República Oriental del Uruguay is a relatively small country with 3,3million people. It’s known for its progressive social policies that resulted in a rather extensive public health system, nearly 100% access to running water as well as relatively high income per capita. According to World Bank, the country “stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high income per capita, low level of inequality and poverty and the almost complete absence of extreme poverty”. There are therefore quite a few interesting things about this small friendly nation to talk about before we get on listing places to visit in Uruguay.
Understanding the culture
What do you know about Uruguay and Montevideo? If you are a football fan, you might be able to drop few names from their current successful generation of players. If you are into politics, you might know that it’s the most liberal country in South America, especially when it comes to women’s choices regarding the reproduction process.
You might also remember their Volkswagen beetle-driving sympathetic former president José “Pepe” Mujica AKA the World’s most humble president because of his modest lifestyle as well as because he kept donating his presidential salary to charity. And if you’re <insert the label you find suitable here>, you could also know that that marijuana is not illegal in Uruguay.
I however bet that you didn’t know what does the word Uruguay means in Guaraní, the indigenous language that used to be spoken in the region. The early translations believed that Uruguay stood for ‘river of the painted (or colourful) birds’. The more recent interpretations however apparently state that “Uruguay” stands for “shell”, while the “y” remains being “river”.
When it comes to people, Uruguayans are known to be very friendly. There might be some resemblance with their southern neighbours if we’re talking about their accent as well as several cultural items, such as Tango, steaks, maté and so on. Uruguayans are however somewhat melancholic if compared to the more energetic and extrovert Argentinians.
However, Uruguay is also the only Latin country without any existent indigenous population. The semi-nomadic Charrúas, who lived in these lands for approximately 4 000 years, were not eliminated by European diseases and soldiers were all massacred by Uruguayan forces but we’ll get to that in the next chapter, where we’ll talk about some major events from Uruguayan history.
Basic history of Uruguay
Uruguay’s journey to becoming a country with one of the most stable economies, in the region, wasn’t easy. Like every country in Latin Americas (well – the whole world really but we’re now in Latin World), Uruguay also had their fair share of twists, turns, coups, wars and military dictatorships. La Plata basin was a rather strategic trade-route post to control and the country’s history was therefore affected by ongoing fights between the influential neighbouring colonial powers.
From everything I’ve read about the country’s history, I’d say that the earliest significant historical event linked to colonisation took place in 1516 when the indigenous people killed the first conquistador Juan Diaz de Solis, who tried to “explore” Rio de la Plata. His death, together with the absence of gold and silver in the area limited the settlement in the region for more than a century to come. However, being squeezed in between the interests of Spain and Portugal, Uruguay soon became a zone of tension between those two influential empires.
Following the introduction of cattle, which was to become a source of wealth in the region from the early 17th century, the first permanent settlements began to appear. Spanish founded Soriano in 1624, which was followed by Portuguese built Colonia del Sacramento in 1680. It would then take few more decades for Montevideo to be founded (1726). The same year Spanish took the over the land from their Portuguese counterparts, killing many of the indigenous people in a process.
Independence and Wars
The dominant and expansive neighbours, as well as their Napoleonic Wars in Europe, made the country’s road to independence rather eventful. In 1776, Uruguay become a part of the enormous territory called Viceroyalty of La Plata, which comprised the territory of today’s Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Due to being the easternmost territory of the Viceroyalty, Uruguay was then called Banda Oriental del Uruguay.
The country felt the first taste of independence on 18 May 1811, when a national hero José Gervasio Artigas defeated the Viceroyalty’s forces at the Battle of Las Piedras. However, Artigas‘ federative ambition was not accepted by the newly created council in Buenos Aires, which decided to pursue a unitary centralist system instead. As a result of that, Artiga seized Montevideo in early 1815 and appointed the first autonomous government of Banda Oriental, only to be defeated by Portuguese troops a year later.
The following events were even messier because Brazil gained its independence from Portugal so there was a new ambitious player in the area. So pretty much immediately after being squeezed right in between the expansive policies of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial powers, instead of getting some breathing space, Uruguay was about to suffer some more, only this time it was to be from the expansive policies of its new “independent” neighbouring powers in the region: Argentina and Brazil. Out of the frying pan, into the fire, right?
