Capital: Colonia del Sacramento
Area: 6.144 km2
Population Density: 19,5 inhab./km2
Located on the south-west of the country, on the shores of Uruguay River and River Plate, the Colonia Department is a magic corner of Uruguay and of all the continent, as a meeting and tranquility point. A two-world enconunter place, America and Europe; culture, people and religion encounter place, for the land and the river, the present and the past.
In a unique natural environment to discover, live and enjoy, the alive history of multiple cultures, their mixtures and its people charm.
Colonia del Sacramento
In this region is found the Historic Center of Colonia del Sacramento, the only place in the country declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Besides this, lots of houses declared as Historical National Monument by the Cultural Inheritance Nation Commission, are distribuited across the Colonia territory.
Colonia del Sacramento is one of the most important tourist areas in Uruguay, receiving thousands of visitors during the year. Just an hour from Buenos Aires by boat, and two hours from Montevideo by road, Colonia del Sacramento is a haven where visitors will find culture, history and the magic of an unmissable destination in the Río de la Plata.
The charm of the city is linked to its peculiar history. Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese Manuel Lobo, the city went from Portuguese to Spanish rule several times until the Declaration of Independence of the Banda Oriental in 1825. These events made the historic center a melting pot of architectural and urban styles in which typically Portuguese colonial styles coexist with Spanish style housing.
The historic Colonia del Sacramento, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, attracts tourists from around the world and is the scene of countless photographic productions that seek to capture the magic of the place. Walking through its irregular, cobbled streets allows you to take in its history and enjoy a unique landscape with spectacular views of Río de la Plata.
The enigmatic Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), paved with wedge stones, has a unique charm, capable of transporting visitors to a dream world. A guided visit to the historical part of Colonia del Sacramento allows you to immerse yourself in the history and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the city. Museums, theater, art, handcrafts and good local cuisine are just part of a wide range of options for visitors.
In addition, the city offers visitors a wide range of quality hotels, with options ranging from international hotel chains to typical posadas, housed in old colonial houses, as well as a wide range of cheerful and quaint restaurants. Following the city’s promenade, a trip which many choose to make on bike, leads you to Real de San Carlos, a former Spanish military enclave. Here you will find the San Benito church, with its image of the black saint, and the endeavor of Nicolás Mihanovich who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, developed a tourist complex in this place in the style of the time, which currently has its main icon in the Plaza de Toros.
As part of the charm of the city, Colonia del Sacramento seduces visitors with its sunsets over Río de la Plata full of color and magic. The view from the lighthouse or from the old pier will, without doubt, seduce your senses completely. Ask about tours and guided walks.
To the west of Colonia del Sacramento, on Route 21, lies the city of Carmelo. This city, which dates back to 1816, has the distinction of having General José Gervasio Artigas, the national hero, as its founder. It has a natural environment full of beauty and serenity, and over the years Carmelo has attracted thousands of tourists seeking relaxation, tranquility, beauty and comfort.
Its yacht dock and extensive beaches attract water sport and beach aficionados. In addition, nearby you can find several of the touristic wineries that have already established themselves as a major attraction of the department of Colonia, and which follow the oldest European traditions to produce delicious, international standard wines.
Among its various attractions you can also find its characteristic swing bridge, which crosses the Las Vacas River and is the only human traction one in South America; the Jesuit ruins of the country house of Belén, known as Calera de las Huérfanas; and the Narbona country house, the oldest building in Uruguay which is completely original. With its natural beauty and history, Carmelo is an inviting place to visit and enjoy.
The town of Conchillas is located 7 Km from Route 21 and around 50 Km from Colonia del Sacramento. The charm of Conchillas is linked to its history. The birth of this town is directly linked to the arrival of the British company C. H. Walker & Co., in 1887, which based itself there in order to exploit the dunes which would be used for the construction of the port of Buenos Aires.
This industry led to the arrival of workers of different nationalities: English, Italian, Scottish, Greek, Bulgarian, Austrian, Basque, Turkish and German, who settled there and formed the town, giving it a unique identity.
The houses with stone walls over a meter thick, set in the ground and painted yellow, with red, zinc gabled roofs remain as testimony to a time marked by the influence of the English community that settled there. The houses of the first settlers and the ‘Hotel Conchillas’ are now National Historic Landmarks.
The hotel, which was completed in 1911, was the initiative of the owners of C. H. Walker & Co, initially to give friends and family members visiting from England a place to stay.
Another emblematic building is “Casa Evans” constructed by the immigrant David Evans. It was one of the most important businesses in Uruguay, so much so that the government authorized him to mint his own currency.
The Conchillas Port, approximately five km from the town center, is an important resort which also has remnants of the splendors of the last century. The town owes its name to the large amount of fossil material found in the quarries along the coast.
