The arrival of the conquerors in South America brought with them a way to build “perfect” cities. If the Romans had their thistle and documents, its forum and its wall, the colonial cities had their form of checkerboard with perfect apples bounded by straight streets – very Roman; the one known as Plaza de Armas in its center – like the Roman forum – with the cathedral and the town hall, and arcaded houses; and a smaller square next to the main one. They are the Spanish colonial cities, but there were also Portuguese ones, with a similar design, in Uruguay and Brazil. We go through history following fifteen of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America traveling through Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO, URUGUAY
Our first encounter with a colonial city was in Uruguay, in Colonia del Sacramento. Cobblestone streets, low houses, squares, sea view, the lighthouse, old cars transformed into gardens … We found it difficult to improve that first contact but we had not even two weeks in South America and there was plenty of time to continue discovering wonders.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF PARATY, BRAZIL
Between the great cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, we discover the tranquility of the first of the many Brazilian paradises that we would see: Paraty. The Portuguese colonial city fell in love. The same cobbled streets – here flat – with the sea and the sheds – the tourist boats that travel along the coast – and also the nightlife, the bars and restaurants and that feeling of a small town that allowed you to walk at night without thinking about anything else Than to enjoy.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF OURO PRETO, BRAZIL
One of the richest colonial cities in Brazil. Ouro Preto means Black Gold and the name is due to the color of gold – dark – that was in the mines that opened in the surroundings of the city – very close is the city, also colonial, of Ouro Branco -. Working conditions in the mines caused a large number of slaves to die in them. The gold that was extracted from there arrived, by the Camino Real, to Paraty where it was shipped. Today it is a university city with students from all over Brazil that make it a place full of animation. Magnificent churches – decorated with the gold that came out of their mines –, republics – the colleges of universities – nature …
THE COLONIAL CITY OF SALVADOR DE BAHIA, BRAZIL
The huge Brazilian city of Salvador de Bahía still maintains a colonial zone in its center. It is the Pelourinho, the area of cobbled streets, old churches, low houses, and daily parties. The place where the bananas are selling their acarajé or where Michael Jackson recorded part of his video “ They don’t care about us ”. The essence of the Brazilian mix and one of the places where we enjoy the hospitality of the country.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF SÃO LUIS, BRAZIL
The last of the great colonial cities we visited in Brazil was São Luis do Maranhao with its historic center declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. To the beauty of the city, we must add the June parties that were celebrated at the time we passed through Sao Luis. A short distance by boat – although you have to take into account the tide that makes the schedules change every day – is the city of Alcãntara that has the last original Pelourinho of the Portuguese colonial era.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, COLOMBIA
The crown jewel of the colonial cities of South America is Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia. With a walled historic center of narrow streets, houses with colorful wooden balconies, squares with fruit vendors with dresses as colorful as buildings, night entertainment … A wonder that fell in love with Gabriel García Márquez and us – although leaving the walled area the City loses all its charm.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF MOMPOX, COLOMBIA
Although our first day was not the best of the trip … I have to recognize that Mompox is beautiful: with its two streets, its countrymen and its countrymen taking the rocking chairs to the street at sunset and chatting animatedly with the neighbors, their historic buildings, churches … A trip to a colonial city that is still anchored at that time. The charm of the few tourists is “paid” with the lack of money to restore and rehabilitate buildings like in Cartagena de Indias.
THE COLONIAL CITY OF BARICHARA, COLOMBIA
Another colonial town anchored in the past, although with much more tourism than Mompox, is Barichara, considered, by Colombians themselves, as the most beautiful colonial town in Colombia. A small population that seems to have emerged from the same land. The streets of ocher stone give rise to low houses with white walls and roofs of the same ocher color as the streets. Near Barichara is the town of Guane which is reached by following the Camino Real.