Consequentially, it wasn’t long and all that geopolitical mess led to a war, that is remembered as Cisplatine War (1825-1828). To cut this very twisted and complicated story short, these bloody events were finally concluded through the British diplomatic efforts in a Treaty of Montevideo. As a result of that, on 25 August 1828, present-day Uruguay became an independent state. Two years later, on 18 July 1830, the country introduced its first constitution.
Post-Independence Civil Conflicts, Genocide, Military Coups and more Wars
Not even a year later, on 11 April 1831, the army led by the president’s brother Bernabé Rivera attacked the gathering of the main indigenous (Charrúa) chiefs after getting them drunk first, apparently. The order was given by Uruguay’s president and a national independence hero, AKA freedom fighter, Fructuoso Rivera. History remembers as the Slaughter of Salsipuedes.
In the meantime, Uruguay’s political scene become dominated by two parties: the National Party Blancos (Whites), supported by the agricultural interests and Colorados (Reds), supported by the urban business interests in Montevideo. The divide between the parties led by its independence leaders, Manuel Oribe and Fructoso Rivera, brought the country to a Civil War, known as Guerra Grande (1839-1851).
All sorts of interventions that followed, ranging from Argentina, Brazil, France, Britain, Italy and Paraguay are too complex to describe what was going on in the region during this troubled period. The conflict however kept going in various shapes and forms to devastate the country even further.
And as if there wasn’t enough blood and confusion, between 1864 and 1870, Uruguay joined Argentina and Brazil in the war against Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance, which became the bloodiest conflict in Latin America’s history. But let’s move on from wars to the more positive elements of Uruguayan history.
I don’t mean to downplay the significance of any of these events, especially in the context of the loss of lives and tragedy that came with it. It’s just that the Uruguayan history from this period is too complicated to squeeze it into this article, while the reasons for all that violence are still the same as in every other war: wealth and power.
If you’re interested in conflicts and wars, please look into the sources section below or click on the links above, they should provide you with a lot of reading material, including the 1933 Military Coup that followed the effects of the Great Depression in the region.
Perhaps, I should mention one more war-related event, which was the dramatic story of the first naval battle of WW2 that took place near the Uruguayan coast that included 3 British and one German ship. The incident concluded with the suicide of the German Captain, following the 72 hours ultimatum to leave the neutral port of Montevideo, where he sought refuge with his damaged ship after the battle.
First major social reforms
Following so much blood and tragedy, I would therefore prefer to look at different and more happy aspects of Uruguayan history instead, as mentioned above. After all, history is filled with wars while there were so many other events we seem to overlook sometimes. Anyway, many locals would agree that if one wants to search for more positive elements in Uruguayan history from this turbulent period, the best would be to start with Señor José Batlle y Ordóñez.
In the wake of the 20th century, this reformist liberal president introduced the country to several progressive policies, among which the most significant were: the right of women to vote in elections (12 years before France!), high school education, 8-hour workdays, abolishment of the death penalty, the introduction of the welfare state and many more. Up to this day, Ordóñez is still one of the most favourite presidents of Uruguay.
Another historical event that is worth mentioning would take us to the 60s when Uruguay suffered from the economic crisis and social unrest. By 1962, inflation was running at a historically high 35%. Among other protest groups, a movement called Tupamaros emerged. The name is derived from the revolutionary Túpac Amaru II, who led a major indigenous revolt against the Spanish colonialists in 17th century Peru.
After such an introduction, you can guess that we’re talking about a left-wing group of people. Their activities were literally Robin Hood-like. I’m talking about things that technically qualify as terrorist activities, such as robbing banks and distributing money in poor neighbourhoods. Later it grew further, adding also political kidnappings and attacks on security forces on their menu.
The legendary president José “Pepe” Mujica was an active member of the group back then. Like it or not. It’s kind of romantic and it’s kind of terrorism at the same time, like Robin Hood or anyone who used force against the regime, whether you think it was morally right or wrong. Is it really like that? How about freedom fighters or whistleblowers?
Where is the thin line between terrorism and freedom fighting or exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity? Who determines that? Anyway, enough of philosophy – let’s get back to Tupamaros and Uruguayan history. Many of the group members were killed by the Uruguayan army in the early 70s and many others remained in prison, including the “World’s most humble president”, who stayed behind the bars until 1985.
