May 21, 2015

Where is Uruguay? Do you even know? Well it’s in South America sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina. It’s the second smallest country on the continent but it’s easily one of the coolest and it’s boosting it’s street-cred everyday.

Uruguay, like some backcountry town in the US, was just a blip on my radar as a place we would probably pass through on our way to somewhere else. I did a little research on places to visit but kind of assumed we would spend a few days there and then happily move on to bigger and better places. I was pleasantly surprised though at just how cool Uruguay was and of course, we decided to stay longer than planned. We do that a lot.

Photo_Teague_Uruguay-3.jpg Photo_Teague_Uruguay-5.jpg
Palacio Salvo in Montevideo. A fountain on some random corner in the old town
portion of Montevideo.

So what was so cool about Uruguay? Well for me, it was the open-minded nature of people who live there and the countryside that is beautiful in every direction and utterly covered with grazing cows. In fact, I think there’s something like three times as many cows in Uruguay than there are people… no I’m not kidding.

First let’s talk about the people. Uruguayans have had some pretty tough times. In the 70’s and 80’s they were ruled by a harsh military dictatorship and, for about 25 years afterwards, rode an economic rollercoaster plunging the country into poverty and causing many Uruguayans to leave the country resulting in a massive brain drain. They are still recovering today but the pendulum of oppression and turmoil is swinging in the other direction and Uruguay is quickly gaining momentum and credibility as a stable and progressive nation. All this shit hitting the fan over the past few decades has left people open to change and outspoken. A great example of these traits are the broad steps taken to seek justice for the human-rights violations of the past in 2009, the legalization of recreational use of marijuana (the first republic in the world to do so) in 2012 and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Uruguay on May 9th of 2013. It’s hard to convey how monumental the changes are and these are only a few but as our free walking tour guide explained it, Uruguayans just want to live their lives without any of the bullshit from the past 40 years. When it comes to forward thinking about what rights people should have, Uruguay is leading the charge in South America and maybe even the world.

As for the country itself, it may be small but it’s totally a diamond in the rough sort of place. The countryside is beautiful and the coastline is dotted with nice little towns and great views. We spent time in Montevideo of course, the capital of Uruguay, and rented a car to see a few of the attractions to the East like the sleepy beach town of Pariapolis and the beautiful resort town popular with wealthier tourists, Punta del Este. We also ventured further West to the quaint touristy town of Colonia.

In Montevideo we spent most of our time in the old city center of known as Ciudad Viaja. Beautiful old buildings, theatres, museums, plazas and monuments seemed to be everywhere. Most of those monuments seemed to be related in some way to Jose Artigas (if not just a monument of him), Uruguays George Washington. We enjoyed the city quite a bit but to be completely honest, it needed a bath. Some of the beautiful streets lined with old trees and older buildings just didn’t look like they were living up to their true potential because of the littler that was occasionally blowing around. I suppose it was no more littered than other similar sized cities at home but I like the city so much that it stood out to me.  

The long and beautiful sidewalk along the coast
in Pariapolis. 

Renting the car and driving East along the coast was excellent. For the most part the coast is undeveloped beachfronts that are dotted with small communities and farms. Some of the roads closest to the water aren’t even paved; they are just sand tracks that have been packed down by the light traffic. We drove for about one or two hours and reached Pariapolis around lunchtime. The town was quite nice and very quaint but only stopped for lunch on our way to Punta del Este and later for ice cream on our way home. At night, the beachfront area of Pariapolis really came to life with families living in the area and tourists strolling the boardwalk and stopping in at all the little shops. I think everyone really enjoyed it.

Driving further East we finally reached Punta del Este, which is well situated on a peninsula hanging off Uruguay surrounded by the Atlantic. It was a nice place to stop and see a few sights but we didn’t stay in town long and instead went to some of the more famous lookout points just outside the city to take in the views and check out Casapueblo, a Uruguayan artists former summer home and workshop turned ultrachic hotel/café/museum. It was an amazing place that clings to the cliff-side and enjoys some spectacular views. We didn’t pay to go in as the price was a little high but we managed to climb down the cliff for some nice views.

Photo_Teague_Uruguay-9.jpg Photo_Teague_Uruguay-6.jpg
The lighthouse at Punta del Este. Casapuebla near Punta del Este.
One of the many beautiful treelined
streets in Colonia. 

Lastly, we visited Colonia, one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and a Unesco World Heritage site. This place just completely oozed colonial charm with its old tree lined cobblestone streets and remnants of fortresses built during the 17th century. Spain and Portugal fought over the city for nearly 100 years and during those battles it changed hands half a dozen times. Today it’s a tiny tourism hub in Uruguay and a major point of embarkation for people ferrying to and from Buenos Aires. As such, the colonial portion is filled with little cafes, perfectly little restaurants, and boutique shops catering to tourists all over the world. You only need about a day to see it all but spending two gives you time to really soak in the charm. 

An ancient building with the
lighthouse in the background in

If you ever find yourself in Uruguay, then you probably came from Buenos Aires or somewhere in Brazil but to me Uruguay has earned it’s own place as a nice little destination all by itself. That being said, if you happen to be in Southern Brazil or Northern Argentina, you would be making a big mistake by not taking a few days to visit Uruguay. My recommendation would be to rent a car like we did, in Colonia or Montevideo, and see as much of this tiny country as you can. It shouldn’t take you too long


Category: Places

Please add a comment

Leave a Reply

(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.