Nova Colônia do Santíssimo Sacramento
, also known simply as Colonia, was founded in January 1680 by Don Manuel Lobo, Governor of Río de Janeiro, who had been assigned by Prince Pedro II of Portugal to establish an strategic outpost and a military fortress on the northern bank of Río de la Plata with the intention of expanding the control of Portugal beyond Brazil, to facilitate the transport to Europe of the riches of gold and silver existing in Peru and Bolivia and the crops produced in the fertile farming lands of Southern Brazil. The first structures in the old town were built of mud and straw, but later on they were fortified in stone.
The Spanish authorities in Buenos Aires, under the command of Don Marco José de Garro, rapidly became alarmed by the Portuguese advances, warned the authorities of the Spanish Vice-royalty in Lima and requested approval to attack the fledgling Portuguese colony.
In August 1680, de Garro attacked the feeble bastion, took possession of it and captured Governor Manuel Lobo who died in prison in Buenos Aires in 1683 not knowing that one year after his defeat, in 1681, the small fortress had been returned to Portuguese rule.
In the period between 1681 and 1828, Colonia del Sacramento
changed hands several times between Portugal, Spain and Brazil, to be finally recognized in 1828 as part of the newly independent nation of Uruguay.
Today, the historic section of the old village has been successfully restored and proudly displays its rich ancient European design, a mixture of the Portuguese and Spanish cultures, and its South American (Uruguayan) colonial development.
Because of its particular architecture, in 1995 UNESCO recognized Colonia del Sacramento as a World Heritage Site
. The historic district consists of an old church, a lighthouse, several museums, picturesque winding cobblestone streets and colorful houses adorned with planters and lanterns.
Colonia del Sacramento is located opposite to Buenos Aires, 50 km from the Argentine capital, across the murky waters of the Rio de la Plata, the world’s widest river. Following the road from Colonia towards the Atlantic Ocean, about 175 km away, is the city of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.
Due to its proximity to Buenos Aires, a visit to Colonia can easily be done as a day trip.The historical section is very close to the pier on a small peninsula projecting into the river. Many visitors arrive from Buenos Aires by ferry service (i.e. Buquebus
) which travels several times a day between the Argentine capital and the old Portuguese citadel by the river.