Other significant events of modern Uruguay in a timeline
- 1972 – Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashes into the Andes, leaving 16 survivors, mainly members of the Uruguayan rugby team trapped for 10 weeks, forcing them to eat the flesh of the deceased passengers to survive. You might have seen the feature film Alive (1993) about this incredible horror survival story
- 1973 – following yet another military coup, Uruguay becomes known as “the torture chamber of Latin America” by accumulating the largest number of political prisoners per capita in the world
- 1984 – violent protests against the repression of the Civic-Military dictatorship and deteriorating economic conditions
- 1985 – on 2 February 1985, Uruguay finally became a constitutional democracy
- 2002 – Uruguay introduces radical emergency measures in order to prevent Argentina’s financial crisis to spread over the border. Taxes were increased, banks got temporarily shut to stop mass withdrawal of people’s savings and a general strike to protest the economic crisis followed
- 2003 – The World Bank loans more than $250m to Uruguay
- 2003 – Uruguayans reject plans to open up state oil monopoly to foreign investment in a referendum
- 2006 – Uruguay pays off its debt to the IMF
- 2009 – Uruguayan Supreme Court rules a law that protected the officials of the former military government from prosecution for human rights abuses is unconstitutional. As a consequence, the former military ruler Gregorio Alvarez is sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder and human rights violations. Former dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry is sentenced to 30 years in prison a year later
- 2010 – World’s most humble President Jose Mujica takes office
- 2012 – after Cuba, Uruguay becomes the first country in religious Latin America to legalise abortion for all women. Prior to the legalisation of abortion in Uruguay, the punishment for undergoing the procedure was 3-12 months in prison, while performing an abortion was punishable by 6-24 months in prison. The amount of punishment depended on the judge and the circumstances of the accused, such as the risk for the woman’s life, rape, family honour or particular economic standards of the accused
- 2012 – thanks to the ‘One Laptop Per Child‘ program, Uruguay becomes the first country to provide every school child with a free laptop and wireless Internet
- 2013 – Uruguay Congress approves gay marriage bill. In the same year, the country also passes the law to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The goal was to take the profit away from the criminal drug dealing gangs and offer an alternative for the smokers not to support the criminal gangs. As a matter a fact, the country hasn’t recorded an increase in marijuana users, while it enjoys a decrease in drug gang-related crimes. Please note that the legalisation only concerns the registered Uruguayan citizens
As I’ve mentioned above, food is among the few things the country culturally shares with their southern neighbour. I am not implying that both cuisines are exactly the same or that one is better than another. On the contrary, it would be an exceptionally difficult job to take sides if such competition took place, only because both cuisines are exceptionally yummy if you are a meat eater…
Like in Argentina, Uruguay is also a country influenced by mass immigration, mostly from the Mediterranean region. Together with the dominant cattle farming tradition in the region, it, therefore, plays a role when it comes to the local cuisine. If you’re interested in someone else’s take on Uruguayan culinary experience, here‘s what David Hammond, an expat living in the country considers to be 30 favourite dishes in Uruguay.
In case you were a vegetarian, please note that this article’s main focus is the country’s traditional cuisine, which often contains meat. Most meals listed below will therefore not concern you, at least from the customer’s point of view, they won’t. In case you were interested, here are some tips for vegetarians written by Ann Thompson on the Real Estate In Uruguay site.
