Uruguay is the second smallest country on the South American continent, and this means only one thing for those who love to travel: freedom. Due to its modest size, visitors do not need much time to discover all there is to offer, and touring options are not as bountiful as in other destinations of the region. Do not let this deter you, however, for Uruguay is home to many an intrepid adventure; from sophisticated Tuscan food-tasting tours in the verdant hillsides to nights spent partying away in lavish nightclubs. The perfect trip will always include flashes of splendid relaxation, extraordinary exploration, and delightful dining: every minute brings a new experience. Here, we reveal where these moments can be found in Uruguay, helping you to plan a tour around
The perfect trip will always include flashes of splendid relaxation, extraordinary exploration, and delightful dining: every minute brings a new experience. Here, we reveal where these moments can be found in Uruguay, helping you to plan a tour around one of South America’s best-kept secrets.
The Rambla of Montevideo is one of the most iconic symbols of Uruguay / Image Source
1. Decide what time of year is best for you
Uruguay, like its neighbour Argentina, has very distinct seasonal changes. If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing trip, complete with exquisite wine tasting excursions and some delightfully romantic evenings, choose the cooler months (April to October). If your idea is to spend the days soaking up the rays on sun-drenched beaches and then the nights partying away in classic tango clubs, November to March at high season is perfect for you. It is important to note that this time of year is extremely popular with tourists, and many of the world’s most famous trendsters can be seen on the sands of Uruguay’s Gold Coast. To visit in summer, you must book your flights and accommodation in advance.
You can reach Uruguay from Buenos Aires in under two hours / Photo by Daytours4u
2. Make the combination: Argentina + Uruguay
To take a trip to Uruguay having explored the vintage cosmopolitan wonders of Buenos Aires is much more common than you might imagine. The tip here is to cross the expansive Rio de la Plata on board one of the many daily ferry services that depart from the port of Puerto Madero, and arrive into either Colonia del Sacramento or the capital, Montevideo. To learn all about the various ways in which you can make this short journey, take a look at this article.
Enjoy the great roads of Uruguay and explore the country at your own pace / Photo by Daytours4u
3. Renting a car
Signposted roads, short distances, and a tricky to master public transportation system together make the idea of renting a car in Uruguay very appealing – you can discover the country at your own pace, in your own time. The only possible drawback comes for those planning to hire a car in either Brazil or Argentina, and then venture on into Uruguay – this is not possible, for Uruguayan law requires that drivers must rent within the country’s borders. If this idea sounds tempting, be sure to bring with you a valid identity document (for example your passport), and a legitimate driver’s license.
Walk through Montevideo’s ‘Old City’ and discover the capital’s magic / Photo by Daytours4u
4. Create your own travel map
From North to South, East to West, Uruguay is home to an array of tours and activities. Pinpoint the destinations you want to see, trace your route on a map, and enjoy the adventure.
Elegant architecture, avant-garde museums, and a simply stunning waterfront: Montevideo is a quiet and eclectic capital city and deserves 2 to 3 nights on your itinerary.
Visit the beautiful Ciudad Vieja, uncover the aromas of Mercado del Puerto, delve into the unconventional delights of Museo del Carnaval, and gaze upon the striking neoclassical Palacio Legislativo.
Take a serene stroll down La Rambla, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, rent a bike and make a day of cruising along the city’s breathtaking coastline.
Sample the delicious chivito; the sandwich-style national dish of Uruguay that combines a thin slice of filet mignon, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, olives, bacon, eggs, and ham, to create some of the best mouthfuls of food you will ever have.
Indulge yourself with a wine-tasting tour to the vineyards just outside the city and taste the spicy tannins of the region’s renowned Tannat reds.
Colonia del Sacramento is a small piece of paradise / Photo by Daytours4u
The highlight of this quaint town tucked away in the south-west corner of the country is undoubtedly the picturesque historical district.
Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this colonial backwater displays various well-preserved traces of the early Portuguese settlers that came here in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is today a place of charm and mystery, myth and legend.
Wander through the iconic wooden drawbridge of Portón de Campo, relax on the grassy slopes of the ancient city walls, unwind in the scenic Plaza Mayor, and amble down the famous cobblestoned streets.
Enjoy some great panoramic views of the surrounding area from atop the town’s most prominent landmark, El Faro (The Lighthouse) and then make you way to the riverbank to watch the sun set over the Rio de la Plata.
Take a tour outside the city to soak in the quaint delights of Carmelo; a place of beautiful beaches, fragranced forests, and numerous water sports.
Choose the setting of Casapueblo to enjoy the spectacular sunsets in Montevideo / Image Source
The darling of upper-class lifestyle, Punta del Este is full of luxurious 5-star hotels, a yacht playground to rival Monte Carlo, and golden sands to compete with the Caribbean.
Be under no illusions, this will be the most costly stop on your itinerary, but the city does offer a range of affordable accommodation options and a nightlife scene that is not overly pricey.
Visit the magical Casapueblo built by Uruguayan architect Paez Vilaró, meander down the exclusive shopping street of Avenida Gorlero, admire the dazzling blue facades of Candelaria Church, and marvel at the modern sculptures on Paseo de las Americas.
If you have a little more time in Punta, spend a day in Cabo Polonio and Mount Ombúes where you can explore some fascinating hidden landscapes.
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This represents just a small summary of everything there is to see in this small, almost forgotten country wedged between Brazil and Argentina. What Uruguay lacks in size, it more than makes up for in landscapes, history, traditions, and attractions. In the hands of Uruguay4u, you can delve into the Uruguayan culture and lifestyle and go home with some truly unique travel memories.
By Luiza Cavalcante, professional in Visual Arts and Image Technologies. Portuguese travel writer, passionate photographer and traveller / Translated by Simon Hall.