6 unique things to do in Uruguay
Uruguay's beautiful beaches rival those in Brazil. Photo: Chaikovskiy Igor / Shutterstock
1. Marvel at Montevideo's architecture
Every day feels like a Sunday in Uruguay’s capital city, the streets are quiet and people walk at a relaxed pace – however, it’s by no means dull. Stroll through the centre and you’ll find gentrified Art Deco buildings and elegant colonial churches around every corner. Montevideo's mix of traditional and modern means you'll see this alongside the everyday life of residents, from families collecting recycling by horse and cart to stall-holders selling antiques by the side of the road.
2. Feast on asados in Montevideo’s markets
It’s not only Argentina that’s famous for its asados (barbecues), they’re just as well loved in Uruguay. In fact, Uruguay is the world’s largest consumer of beef per capita. One of the best places to try steak is Montevideo’s atmospheric market – Mercado del Puerto. With its high arches and wrought-iron mezzanines, it has all the elegance of a grand European station. Swirls of barbecue smoke fill the air and people gorge themselves on plate-sized steaks. If you’re a vegetarian, ask for grilled provolone cheese instead.
3. Try the Uruguayan national drink: maté
Everywhere you go in Uruguay, you’ll see people drinking maté – a herbal infusion made from the yerba maté plant. It’s a bitter-tasting concoction, which takes some getting used to. Maté drinking is a serious business, however, and should be drunk from a hollow gourd and sipped through a metal straw (bombilla). Most Uruguayans have their own mate pot, and many are intricately decorated with carved silver.
Vintage cars in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Photo: Shutterstock
4. Rub shoulders with celebs on the beaches of Punta del Este
During the 1950s Punta del Este was the playground of Hollywood’s elite. Over the past few years, these golden stretches have made a comeback and are once again among South America’s classiest beaches, having been dubbed the continent's Saint Tropez. In somewhat of a contrast to the rest of Uruguay, Punta del Este is flashy and flamboyant – plush hotels and casinos sit alongside stores selling Armani and Ralph Lauren.
5. Explore Uruguay's rural coastal highlights
North of Punta del Este, the Uruguayan Atlantic coast is rich with gorgeous seascapes and deserted white-sand beaches. Along the coastal highway toward Brazil, it is worth stopping at the 18th-century Portuguese fortress of Santa Teresa and San Miguel, now beautiful national parks and popular bird sanctuaries; and Punta del Diablo, an attractive fishing village where a number of small restaurants offer excellent seafood.
6. Step back in time in Colonia del Sacramento
Situated at the mouth of Rio del Plata, opposite buzzing Buenos Aires, yet a world and a time away, sits the charming town of Colonia del Sacramento. Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, its historic quarter is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Exploring its cobbled streets makes for the perfect day trip from Montevideo or Buenos Aires.
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