- Asado is Uruguayan national dish. For the less cuisine-educated Westerner it might be reminiscent of – let’s call it – “a special BBQ”, however in Uruguay asado represents a small but significant part of national identity as it normally serves a purpose a social occasion, rather than just a meal. Uruguayans would therefore argue that asado is much more than just a barbecue. But unless you have friends or family in the country, most likely you will be able only to try the meal itself, rather than witnessing the whole event. FYI, we’re talking cuts of various grilled meats, mostly beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, and morcilla (blood sausage) accompanied by salads and the ever-present red wine
- Empanadas. Like in every country in the whole Latin region, empanadas are also common in Uruguay. The word literally translates as “coated in bread”, so we’re generally talking about something that can be best compared to a Cornish pasty with cooked fillings. After visiting Chile and Argentina, I’ve tried my first fried empanada in Uruguay, although they also do a baked version. The fillings remain rather similar, mostly made of chicken/minced beef with egg/ham&cheese and/or vegetables
- Corvina is a popular fish commonly caught in South Atlantic. Its white meat is rather firm and it reminded me of sea bass a little. You can get it mostly grilled, pan-fried, deep-fried or get it in a delicious stew
- Choripán is yummy street food, which is basically something like a posh chorizo sandwich topped with chimichurri sauce
- Milanesa is a thin breaded meat cutlet that’s popular all around Latin World which you can also find in Italy (hence the name) and Central Europe
- Chivito is something like Spanish bocadillo with steak AKA french baguette kind of sandwich with beef, a lot of salad, egg and various sauces (mostly it’s chimichurri though)
- Dulce de Leche is a custardy but rather than vanilla its a caramel-like sweet milky-saucy thingy you can enjoy as a dessert in most Latin American countries
- Bizcochos are nice little pastries one can get in literally every bakery in the country. Depending on the bakery’s recipe, they are taking many shapes and forms, reminiscent to mini croissants or small bums, they could come plain, with ham&cheese or with jam or with Dulce de Leche
- Tortas Fritas are sweet treats somewhat similar to tortillas, just made with classic flour, rather than cornflower. I’ve tried their sweet breakfasty version with Dulce de Leche
- Chimichurri is a popular sauce in the whole of Latin America. It comes in either green or red version. The green one is made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar. The red one normally consists of tomato and red bell pepper
- Maté sticks out from this list for two reasons: for not being a meal, but mainly for its literally ever-present status in Uruguay and some neighbouring countries. All I can tell you is that during your visit, you’ll have a chance to try one with the friendly locals at some point 😉
Tourism in Uruguay
Due to the rather high travelling expenses, if compared to the rest of the region, Uruguay’s tourism often comprises domestic expenditures. The country’s positive safety reputation however attracts quite a few better-off Argentinians and Brazilians as well as an increasing number of retirees from the North Americas. The latter groups are however mostly concentrate in the country’s major resorts such as Punta del Este.
Uruguay presents itself as a ‘sun&sand’ destination, and to be fair its coastline is filled with a variety of spectacular places to visit, ranging from resorts, through national parks, up to ‘hippie’ havens. There’s also a growing trend of rural and winery tourism. It is worth mentioning that Uruguay was also included in Earth Island Journal‘s “The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations.” of 2012, which takes environmental protection, social welfare and human rights into consideration when creating its recommendations.
When to visit Uruguay
Uruguay has a humid subtropical climate. The country can be visited pretty much all year round, but the high season is obviously in the summer, which is late December to February. But if you are like me and prefer more relaxing conditions and less crowded places, consider planning your trip for between the months of October and December. Average temperatures apparently are 17-20°C in the spring and autumn, 20-25°C in summer and about 12°C in the winter. Here are more details about the country’s climate, in case you were interested.
Uruguay is one of the safest countries in Latin America, which is the reason why many Argentinians and Brazilians like to spend their vacations here. According to the Global Peace Index, Uruguay ranks at 35th position (October 2021), which is 6 positions ahead of the UK. But then again, statistical data are not to be relied upon equally in every corner of the country. Like nearly everywhere else in the World, metropolitan areas are of course a different story, if compared to various rural regions or national parks.
I have personally haven’t sensed any danger, except for the later hours at the old town (Ciudad Vieja) of Montevideo. As soon as all the banks and offices closed, the police presence got reduced for the Plaza Independencia, the central Sarandi street, and the crowded Mercado del Puerto. Anyway, I’ve felt seen and observed so the old town appeared rather “get out of here” to me with the nightfall. Overall, I’d say that Montevideo still felt safer than most Latin cities I’ve visited.
As for every other destination I’ve visited in the country, I’ve felt pretty much as safe as I would feel anywhere in Europe. Saying all that, it doesn’t mean that one should let his or her guards completely down. Always proceeded with caution, use common sense and don’t flash your valuables, especially if your looks are different to an average local. Some useful general travel safety tips could be found in this piece, in case you were interested.
Popular places to visit in Uruguay
Tip: The red links are Google Maps location links so you can see WHERE we're talking about. If you are signed into your Google account and if any of the listed places sounded like your cup of tea, just click "want to go". Such move could help you to create your own itinerary, not to mention other benefits, such as user reviews or the practical implications of knowing how to get around once you're at the location.
Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento is a pretty little town right across the Plata river from Buenos Aires. Due to its size (pop 27000) and its close proximity to the Argentinian capital, people usually opt for a one day visit to stroll its charming colonial centre, which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1995.
