Nuzzled in South America’s southeast corner between regional behemoths Brazil and Argentina, this oft overlooked nation is making a strong resurgence to the forefront of Latin American tourism. Touted as a safe, easygoing, and picturesque nation, Uruguay passes the test on all three accounts. Visitors can rent a car and cruise the empty beaches of the Uruguay Riviera, or disappear into the depths of a Montevideo market for a juicy slab of steak washed down with some local torrontes wine. Jetsetters can bronze themselves on the see and be seen beaches of Punta del Este, and colonial history buffs can wander the impossibly charming cobbled alleyways of Colonia de Sacramento, a picturesque Portuguese outpost plucked out of the history books. Flat and spacious and somewhat forgotten, I recommend getting to Uruguay before the secret really gets out.
When To Go:
If you’re looking to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, the “season” at Punta del Este really only lasts from Christmas through January. For surfers wanting a piece of the wild Atlantic swells, March-May is best for water temperature and consistency. For everyone else who just wants to bask on the windswept beaches and enjoy the simple Uruguayan way of life, anytime from November through April brings agreeable enough weather that it’s pleasant to be outdoors and nearly all of the shops and restaurants are still open for the summer season.
Uruguay Peso; Exchange Rate: $1= 19.75 Uruguay Pesos (December19, 2010). For more currency conversion info visit xe.com
Nearly all restaurants do not include the hefty 22% tax to the prices on the menu. If driving a car, it is mandatory to keep the lights on at all times, lest you get a ticket and be extorted by the police. Trust me.
The Vagabond’s Favorites:
1. Colonia de Sacramento
Easily doable in a single day, this charming little port city is only a 1 hour ferry ride across from the megalopolis of Buenos Aires, but an entire world away when it comes to tranquility and calm.
2. Montevideo Sunday Port Market
An affably jolly and festive atmosphere radiates through th dungy port charmer each and every Sunday, where seemingly half of Montevideo’s younger crowd comes down to swill a pint or 6 and stuff their face with oversized slabs of meat right off the grill.
The homier cousin to glitzy Punta del Este 30 minutes down the road, Piriapolis is a laidback beach resort town that features a single strip of beachfront lodgings where the sunset and a bottle of wine sit atop of the short to-do list.
4. Punta del Este
The “it” place in all of South America, Punta del Este is everything you want it to be. A safe and clean city with a definite energy in the summer months, choose the cityscape of La Peninsula to mingle in the bars by the port and the beaches around every turn you take.
5. La Barra
The trendy suburb that lurks just 10 minutes north of Punta del Este, many of the region’s nightclubs and elite visitors have begun to migrate to the spacious sands surrounding La Barra, which has more of a feel of a small sized surf town that mega skyscraper getaway.
Take in the otherworldly architecture–and the unbelievable view–from this sculpted masterpiece that sits stoically near the point of Punta Ballena