Thoughts on Uruguay

Sunset in Cabo Polonio

Uruguay was just a ‘maybe’ on our original rough plan for travelling, but we’re really glad we went. This little country sits between Argentina and Brazil on the Atlantic coast of South America. The main tourist attractions are along the coast, but we also managed to see a small part of the interior of the country. It is an interesting country, with a pretty liberal government and a more European outlook.

Birds taking flight over the sea by Cabo Polonio
Birds taking flight over the sea by Cabo Polonio

Uruguay is short of ‘must do’ attractions but the countryside and coastal scenery are beautiful. We enjoyed a week with a hire car exploring the coast, from the wild and rugged beaches in the north down to the more manicured beach resorts in the south. A real highlight was staying out in the sierra¬†at Caballos de Luz, getting to really enjoy horse-riding and experience life off-grid.

Buildings on the seafront in Colonia
Buildings on the seafront in Colonia

We also enjoyed the towns and cities. Montevideo, the capital, is fairly small and easy to explore. There were a few interesting museums and a promenade by the water where we joined Uruguayans cycling and enjoying the last of the summer weather. Colonia-del-Sacramento is a picturesque town, with a fantastic crumbling colonial centre with some of the best restaurants and bars on our trip.

Taking a rest from riding (Lucie waving in the background!)
Taking a rest from riding (Lucie waving in the background!)

We visited at the end of their summer and experienced the very polar nature of Uruguayan tourism. Our first week was ‘semana tourisma’ (Easter week), and we found the capital bizarrely quiet, all the locals having headed further round the coast for their holidays. The coast also attracts large numbers of Argentines and Brazilians in the summer. That week we found accommodation outside of the city hard to find, we used Airbnb as we found hostel prices were really inflated. Our second week we were suddenly into off season, with hardly any tourists at all. This did leave us struggling a little to find places to eat and drink that weren’t deserted!

Buying presents at the market
Buying presents at the market

The people we met in Uruguay really made our stay complete. They were friendly and helpful, from taxi drivers to mechanics and our Airbnb hosts, and of course at the fantastic horse ranch we stayed on. We had open and honest conversations with locals about their lives, their neighbours of Argentina and Brazil, how we found Uruguay and all sorts of topics. We felt very welcome.

This little and relatively unknown (outside of South America) country is definitely worthy of a place on any South American trip. With a more developed feel, similar in places to that of Chile, but also with the small-country accessibility of Ecuador, it was a lovely place to relax on our last two weeks away.

Author: Alex Greenwood

Traveller, muddy gardener, sustainability consultant

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