The whole historical quarter is walkable on foot and one needs less than a half-day to explore it. There are few landmark-ish monuments to see, such as the old town gate, the main town’s square Plaza de Armas, you can perhaps wander into the aquarium as well as one of the town’s beaches. Just by wandering around, you won’t be able to miss the popular El Faro lighthouse and another photographers’ favourite spot, Calle de Los Suspiros.
The general laidback vibe of the place is created by friendly locals, its picturesque cobbled streets and small squares filled with numerous wonderful cosy restaurants and cafés. Furthermore, Colonia has also quite a few museums and art galleries to consider.
Only about 180 kilometres further down the road from Colonia, we’d reach Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. The city comes with some great wine bars, tango, cafés, restaurants, beaches and much more. Unless you have friends in town, one of the best ways to explore Montevideo‘s unique beauty and charm would IMHO be taking one of the numerous walking tours that are available in pretty much every hostel. Those are often enriched by a presence of an informative bubbly guide with insider knowledge of the city.
In case you wanted to explore the city by yourself, make sure not to skip the Plaza Independencia with the iconic Palacio Salvo, from where you can carry on for a stroll around the historical quarter (Ciudad Vieja), where you can grab a coffee in one of the stylish cafés, then check out some of the museums in the area, and finally enjoy lunch or dinner at the popular Mercado del Puerto.
People seem to like visiting the historical fort that used to guard the city in early-mid 19th century Fortaleza Del Cerro. Except for being 139 m above sea level, which delivers quite good vistas of the city, there’s also a military museum you could visit. Back in town, another popular activity is to check out La Rambla, which is an avenue that goes all along the coastline of the city, where locals like to socialize, jog and so on. The friendly locals will very likely ask you to share Yerba Maté around the city’s parks or beaches along La Rambla.
Culture-wise, I’d also suggest checking out the folk dance Candombe, the UNESCO World’s Cultural Heritage, and then, of course, you shouldn’t miss out on tango, which btw belongs to Uruguay the same way it belongs to Argentina. Of course that there are many more things to do, see and experience in Montevideo. In case you were interested, here‘s Quaint Planet‘s comprehensive guide to the city. For an “Insider’s guide to Montevideo“ click here to check out the well written and informative piece about some places to hang around, by María Zanocchi in The Guardian 😉
Let’s stay on the coastline and get a 90-minute drive eastwards from Montevideo to get to our next stop. Piriápolis was founded in 1893 and according to Uruguay Natural portal “the plan to attract the Uruguayan and Argentinean aristocracy of the late nineteenth century.” The place certainly became one of the major summer resorts in Uruguay. It is filled with hotels and large casinos.
The town comes with some spectacular architecture, especially when it comes to its waterfront promenade. From the materials I’ve read, it’s worth checking out the huge Argentino Hotel and Castillo de Piria. Speaking for myself, this isn’t really my scene so I gave it a pass, but in case you wanted to find out more information, please click here.
Punta del Este
Only a short 30 minute ride eastwards would take us to Uruguay’s largest resort Punta del Este AKA sort of Monaco of South America. We’re talking upper-class kind of destination with casinos, yachts, beaches and a lot of tourists. It’s even more expensive than the rest of the country. The vibe and the price tags, therefore, decided for me, making it yet another location I’ve decided to skip this place as well.
FYI, I have nothing against it, it’s just that such places weren’t exactly as I wanted to explore in Latin America. The only thing I sort of regret is that I’ve skipped Casapueblo, which is an interesting building constructed by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, only 13km away from the town westwards. Anyway, here‘s The Guardian‘s take on the city, with some useful tips, in case you were interested.
Let’s move on further away on the coastline then. Travelling only about 50km north-east would take us to what feels like a different world if compared to the resorts we are coming from. Laguna Garzon is mostly known for its ring-shaped bridge, designed by the famous Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, who’s mostly known for the Walkie Talkie building in London. Except for the bridge, there’s just the lagoon, the Atlantic, some migratory birds, local fishermen and few surfers.
Further 80 kilometres up the coastline would get us to a small fishermen village, La Paloma. The village itself has just over 5 thousand inhabitants. It comes with a cute handicrafts market, lighthouse, a cinema as well as plenty of bars and restaurants. Let’s not forget to mention the multiple beaches and Laguna de Rocha. I’m told that La Paloma is a popular destination for domestic tourists. More information is here.
