Uruguay Travel Guide

Uruguay Overview

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 from Buenos 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, Punta 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 history.

 

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.

Things to do in Uruguay

Montevideo - 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 African roots.

 

Colonia 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 Aires.

 

Punta del 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.

 

Jose 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.

 

Punta 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.

 

Cabo 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 to Punta 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 Huellas Cabalgatas specialise in trips across sierras of the Rocha Province, amongst other locations.

 

Hotels in Uruguay

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