Uruguay Travel Guide
A small country wedged between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is a laid-back but modern country that is often overlooked by many travellers to South America.
Though it lacks the mountains of Argentina, and the brash and beautiful beaches of Brazil, it does possess colonial towns where the pace of life is deliciously slow, a capital city that lacks the chaos and stress that many other Latin American mega cities suffer from, and a series of beach resorts that go off in a big way every summer.
If you are looking for a nation to chill out in after a lengthy amount of time in either Argentina or Brazil, Uruguay is a great place to hang out for a month or so.
Currency: Uruguayan Pesos
Languages: Spanish, Brasilero (a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese)
What To Do
If you are entering Uruguay from Buenos Aires (there are many ferries that take you across the River Plate), Colonia del Sacramento is an outstanding destination to spend a couple of days.
Situated directly across from the river from the Argentine capital, its historic quarter is filled with cobblestone streets, churches, and other colonial period homes that played a big role in it being named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.
One of the best attractions of this quaint city is its old town gate, which has degraded over time to take on an aged look that makes for incredible pictures.
Once you have finished satisfying your appetite for history, head to Montevideo, Uruguay’s modern capital.
A visit of a few days should cover most of the attractions of Interest, the best of which include Plaza Independencia (includes the mausoleum of José Artigas, who played a pivotal role in securing the independence of Uruguay from Brazil back in the 19th century), Teatro Solis (a gorgeous 160 year old theater), Palacio Salvo (An exquisitely designed skyscraper that was the tallest building in South America when it was completed in 1928), and Palacio Estevez (the former presidential office, now a museum that chronicles the political history of this country).
Once you’ve finished exploring Montevideo, head eastward along the Atlantic coast to Piriapolis. A laid back beach town that pales in comparison to its larger cousin Punta Del Este further to the east, its top tourist attraction speaks to the outlandish extravagance of one of its wealthiest inhabitants.
In 1897, Francisco Piria completed the three-year construction of Castillo de Piria, a Renaissance-style castle that gave this industrialist a home that spoke to the stature he held in the local community.
Surrounded by lush gardens filled with terracotta statues and containing period furniture that makes this residence a home worthy of royalty, it is the best way to salvage a day disrupted by inclement weather in a town that is otherwise known for its beaches.
If you’re looking for a thriving social scene to go with your sun lounger, then planting your umbrella on the sands of Punta del Este is the best place for you and your traveling companions.
Best known for the sculpture Mano de Punta del Este (which can be found on Playa Brava), this town is best known as a popular summer time home for many of Argentina and Brazil’s rich and famous; keep your eyes peeled here, as DSLR-wielding paparazzi are everywhere.
Apart from having fun in the sun, there are also many restaurants, casinos and night clubs where you can gleefully light your travel budget on fire.
If the in-your-face nature of Punta Del Este isn’t your thing, then getting away to either Punta del Diablo or Cabo Polonio will help achieve your goal of complete relaxation.
In both locales, backpackers take precedence over the rolling suitcase crowd, as the bohemian theme of these Uruguayan fishing villages hold a unique appeal towards those traveling on a budget.
However, note that Cabo Polonio is much smaller and far more rustic than Punta del Diablo; many buildings here lack basic services like water, sewage, and electricity, making this place less than appealing to many flashpackers. Food needs to be brought in (there is only one small convenience store in town), as does cash, for this village also lacks an ATM.
Those that are into the hippie community will love it here though, as many that have gravitated here over the years have elected to stay, which has fostered close bonds among the regulars here.
What to Eat
If you are walking around Montevideo and your stomach is beginning to rumble, head into a cafe and order a Chivito.
A massive sandwich that has been dubbed the national dish of Uruguay, it consists of a thin piece of filet mignon, bacon, hard boiled eggs, ham, mozzarella cheese, and slices of tomato; all of this slathered in mayonnaise which is then wedged between two freshly baked buns, leading many to refer to this meal as a heart attack of a plate.
If this doesn’t scare you off though, you’ll be happy to know that once this monstrosity has taken up residence in your tummy, you won’t be hearing from it again for the rest of the day.
Those that arrive in Uruguay in winter often find themselves being chilled to the bone by relentless southern winds that whip in off the open Atlantic during this time of year. If you find yourself in this predicament, the homely stew known as Puchero will help fix this situation.
While this dish have its origins in Spain, bowls of Puchero that are served in Uruguay differ from those who served in the mother country by lacking chickpeas (they are not typically found in South America) and by having plenty of beef (cattle ranching is a very common profession in rural parts of Uruguay).
Finally, Uruguay shares the same love for Asado that their Argentine compatriots possess, which is something that a casual walk down the street of any town or city in Uruguay will confirm.
The Uruguayan style of barbecuing eschews the use of sauces, opting for a simple application of salt, and intense focus on grilling meat to perfection.
From humble grills in working-class neighborhoods, to gourmet steak houses where the upper-class enjoy some of the finest steak in the world, there’s a slab of meat at a price that will agree with your travel budget.