Quieter than its neighbours Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay offers the laid-back traveller an idyllic escape. Uruguay is petite yet packed with pristine beaches, sophisticated cities and vibrant nightlife. From the cobbled streets of Colonia to the cultural hub of Montevideo, and from the expanse of gaucho country to the glistening Atlantic coast, it’s one of South America’s most beautiful, diverse and under-discovered destinations.
Uruguay hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930.
Montevideo is home to almost half the population.
Almost 90% of Uruguayans are of European descent.
At 514 metres, Cerro Catedral is Uruguay’s highest point.
What to see
Montevideo is a melting pot of old and new influences. The Old Town is filled with historic architecture, cobbled streets and bustling squares, the east of the city is a metropolis of soaring skyscrapers, while the sophisticated seafront is an upmarket haven dotted with sandy beaches.
Punta del Este beaches
Known as the St Tropez of South America, this stretch of gorgeous coastline attracts the great and good of South American society. It’s a player’s paradise of white sands, sea-view restaurants and exciting watersports. The beaches at Playa Mansa, Las Delicias and Pinares are considered to be among the most stunning, while Bikini and La Barra are best suited to party people.
Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento is a city located in southwestern Uruguay, by the Rio de la Plata. It’s the oldest town in the Uruguay and is a myriad of cobbled streets and picturesque, tree-lined plazas.
Colonia Suiza is a 19th century Swiss settlement located to the west of the capital with pretty chalets, tree-shaded squares - and produces excellent dairy products to sample.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Cabo Polonio is a hamlet that lies on the tip of a moon-sliver shaped peninsula on the Atlantic coast. Its expansive sand dunes are excellent for trekking, and its waters are home to a rich marine life and pretty lighthouse.
Head to Minas, the capital of the Lavalleja Department, for an unforgettable hike among its beautiful hill ranges. The nearby hilltop village of Villa Serrana is also well worth a visit.
Uruguay is home to some of the world’s most beautiful stretches of sand. Top up your tan on the relaxed shores of Punta del Diablo or dabble in windsurfing, waterskiing or fishing at one of the idyllic beaches at Punto del Este.
Montevideo’s Tristán Narvaja market is held every Sunday and is filled with fascinating stalls selling everything from antiques to artisan crafts.
Join the dancing and street-drumming at the dynamic Afro-Uruguayan Carnival, held in Montevideo in February
When to go
Weather and Seasons: Uruguay enjoys a fabulously mild climate. Summer stretches from December to April, and is the most popular time to visit. Beaches can get crowded at this time of year, particularly in January and February, when temperatures can hit highs of 30 degrees. During winter temperatures remain mild, rarely dipping below freezing, but there can be the occasional bout of rain and wind.
Important Dates and Festivals: Popular events in the Uruguayan calendar include Beer Week, Semana de la Cerveza (held during April in Paysandú), Montevideo’s thrilling Carnival, and La Noche del la Nostaligia, held in August - a chance to explore Uruguay’s rich musical and cultural heritage.
Getting there / around
Flights: London to Montevideo takes around 18 hours, with a connecting flight from Madrid or São Paulo.
Boat: Montevideo harbour is a major Europe and USA cruise ship destination.
Car: If you’re travelling over land from Argentina the main entry points are Paysandú, Paysandú and Fray Bentos.
Coach: Coach is an excellent way to tour the country, with major domestic routes across western, eastern and northern Uruguay.
Car: Drivers must be between the ages of 23 and 75 years. Car hire is widely available from Carrasco and Punta del Este airports, and in most major cities.
Taxi: Taxi fares increase by 20% at night, during weekends and public holidays.
7-night stay: A week is ample time for a whistlestop tour of Uruguay’s highlights. Start in Colonia, before taking in the sights of Montevideo, finally heading to Punta del Este and its world famous beaches.
14-night stay: Add an extra week to really see Uruguay at its best. Begin in Montevideo and spend a few days touring its charming Old Town and progressive eastern region. Next, hire a car and take the 2.5 hour drive to Colonia and enjoy two to three nights in its cobbled town centre. Turn back to Montevideo and continue along the coast to Jose Ignacio, a cute fishing village complete with perfect sandy beach. Continue along the coast and visit the sand dunes of Cabo Polonio before looping back to your start point.
Most traditional restaurants in Uruguay are called parrilladas and serve delicious charcoal-grilled cuisine. Seafood restaurants are also in abundance, particularly along the Atlantic coast. Keep a lookout for barbecued Bife de chorizo(rump steak) and asado de tira(ribs) and the delicious Morcilla dulce, a sweet sausage made from blood, spiced with orange peel. Other delicacies include the mighty Chivito, a steak sandwich served with cheese, olives and pickles, and wonderfully rich Dulce de lechesweets.
Montevideo is the leader in terms of Uruguayan culture, with regular ballet, tango, theatre and classical music concerts between March and January at the Teatro Solis and Sala Zitarrosa. Clubs and casinos abound, with key dancing areas including Pocitos and Carrasco and gambling hotspots outside the capital at Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento.
Uruguayan Peso (UYU).
British, Canadian, Australian, EU and USA nations do not require a Visa to enter the country.
No particular vaccinations recommended.
Safety, FO travel advice
FO travel advice: Generally safe.
Useful Telephone NumbersUruguayan country representatives can be found
in the UK at2nd Floor, 140 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW31HY. Tel: 0207 589 8835.
and in the US at 1913 \"I\" Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20006. Tel: 202 331 1313.
For more information visit: www.alllabouturkey.com and http://www.turismo.gub.uy/.
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