I feel sorry for Uruguay. I didn’t see very much of it, and I am quite sure it’s a lovely place with friendly people, untouched beaches, and plenty to do. And heck, they clearly have some very effective people doing their public relations, because Colonia del Sacramento sure gets raves. It’s even a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Except, I really can’t see why.
That’s not to say the tiny town isn’t worth visiting. The barrio histórico (historical neighborhood) is lined with original cobbled streets and 18th century houses. The town is historically interesting as a pirate’s den and black market trading zone and even today celebrates it’s history a free trade zone and an extremely popular destination for ferries from Buenos Aires.
The thing is, it costs $128 for two people to take the ferry over and you either have to arrive and leave the same day with only a few hours to visit (this is what you should do) or spend the night so you’ll have enough time to take in the multiple museums in this, like I said, UNESCO World Heritage site (do this only if you have a long trip and time to kill).
While we were deciding between those options I was considering all the World Heritage Sites I’ve been to. On this trip, we’d just been to Los Glaciares National Park and walked on a river of ice moving two meters per day. (Tour not withstanding, the Perito Moreno glacier is not to be missed.) World Heritage Sites don’t disappoint. A complete list of sites shows some of world’s unmistakable destinations.Khajaraho, India is on there. Regensburg, Germany is there. Angkor Wat made the list as well. So lofty is the list that the Eiffel Tower doesn’t make it. Neuschwanstein Castle doesn’t rate either. With that in mind, the bus price and a night’s stay make sense, and at the end of the day, I figured it would be cheaper than making it up to another UNESCO site, Iguazu Falls. One site is as good as another, right?
That’s why, after about an hour walking through the town, I started to wonder who paid off the folks at UNESCO to include Colonia? According to UNESCO, sites have to be nominated and then they are selected based a list of criteria. The best I can figure, Colonia get’s un under the wire based on:
2. to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
Not that the town was “planned.” It was handed back and forth between the Portuguese and Spanish half a dozen times but I suppose that exchange represents a “significant interchange of human values.” Colonia is now doubt important to Uruguay and to its history. No wonder school children were roaming its streets on field trips. That’s fine! And I can’t knock them for promoting the little town, it was, indeed, fairly charming. It’s just that I expected a bit more from a UNESCO registered site and had I known, I might have spent less time, or just forked over the cash for the Iguazu Falls.
So go. Have lunch, enjoy. If you’re in the area, and there wasn’t much chance I’d be in Uruguay any time soon, I’d even recommend it. Just know what you’re getting. While you’re there, see if you can tell me who they had to pay to get listed. ‘Cause I’m thinking Louisville, Colorado needs to be included too!