Uruguay by Boat: Tigre to Colonia

Uruguay has always intrigued me as a destination. In Australia we hardly hear anything about this country or its people. So when we heard that it was only an hour’s boat ride away from Argentina, we hopped straight on that ferry…

Only we took the more complicated route.

To get to Uruguay there are basically three main options:

1)      Take a bus from Buenos Aires to Montevideo that takes a day and is the most expensive way to cross the border

2)      Take the ferry from Buenos Aires direct to Montevideo, or

3)      Take an hour’s train ride from Buenos Aires to Tigre (Argentina), then take the ferry to Carmello, a bus to Colonia del Sacramento, and from there you can finally get on a bus to Montevideo.  

Meeting other travellers provides you with a minefield of information. Places to go, things to see, that you don’t read about in the guidebooks. Someone told us about this place called Tigre that would take us on this great adventure to Uruguay. That once in Tigre we could explore the Delta by boat. That immediately peaked our adventurous spirits and we chose option 3.

We arrived in Tigre around midday and decided to stay the night so that we could visit the canals – Tigre’s Deltas. After a few hours of searching we found a hostel in the centre of town,  that would have a bed for us for the night, albeit at hotel, not hostel prices. Upon checking in, the hostel appeared calm and tranquil and we left for the afternoon on our Delta cruise.


Taking a small wooden boat from the centre of town, we visited an island off the Delta called Tres Bocas (3 mouths). Tres Bocas/Santa Rosa has a small community of fishermen and tourism dwellings lining the canals, and dogs seem to rule the roost.


A side note about Uruguay, and Argentina for that matter, dogs are everywhere. They aren’t the kind of stray, mal-nourished-looking mutts that you might find in other less developed countries. The dogs that roam the streets here are clean, well-groomed and generally wouldn’t harm a fly.

Each dwelling at Tres Bocas seems to have its own landing, as its residents get around solely by boat. Apparently there’s a forest, a chapel, a teahouse and other little landmarks along the walking tracks that line the canals. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any of them, and neither could any of the tourists on that boat. We were later told that the maps that are scattered around the place are not correct.

As sunset approaches there is only one boat back to the centre. Depending on whom you ask, the time varies.

When we approached a local fellow, he told us the last one is at 7pm. A French couple on the same boat there with us were told 7.15pm by the tourist office back in town, and when we all checked with a local restaurant in front of the landing we were told 7.30pm. The boat back eventually arrived at 7.05pm.Consequently the Frenchies missed it. Our lesson was learned – always check, double check and triple check timetables in South America.

Back in Tigre the locals were getting ready to cheer on their national team in the Copa America, in a match against Costa Rica. Arriving back at our hostel, all tranquillity had been lost as a group of 10 or so Argentinean tradesmen were settling in for the night to watch the match, with their beer and their music. The only problem was, our room was right next to the TV.

In any ordinary circumstances this may not have been a problem, but football for South Americans is a part of the culture, and with culture comes passion. Passion, beer and tradies equals no sleep for those in the vicinity of the room. As the match went on, the cheering got louder, and it was accompanied by over-ecstatic banging on our bedroom wall.

At some point during the night we lost all water in the building. Our side trip to Tigre and our lovely walk along the canals was topped off with no sleep and no shower at premium prices.

One rowdy night, a ferry and a bus ride later we were in Colonia. I immediately fell in love with the aesthetics of this town, though the impacts of the tourism dollar are evident here. The streets are spotless and the prices high.

We stayed in a place called Auberge de Espanol (nothing to do with the film), which was full of rustic charm. It’s yellow stone walls lined with timber beams encircled two communal areas – a dining atrium of sorts, and a courtyard. It’s permanent residents were mostly jolly, middle aged Uruguayan tradesmen that are in the area for work.


Both days in Colonia were spent not doing so much, just wandering the streets of the Barrio Histórico, and taking in its charm and atmosphere. The main highlights of our stay in Colonia were:

  • Soaking up the afternoon sun in the waterfront garden of café Lentas Maravillas
  • Climbing the lighthouse at Bastion San Miguel for stunning views of the peninsula
  • Watching the sunset in all types of pastel colours
  • Eating traditional fire-grilled beef with the locals in an old neighbourhood style parrilla. The type where everyone knows everyone.


The Portuguese and Spanish influence is still very evident here in its architecture and style. The Portuguese founded Colonia in 1680 to smuggle goods across the Río del Plata into Buenos Aires until the Spanish captured it in 1762. Its architecture and colonial history has made Colonia a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.  

Although we didn’t have any great adventures in Colonia, its serenity and colonial charm definitely left a good first impression for our first stop in Uruguay.


Next stop – Vamos a Montevideo!

4 Responses to “Uruguay by Boat: Tigre to Colonia”
  1. Guido says:

    you can take a ferry from buenos aires, downtown. it takes 1hr or 3 depending the kind of ferry you take.

  2. Héctor says:

    You can take a plane too! From Buenos Aires it takes just 40 minutes!

  3. Héctor says:

    You can take plane too! From Buenos Aires it takes justo 40 minutes!

    • munyivaresponsibletravel says:

      Thanks Hector…something to keep in mind, though catching planes is a luxury that’s almost inaccessible to most backpackers 😉

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