tour the fortress walls, lighthouse, municipal museum, the historical museums (Museo Espanol, Museo Portugues) and Uruguay's oldest church, the Iglesia Matriz del Santisimo Sacramento, which dates from 1699.
There's also a crumbling bullring to check out, the only one in the country, at nearby Real de San Carlos (bullfighting was abolished shortly after the ring was built).
And take note of the daily yerba mate ritual—it's quite a spectacle to see so many people, with thermoses beneath their arms, strolling the streets imbibing the traditional herbal tea throughout the day.
Ferries and catamarans connect Colonia del Sacramento quickly and directly with Buenos Aires.
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