With centuries-old colonial towns, picturesque beaches, a lively cultural scene, diverse wildlife and rolling countryside, Uruguay is a small country with plenty to offer. Colonized by the Portuguese and Spanish, the country possesses a distinct European heritage while remaining proud of its South American roots.
Getting around Uruguay is made easy by a large intercity bus network, which covers most of the places that you’ll want to visit, though renting a car and taking road trips is also an option in this compact country.
Start in the capital, Montevideo, a city built on the shores of the Rio de la Plata (River Plate). Admire the grand 18th- and 19th-century colonial architecture of the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town). Stroll along the waterfront promenade, lined with public parks and exclusive neighborhoods. Be part of one of the world’s longest carnival celebrations beginning in late January and ending in early March. Tour the bodegas of the nearby Canelones wine region.
Travel along the west coast to Uruguay’s oldest settlement, Colonia del Sacramento. Explore museums set in pastel-colored houses and wander cobblestone streets, which have changed little since the 1700s. Take time out in the tranquil riverside town of Carmelo then head north to Tacuarembo to experience gaucho (cowboy) culture at its finest.
Make a move for Uruguay’s many miles of beaches in the hot summertime. Punta del Este offers watersports and nightlife, while celebrities frequent Jose Ignacio. In the Rocha province you’ll find La Paloma and Punta del Diablo, beach towns favored by bohemians, backpackers and surfers.
For wildlife and nature lovers, there is plenty to see. Ride on horseback through the Quebrada de los Cuervos (Gorge of the Crows). Spot rare and native birds at natural reserves such as the Santa Teresa National Park. Visit the Atlantic coast from July through October for the chance to spot migrating southern right whales.
Uruguay is known as being one of the safest South American countries and its warm-temperate climate makes it pleasant to visit at any time of the year.