Sierras de Rocha
Let’s leave the coastline and head inland for a change. Only about 20 minutes ride from the municipal capital Rocha, we’d enter the zone to be enjoyed by tourists that like to visit rural destinations. If you’re into ecotourism, horseback riding, exotic walks, natural pools, mountain biking and so on, this could be just the place for you. More information is here, in case you were interested.
Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo
OK, back on the coastline’s Ruta 10, slowly heading north towards the Brazilian border. There are two more places of interest ahead of us to mention, especially for those who are fans of – let’s call it – alternative lifestyles. Only 45 minutes up the road from La Paloma, we’d reach Parque Nacional de Cabo Polonio. The park comes with dunes, coastal forest, wetlands, islands and sandy beaches facing both, sunset as well as sunrise.
And at the tip of the park, there’s also a lighthouse with a small colony of seals as well as few small semi-legal settlements with few permanent residents who turn their dwellings into hostels and/or bars that’s to be enjoyed by liberal arty crowds during the high season. In case this was your cup of tea, you could chill on the beach, sip on a beer and enjoy the incredible skies in the middle of the night.
About 70 kilometres further up the road, we’d reach our final coastline destination in Uruguay. Punta del Diablo is a fast-growing town only 40 km south of the Brazilian border. Apart from being a very party-friendly location, the area comes with beautiful beaches, epic walks among huge rocks and dunes and Santa Teresa National Park. More details about Punta del Diablo as well as Cabo Polonio could be found here.
Off the beaten path
Theoretically speaking, except for the few resorts mentioned above, the whole country could have been called an “off the beaten path” destination only a few decades ago, because Uruguay used to be sort of an underdog when it comes to tourism in Latin America. Its beautiful and mostly tranquil seaside are however picking up ever since, in spite of the rather steep prices in the country. Regardless of the philosophical debate about what exactly is “off the beaten path”, I’ve decided to list a few inland destinations in Uruguay, where you most likely won’t meet many international tourists.
- Chamangá: A Rock Paintings Area. According to UNESCO: “The area of Chamangá, located in the Province of Flores is characterised for having the greatest concentration of pictographic sites from Uruguay. The potential of this place in relation to these types of archaeological areas is confirmed day after day with the constant increase in the number of findings.” More details are here, in case you were interested
- Carmelo. If we’ve decided to travel the other direction from Colonia del Sacramento, in about 90 minutes, we would get to this riverside town with cobbled streets, nice 19th-century architecture by the delta of river Paraná
- Fray Bentos. Another few hours of travelling up the river would take us to Fray Bentos. Yes, we’re talking about a town called Fray Bentos, after which the British corned meat brand is called. FYI, the former factory was rather unique, up to the level that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s a nice descriptive piece about the town, the factory as well as the local legend in The Guardian, in case you were interested, find it here
- Salto. Around four more hours of travelling up the river would take us to Uruguay’s second-largest city. Salto is a very hot and humid riverside town with 19th-century architecture. There are few attractions to visit, such as ZOO, quite nice waterfront promenades and thermal hot-springs Termas del Dayman, in case you wanted to explore the area. FYI, I’ve only appeared here to cross the border on my way from Montevideo to Iguazú Falls. I’ve made a decision to explore the neighbouring Argentinian town of Concordia. Although Concordia would definitely fulfil the definition of “off the beaten path” destination (for all wrong reasons), next time, I’d spent more time in much nicer Salto instead. More info about the town could be found here. Btw, in case you were a football (AKA soccer) fan, please note that Salto is the hometown of both famous Uruguayan strikers: Luis Suárez and Edison Cavani 😉
- Artigas. On the tourist maps, Artigas is mainly known for Safari Minero AKA Mines Tourism. More info could be found here
- Tacuarembó. In case you wanted to get to know more about the gaucho culture or you wanted to visit the museum dedicated to one of the most prominent figures of tango Carlos Gardel, this north-central town is the place to go. More info is here, in case you were interested…
With its 176,215 km2, Uruguay is a relatively small country by South American standards. Just for comparison, Uruguay is only a wee bit smaller than Missouri state or about 1,3 times bigger than Greece. Price-wise, it’s however Manhattan of South America, if you know what I mean. Except for its steep prices, it is however very culturally rich, passionate, progressive and extraordinarily friendly country to visit. Speaking for myself, I’d definitely love to come back to Uruguay one day.
