The last time I visited Buenos Aires, one of the most memorable days of the trip, was spent, ironically enough, in Uruguay. A comfy, Buquebus high-speed ferry ride away across the wide, murky Río Plata (one to three hours, depending on the ship, as well as a 2½-hour drive from Uruguay’s capital Montevideo) lies a small city that's home to the loveliest Spanish colonial old town in South America’s Southern Cone (and one of the most fetching on the entire continent, well deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status.

With a present-day population just under 27,000, Colonia del Sacramento is one of this country’s oldest settlements, founded on a peninsula in 1680 not by Spaniards but by Portuguese settlers, then switching back and forth between Portugal and Spain, then independent Brazil, before finally becoming part of Uruguay.

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