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Uruguay Travel Guide

Uruguay is tucked away in South America’s sweet spot, hidden beneath the elephantine shadows of this continent’s giants. Yet despite its size, this dark horse is not so easily dismissed. Uruguay is epic in its diversions, extraordinary in its chance encounters, extending beyond its beaches and its UNESCO Heritage Sites. Don’t believe us? Find out for yourself.

The Highlights

  • Carmelo

    On the eastern bank of the Rio de la Plata is the colonial town of Carmelo, whose biggest draws – alongside its beaches and colonial facades – are its family-run vineyards and wineries including Narbona, Familia Irurtia and Almacén de la Capilla. It is essentially Uruguay’s answer to Italy’s Tuscany, it’s very own wine country, and a bit of wine tasting is certainly obligatory.

  • Montevideo

    Eclectic Montevideo is mesmerising. Here, art deco and neoclassical architecture keep company with high-rises as Miami-style beaches fringe its coast, the unbelievable smell of Asado cooking on parrillas fill the air and the occasional tango dancers draw crowds to the streets. Shop at its markets, go for a nice swim and indulge in some Tannat.

  • Uruguayan Pampas

    Covering most of Uruguay, the gloriously fertile land stretches on for hundreds of kilometres and extends well into Argentina. This is gaucho country, where cowboys tend to the land and take care of cattle and farm animals. Immerse in their life here, which isn’t always easy, and learn some gaucho skills. There’s fun to be had as well: horseback ride, go fishing and sample the local delicacies.

  • Punta del Este

    Sun-worshippers aren’t the only ones that line up the glistening beaches of Punta del Este. Modern resorts, restaurants and clubs do too. There’s little wonder that VIPs descend upon this area two hours east of the capital. The vibe is completely different from the rest of the country, but rubbing elbows with celebrities and beautiful people might just be what you need after days of roughing it.

  • Cabo Polonio

    Hire a tour guide or join a guided tour, and take a day trip. Getting to Cabo Polonio might not be easy, but it’s well worth the journey. It’s a protected region not far from Punta del Diablo, with its captivating residents, the sea lions. Keep an eye out for migrating whales in October, walk on the sand dunes, and take photographs of idyllic, shack-lined shoreline. It’ll be a day well spent.

  • Punta del Diablo

    Punta del Diablo, located an hour away from the city of Rocha, seems impeccably designed for backpackers with its hostels, cabañas, hammocks, practically deserted beaches and a boardwalk with the occasional live music. But it’s also ideal for surf nuts thanks to its incredible uninterrupted swells. This is the good life at its purest. Kick off your shoes and feel its sand under your bare feet.

The Basics

When to Visit

when to visit
  1. Peak Season

    December to March

    One of the most amazing things about Uruguay is that its weather stays pleasant even in the summertime or in the dead of winter. In the summer, though temperatures can rise up to above 40°C, the weather is more than tolerable thanks to the constant lovely breeze. Just know that it can get crowded with tourists from Argentina and other parts of the world, especially Punta del Este and the other beach areas. February and March are great months to visit if you’re into celebrations: Montevideo gets pretty busy in February for the Uruguayan Carnival whilst Tacuarembó celebrates the Gaucho Festival in March.

  2. Low Season

    October to April

    Winter months in Uruguay are never too cold, averaging at 15°C in the daytime, and Indian summers make a regular appearance. However, days are short lasting only for seven hours; therefore, there’s not a lot of time to do things. If you want to travel offseason, the best times to go are in the fall and in the springtime. The days are lovely and the rates are incredibly cheap. The beaches are cheapest in April while the hot springs are terrific in October. Or you can opt to head down to Montevideo for the Tango Festival.

Uruguay Tours

FAQs about Uruguay

  • Do you tip in Uruguay?

    The short answer is yes. Typically, you add a tip of 10% at restaurants, reward taxi drivers and parking attendants UY$5-10, and porters UY$1-2 per bag.
  • What is the internet access like?

    The Internet is pretty much found anywhere in Uruguay’s cities and larger towns. Mid to high-end hotels, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and some buses offer free WiFi. 
  • Is the tap water safe to drink?

    Yes. Scotland boasts exceptionally clean water and is safe to drink. Bottled water is readily available.
  • Can I use my credit cards?

    Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted by big businesses—hotels, restaurants and shops, in particular. 
  • What are the public holidays?

    Besides Christmas, New Year’s Day, and the Easter holidays, Uruguay also celebrates Dia de Los Reyes on January 6, Return of the 33 Exiles on April 19, Labour Day on May 1, Battle of Las Piedras on May 18, Artigas’ Birthday on June 19 and Independence Day on August 25.
  • What are the toilets like?

    You might encounter squat toilets in older businesses. However, most have modern facilities of the sit-down kind. Throw your used toilet paper in the rubbish bin.
  • How do you get around in Uruguay?

    Buses are comfortable ways to get from one city or town to another while taxis, local buses and ride-sharing services are great ways to get around the capital.
  • Is it true that Uruguay is LGTBQ-friendly?

    Absolutely! Uruguay is the most welcoming South American destination for LGBTQ travellers. In fact, it was the first Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage.
A TRAVEL MAGAZINE BY TOURRADAR