SOUTH AMERICA-PHOTOS / URUGUAY

COLONIA


Colonia  in the south west of Uruguay overlooking the Rio de la Plata, is the oldest town in the country and capital of the department of Colonia.

Visit the Puerta de la Ciudadela, also called Puerta del Campo -a 1745 drawbridge built by the Portuguese governor to safeguard the walled city's only entrance. Now restored, it marks the beginning of the historic district, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Set on a small peninsula jutting out into the river, with its thick fortified walls and tile and stucco buildings, the site is definitely worth the walk. Alternatively you can amble through the relatively tourist-free streets and discover the small bars, the excellent restaurants, the art and craft shops and museums or explore the large yacht harbor.

Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, the town was a focus of struggle with the Spanish who established the settlement on the opposite bank at Montevideo in response. For years the colony changed hands between the two crowns until 1816, when it was claimed by the Brazilians and the entire Banda Oriental (Uruguay) was seized by the Rio de Janeiro government. Initially acting as a contraband port, evading the strictures imposed on trade by the Spanish crown, today Colonia is a resort city, a port and the trade centre for a rich agricultural region.
Whilst having expanded to the east, the old part of the city still keeps the irregular terrain-fitting street plan designed and built by the Portuguese. The winding, cobble-stoned streets and colorful Portuguese-style domestic architecture, so reminiscent of Lisbon, are a delight to explore and mark the city out from its Uruguayan neighbors.

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