Overshadowed by Argentina and Brazil, its vastly larger neighbours, little Uruguay is incredibly lovely but relatively unknown outside South America. Uruguay has a fantastic coastline with white sand beaches, and as a result it's a favourite holiday destination with well-heeled Latin Americans. The attractive combination of Uruguay’s beaches, nightlife and charming historic towns has increased interest for Uruguay holidays across the board, with most UK visitors choosing this as an exciting extension to an Argentine trip. Visitors can cross the River Plate by hydrofoil in a few hours (1 hr to Colonia and 3 hrs to Montevideo) or fly from Buenos Aires to Montevideo or Punta del Este.
Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city has a seriously laid-back vibe, with a crumbling ‘ciudad vieja’ at its heart, surrounded by fine neo-classical and Art Deco buildings that fight for space with worn out 70s style skyscrapers. Across town there are modern high rises and ultra fashionable shopping complexes such as Carrasco, an upmarket neighbourhood with a small city beach and good hotels, located about 14km from the old town. Some 15 minutes from the city suburbs, there are vineyards producing up and coming Uruguay wines, and are well worth a visit.
Along the coast to the east of Montevideo, the ritzy resort of Punta del Este is the place to soak up some glamour. There are miles of beautiful beaches, luxury hotels and restaurants, and thriving nightlife. For a more laidback beach, head to José Ignacio just 30 minutes along the coast from Punta del Este, where there are gourmet restaurants, arty boutiques and celebs in their droves. Don’t miss the town’s iconic 1877 lighthouse that sits on a rocky promontory at the town’s windswept edge.
With a population of just over three million, the people are easily outnumbered by the cattle (approximately 11million) and the cattle by the sheep (24million). In total about three quarters of the land is given over to livestock rearing. Holidays to Uruguay can easily include a stay on a working estancia, or ranch, where visitors get a fascinating glimpse into the rural life of the gaucho.
Ancient Colonia (Colonia del Sacramento), with its cobblestone streets and many Portuguese colonial buildings, was once a rival to the Spanish dominated Montevideo. Today Uruguay’s oldest town has retained its immense charm and its compact city centre is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set on a point with views over the River Plate, we think this is a ‘must-see’ on all Uruguay holidays.
Located entirely within the temperate zone, Uruguay has a climate that is fairly uniform. Seasonal variations are pronounced, but extremes in temperature are rare. July and August tend to be the rainiest months. Most tourists visit during Uruguay's summer months from mid-November to March which is also the high season.
The combination of Uruguay’s colonial history, countryside and impressive beaches means that there is always plenty to see and do, and so easy to combine holidays to Uruguay with its neighbour Argentina.