Winner of the First Tourist Town Prize
In 2013 Conchillas won the first edition of the Tourist Town Prize organized by the Ministry of Tourism for towns with up to 3,000 inhabitants. Among its proposals was conditioning the emblematic “Casa Evans” as a tourist reception center.
The original project was presented with the technical support of the Latin American Center for Human Economy (CLAEH) and the Friends of Conchillas Committee (applicant organization) along with Montes del Plata, Tierras del Sur real estate and the architectural firm ITTO. It also had the support of the local board, the Conchillas Preservation and Culture Commission, the Conchillas Rural High School, schools in the area, the Conchillas Rural Development Society, the El Palenque nativist society, Hotel West Colonia, the club COPYC, the Vuelta y Vuelta barbeque and the Institute of Employment and Professional Training (INEFOP).
Located in the east of the department of Colonia, the town of Nueva Helvecia has its most distinctive features in its Swiss origin. In 1862 a group of European immigrants, mostly Swiss but including Germans, Italians and French, founded this colony, which today is also known as the “Swiss Colony”.
Over the years the inhabitants of the city have maintained a culture that preserves the most typical features of its origin and which results in the celebration of traditions and the type of cuisine there.Nueva Helvecia was the first tourist area in the country, with the Hotel Suizo being founded in 1872. In addition, the area is the center of important industries, the majority of which are dedicated to dairy production.
Tourist attractions include the Plaza de los Fundadores (Founders Square), with its colorful flower clock; the city gate; Regional Archive Museum; the José Pedro Varela Municipal Park; the OSE tank, with its unusual architecture; and the Schöenstatt Shrine.Visitors can also enter an artisan cheese factory and learn about the production of different cheeses, products that are closely linked to the history and culture of this area. With a unique charm, Nueva Helvecia seduces visitors with its history, culture, local cuisine and natural surroundings full of beauty.
Founded in 1858 by immigrants from Piemonte (northern Italy) who survived religious persecution motivated by the reform of the Church driven by Pedro Veldo from the twelfth century, Colonia Valdense has traits of its own unique identity. The festival of gratitude in March, Valdense Fraternity Day in August and the Nacional Cheese Tasting Festival in November are three ideal moments in the year to get to know it. As well as enjoying its peaceful lifestyle and landscapes, be sure not to miss the following attractions of great historical and patrimonial value.
Touring the city you will find the Plaza de la Libertad (Liberty square), the school park, School No. 26, Club Athletic Valdense, the country house that belonged to the secretary of President Williman, Emilio Barbouroux, a public sports area, the first rural high school in the country, founded in 1888 by Pastor Daniel Armand Ugón, and the Valdense Library.
The first immigration settlement, established in 1858 is the center of an agricultural colony formed from the work of European immigrants.
In its center is the main square, Doroteo García, which displays the work of José Belloni, the Colonia Valdense Monument. This small village contains five National Historic Landmarks.
Some of the recommended places to visit are: the first house of the village, which was finished in 1859, the Agua Bonjour mill, built in 1877, the first Vadense Evangelical church in America, consecrated in 1893, the Concordia Port, the spirits factory, built in 1887, which distills corn to produce spirits, the Santa Cruz and Seminario Católico Chapels and the Black Bridge, inaugurated in 1902, the first iron road bridge in Uruguay.
Located in the east of the department of Colonia, 52 km from Colonia del Sacramento and 132 km from Montevideo on the touristic National Route 1, the town of Rosario has had, since 1994, the first Uruguayan museum of Mural Art History.Through its painted walls, Rosario narrates facts and describes characters directly related to regional anecdotes and the history of the area. In this way, and as part of an initiative from the residents, its murals have become the calling card of the town.
Located on the banks of the Colla River, next to the mouth of the Rosario River, it is the only town of Spanish origin in the department of Colonia.Its origins date back to 1775, when a group of neighbors led by Benito Herosa founded the town of Rosario, the stage for important events of the Old Homeland and Provisional Capital of the Department between 1826 and 1829. Rosario had its boom in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Among its tourist attractions are the Calle de la Memoria, with its picturesque lanterns and peculiar “news signs” which collect news from the newspapers published since 1883, and the Carnival route. Herosa Square is the place where the people tend to meet, while the shrine of Virgen del Rosario is a place which is visited by Catholics. The Consagrada Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church is a National Historic Landmark. The Paseo de la Luz owes its name to the historical fact which meant that the town had electric lighting in the windows of the Garat shop (1913), ten years before the arrival of UTE.
Other attractions for the visitor include the Durieux Park, Paso de Piedra, Paso Arballo and Laguna del Bote, among others.
Considered the Departmental Capital of the Carnival, Rosario has a great carnival tradition. Months of preparation culminate in spectacular parades which take place during the summer months with great general participation. The floats are made from recycled material and are noted for their originality and creativity.
Combining history, art and nature with its bohemian nature and friendliness of its people, Rosario is a destination well worth visiting.
Source: Tourist Association of Colonia and Ministry of Tourism