Although dwarfed in
size by its famous neighbors Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay
packs a heavy punch in the tourism stakes and has developed from a place only
visited by those in the know to an important destination on the South American
trail. Hugely diverse and ridiculously laidback, this country of only
3.4-million people boasts a portfolio of quaint colonial towns, sprawling green
countryside, miles of scenic beaches, a prevailing gaucho culture and the
continents biggest meat eating population. What’s more, with its relatively
small size, it is possible to explore a large portion of Uruguay in a
reasonably short visit.
If travelling over
Aires then start a tour in Colonia
del Sacramento, Uruguay’s oldest town and a pleasant one at that with
Portuguese influences and numerous battle remnants. From here, it is common to
head southeast towards the charming capital Montevideo
with its array of architectural wonders and beachside esplanade - Uruguayans
refer to the river beaches along the Rio del la Plata as the sea. Stretching
along the coast from the capital is a collection of classically laidback
coastal towns running all the way to Uruguay’s jewel, Punta del
Este. Come in January and February and Punta, alongside nearby Jose
Ignacio, welcome the rich and famous and Argentine and Brazilian jet set
crowd to the swanky nightclubs and classy beachfront restaurants.
For an even more
relaxed Uruguay, continue along the coast to the hippy-surfer towns of La Paloma,
del Diablo, and Cabo
Polonio or explore the vast plains of the Rocha countryside. Inland, Durazno is
another Portuguese founded city that plays host to the Festival Nacional de
Folclore (folkloric music festival) and Tacuarembó thrives on its gaucho roots.
Those in search of quirky Uruguay will find the Museum of the Industrial
Revolution at Fray Bentos, which traces the country’s corned beef producing
Similar to Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay
is not as cheap as it once was - Punta del
Este and its surroundings are notoriously pricey during the peak season.
Nevertheless, like anywhere, venture away from the tourist traps or pass by out
of season and you might just spend a week or two as the only traveler around.
- As laid back a capital city as you are likely to find. Montevideo is a breath
of fresh air if arriving from hectic Buenos Aires. Admire the European
influences, explore the history of Ciudad Viejo and do as the locals do by
taking a sunset stroll along La Rambla.
Mercado del Puerto - Meat eating
at its best at Montevideo’s liveliest market. Drop by at lunchtime to witness
high-spirited business lunches and the biggest and juiciest steak you are
likely to find.
Carnival - Join the crowds to enjoy the dancing, drumming and street parades of
carnival Montevideo style, a celebration influenced by the countries deep
del Sacramento - Uruguay’s oldest city founded in 1680 offers a trip to
yesteryear with its cobblestone streets and quaint cafés set in pastel coloured
houses. Watch the sunset over the Rio de la Plata and Buenos Aires.
Carmelo - Enjoy a few days
on an estancia
and then jump on a boat and cruise across the delta to Tigre, Buenos
Este - Billed as the St Tropez of South America, spend the day relaxing on
the beach and walking the peninsula before dining at the glitzy port and
sampling the vibrant nightlife of La Barra.
Casa Pueblo - White-washed gothic hotel located on the peninsula of Punta Ballena
that was originally the home of local painter Carlos Paez Vilaro. Drop by for
sunset or treat yourself to a night of surrealist luxury.
Ignacio - Sleepy fishing village meets chic high flyers resort. Join the
socialites at Uruguay’s place to see and be seen. Lounge with the beautiful
people at the beach then join them for afternoon drinks and dinner at La Huella.
del Diablo - Miles of sandy beach attract hippy backpackers and surfers to
this easygoing Atlantic coast town. Further south, La Paloma and La Pedrera
provide perfect breaks for keener surfers.
Polonio – A unique bohemian beach located at a tip of a small peninsula
that can only be accessed by special sand dune roaming trucks.
Tacuarembó - Hit the north of the
country and experience a region where Gaucho-culture prevails. Arrive in March
and become party of the annual Gaucho Festival.
Wine Tours in Uruguay - Not to be outdone by its continental rivals Chile and Argentina,
Uruguay is fast developing a name as a wine producer. Go for a tour and tasting
at Alto de la Ballena
accompanied by sweeping views of the sierra and ocean.
More Beaches in Uruguay - Drive from Montevideo
del Este stopping off at a host of laidback beach resorts en route.
Atlantida, Piriapolis and Punta Colorada are all worth a day of your time.
Horseback Riding Uruguay - Explore the pristine countryside of Uruguay on a horse and camping
trek. Caballos de Luz and
Cabalgatas specialise in trips across sierras of the Rocha
Province, amongst other locations.
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