Tucked in the bottom of South America between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay might not be noticed by many foreign tourists (unless you’re from a neighboring country, of course) at first, but it’s totally worth your attention. There are beautiful places to visit, good food, and in just a week you can cover most of this tiny adorable country, the only country in South America which is completely outside the tropical climate.
Like most of Latin America, Uruguay was colonized by Spain in the 16 century. The country was disputed between Argentina and Brazil and carries a lot of Spanish influence, as well as Portuguese one at certain places. Uruguay’s small population means it’s possible to visit places without many people around – which provides amazing photos, and each of its’ 3 most popular cities will give you a different vibe and experience altogether. From tango shows in Montevideo to exploring the historical city of Colonia del Sacramento to enjoying the fancy restaurants and nightlife from Punta del Este, there is something for all types of people in the country.
The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo has a population of around 1.3 million people, nearly 1/3 of the population of the country. Located at the banks of the Rio de La Plata, a river so wide that you can easily confuse it with the Atlantic sea – you can’t see any land on the horizon! At the historical city center, you can visit Teatro Solis, the oldest theatre in Latin America, and several ancient building with a very interesting architecture. At the Mirador de la Intendencia, you can get a panoramic view of the whole city, and bicycles are available for rent at many hotels.
Ciclying at Las Ramblas is quite a pleasant experience, and if you have energy and time, you can cycle from the old historical city all the way to Pocitos, the most famous neighborhood in the city, where you can also click a picture with the Montevideo sign.
Montevideo is considered a city with high life quality in Latin America, and living costs can get quite expensive. Food at good restaurants in Montevideo is as expensive (if not more) than Sao Paulo, Brazil. Still, the Mercado del Puerto offers a great – and delicious – variety of Uruguayan food and barbecue.
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Scent of a Woman”, with Al Pacino, that iconic tango dance happened to the sound of Carlos Gardel, an Uruguayan musician. Tango was born at the border between Uruguay and Argentina and is still very popular in these countries. In Montevideo, there are several good tango shows, some that offer an Uruguayan barbecue dinner + tango show. The emotion and depth of the songs are unforgettable!
Punta Del Este
Punta Del Este is the main beach destination in the country, and quite popular among wealthy tourists in the Summer (from December until March). Fancy houses, shops, and restaurants are common, and if you’re in for gambling, you can visit the famous Conrad Casino and hotel (we actually made 92 dollars there! Ha!). It’s also the hot spot to enjoy posh clubs and an exciting nightlife, especially during the summer.
One of the main landmarks is “La Mano”, a sculpture at the beach just outside the bus station of a hand coming out of the sand. Another population location is Casa Pueblo, a house built by the famous Uruguayan architect Carlos Páez Vilaró. Nowadays, it works as a hotel and it’s the main place to enjoy a breath-taking sunset, which we had the misfortune to NOT be able to visit TWICE! I guess some things just aren’t meant to be, right?
Punta Del Este is located to the east of Montevideo, just a couple of hours away from the capital by bus, and can be explored on a day trip.
Colonia del Sacramento
A Portuguese historical small town in the Southwest of the country, Colonia del Sacramento is also a popular destination for people visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is located at the banks of the Rio de la Plata, and just one hour away from Buenos Aires by boat. The town is peaceful, calm, with beautiful colorful Portuguese style houses.
The best way to explore the city is to just walk around its historic quarter, explore the colorful little houses and have a long lunch at a nice restaurant by the sidewalk and contemplate the view. Like Punta Del Este, it can be explored on a day trip from Montevideo – it’s around 2 and a half hours by bus.