Day tours to Colonia available for purchase in Argentina from a variety of sources such as Buquebus include a round-trip on a ferry, a dinner, a tour and transportation around the city. There is not much of a tour (luckily our guide was fluent in English), dinner is average and the transportation is hardly necessary – the historic part of town is perfectly walkable and is close enough to the port. The big difference is the ferry: a newer ferry can make the trip across the river in one hour and the older one takes 3 hours. Since we bought our trip the night before, the faster, more expensive boat was sold out so we took the three-hour tour. My suggestion would be to get on the faster ferry if possible, forgo the dinner and the tour, and explore the town and find food on your own.
The ferry is nice and comfortable and due to a sell-out we were upgraded to the first class seats automatically and for free. Interestingly, at the passport control in both ports the Argentinian and Uruguayan border officials are sitting side-by-side, stamping your passport with both exit and entry stamps (no visa is required for the US citizens), so you don’t have to go through the procedure again upon arrival.
If you have a free day in your itinerary, I would highly recommend a trip to Colonia. There is something charming (I am pretty sure this is the first and likely the last time the word charming is used on this blog) about this town with old cobblestone streets leading to the river; with brightly painted ancient buildings; with a weird mix of trees lining the streets where palms, cacti, and aloes are just as common as European varieties; with numerous restaurants and souvenir shops; with antique cars parked on the streets just for looks, and even nicely preserved Soviet cars. Colonia beckons you to wonder around, explore, take photos, see the sunset, have a coffee at one of the outdoor tables near a restaurant, or just relax watching the boats on the river. On the day we visited Colonia the weather changed from overcast to rain to sunny and the following photos reflect that. Overall, it was probably the most enjoyable side-trip during our visit to Argentina.
More to come…