Uruguay has its borders apparently open to visitors from all countries and it should be rather easy to enter the country. On rare occasions, some people, such as citizens of India have to apply for tourist visas but this visa is free of charge. My best advice is to double-check your entry requirements with your government’s pages or at Uruguayan Embassy or Consulate nearby.
Sources and possible further reading for a curious reader
Culture, language and demographics
- Demographics: Here‘s the demographic profile of Uruguay, according to Index Mundi
- Indigenous population: Learn more about the indigenous Charrúa people here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- Culture in Uruguay: history, people, traditions, women, beliefs, food, according to World Culture Encyclopedia could be found here
- Tango: Chriss Moss writes about tango in Montevideo in The Guardian
- Candombe: Here‘s what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about this folk dance of African ancestry
- Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata: Here‘s Encyclopedia Britannica‘s post about this historical area
- Banda Oriental del Uruguay: Read more about the then province here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- José Gervasio Artigas: Read more about the Uruguayan revolutionary here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- Battle of Las Piedras: Read more about the history as well as the annual celebration of this historical event here on A Global World website
- Cisplatine War: Read more about the 1825-1828 war between Argentina and Brazil here on the Global Security website
- Treaty of Montevideo: Find out more about this successful diplomatic effort here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- Slaughter of Salsipuedes: Learn more about this shameful ethnic cleansing operation here by Pablo Albarenga in his piece for El País (in English)
- Guerra Grande: Read more about the 1839-1851 Uruguayan Civil War here on Encyclopedia.com
- War of the Triple Alliance: Learn more about this 1864 – 1870 conflict here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- 1933 Coup: Learn more about the 1933 Military Coup, led by President Terra here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- Battle of the River Plate: Read more about the events from December 1939 here on Wiki
- José Batlle y Ordóñez: Read more about this popular figure in Uruguayan politics here on Encyclopedia Britannica
- Tupamaros: Here‘s Shirley Christian post written for NY Times about the movement
- José “Pepe” Mujica: Learn more about the legendary Uruguayan President here in an article by Giles Tremlett for The Guardian
- Air Force Flight 571: Read more about the horror survival story here on History
- 1973 coup d’etat: Read more about the coup here on Country Studies
- Abortion bill: Learn more about the pro-choice victory here on BBC‘s website
- One Laptop per Child: Learn more about the program here on One Laptop‘s website
- Cannabis legalisation: Simon Maybin writes about the pioneering 2013 policy here for the BBC
Food (incl. recipes)
- Vegetarian options: Here‘s Mary Ann Thompson‘s little guide for vegetarians in Uruguay published on the Real Estate Uruguay website
- Asado: Here‘s the Explore Uruguay‘s website post about the Uruguayan national dish
- Empanadas: Check out Jenny‘s recipe for traditional Uruguayan empanada here on her blog Jenny is Baking
- Corvina: Here‘s a recipe for the grilled version from food.com and here‘s Nicole Rossetti le Strange‘s recipe for the traditional stew from 196 Flavours
- Choripán: Here‘s Adina‘s recipe for the popular sandwich from her blog Where Is My Spoon
- Milanesa: Learn about the various versions of milanesas here on Uruguayan Food website
- Chivito: Here‘s a recipe for this steak sandwich by Marian Blazes on The Spruce Eats
- Dulce de Leche: Check out Silvia‘s recipe for the popular sweet treat here on her blog Silvia’s Trips
- Bizcochos: Here‘s Cynthia Correa‘s recipe for the popular Uruguayan pastry on Eater
- Tortas Fritas: Check out Travel Food Atlas‘s recipe for this popular sweet treat here
- Chimichurri: Here‘ a recipe as well as some background info about this ever-present sauce on Eat Flavorly
- Maté: To learn more about maté, its properties, history and use, please click here on the official tourism website of Uruguay
- Another opinion: here‘s what David Hammond, an American expat living in the country considers to be 30 favourite dishes in Uruguay
- A culinary guide to Montevideo: In case you were about to spend some time in Montevideo, check out this piece by Jamie Lafferty in National Geographic
Tourism, climate and safety
- Ethical Destination: Here’s the 10 Best Ethical Destinations of 2012 piece by Jeff Greenwald, Christy Hoover and Natalie Lefevre on Earth Island website
- Global Peace Index: Check out the latest ratings here on Visions of Humanity
- Safety tips: Few safety tips on how to secure your valuables, what to watch out for and more could be found here
- Rip Current: Here‘s a useful post that describes what is a rip current, how to spot it and what to do, on the National Ocean Service website
- Moving to Uruguay: Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher write about what you need to know about retiring in Uruguay here for The Huff Post
- Climate: Here‘s Climates to travel‘s climate guide to Uruguay
Places to Visit in Uruguay
- Colonia del Sacramento: Here‘s the UNESCO page of this charming little town
- Montevideo: Here‘s Quaint Planet‘s comprehensive guide to the city. For an informative and well written ‘Insider’s guide to Montevideo” about few places to hang around, click here to check out the piece by María Zanocchi in The Guardian
- Piriápolis: Uruguayan official tourism website has this to say about this beach resort town
- Punta del Este: Oliver Balch writes about this luxurious resort for The Guardian
- Laguna Garzon: Here‘s a post on the local government website Turismo Rocha
- La Paloma: To learn more about this small coastal village, check out this post on the Welcome Uruguay website
- Sierras de Rocha: Here‘s a post about this eco/rural tourism destination on Turismo Rocha
- Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo: Learn more about these two rather special destinations here
- Chamangá: Here‘s a UNESCO page about this ancient rock paining attraction
- Carmelo: Some information about this old little town could be found here on the Turismo Gobierno Uruguay
- Fray Bentos: Here‘s the UNESCO page of this World Heritage site
- Salto: Find some more info about the town here on the Turismo Gobierno Uruguay
- Artigas: Turismo Gobierno Uruguay informs also about this northern town and its attractions here
- Tacuarembó: Learn more about the birthplace of the famous tango star Carlos Gardel here on Turismo Gobierno Uruguay
Other Traveller’s Guides to explore
Some general tips about travelling in Latin Americas
- Budget: in case you were interested, here‘s an article listing the country-by-country basic expenses for a traveller in Latin America
- Safety: Few safety tips on how to secure your valuables, what to watch out for and more could be found here
- Transport: Information, safety and some other practical advice regarding public transport in Latin America can be found here
- ATM withdrawal charges: Some practical info, including the list of free-of-charge ATMs in Latin America, can be found here
- Border fees: To find out how much will you have to pay to enter or exit certain countries in Latin America, please click here
- Pre-trip preparations: Few things you can do ahead of time before you’ll become frantically busy prior to your departure are listed here
- Packing list: What to take with you for an extended trip as well as some security tips could be found here
- Cheap Flights: few tips on how to score a cheap/er flight, better seat on a plane, where to get a nap at a particular airport and so on
All locations covered on Quaint Planet
Santiago de Chile ► Valparaíso ► Santiago de Chile ►Punta Arenas – Ushuaia – Punta Arenas ► Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales ► El Calafate (Perito Moreno Glacier, Arg) ► El Chaltén (Los Glaciares National Park) ► Chile Chico (Ch) – Puerto Rio Tranquillo (Marble Caves) ► Coyhaique – Puyuhuapi – (Carretera Austral) ► Puerto Chacabuco – Quellón/Castro ► Puerto Varas – San Carlos de Bariloche (Arg) ► Buenos Aires ► Colonia (Ur) ► Montevideo ► Punta del Diablo – Cabo Polonio ► Montevideo ► Salto ► Concordia (Arg) ► Puerto Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) ► Salta ► San Salvador de Jujuy ► Tilcara ► San Pedro de Atacama (Ch) ► Uyuni Salt Flats Tour (Bol) ► Uyuni ► Sucre – La Paz (Death Road Tour) ► Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) – Isla del Sol – Copacabana ► Cusco (Per) ► Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) ► Cusco ► Lima ► Máncora – Montañita (Ecu) ► Puerto López ► Quito ► Ipiales (Col) – Pasto ► Tatacoa Desert ► Bogotá ► Medellín ► Villa de Lleyva ► Santa Marta – Cartagena – Rincón del Mar Necoclí ► Capurganá ► Puerto Obaldía (Pan) ► Panama City ► Las Lajas ► Cerro Punta ► David ► Bocas del Torro ► San José (Costa Rica) ► San Juan del Sur (Nic) – Ometepe ► Granada ► Managua – El Rama – Bluefields – Corn Islans ► Léon ► El Tunco (El Salvador) ► La Antigua Guatemala – Lake Atitlán ► Lanquín (Semuc Champey) – Flores (Tikal) ► Belize City ► Bacalar – Tulum – Playa del Carmen – Mérida – Valladolid – Cancún ✈️ .