09 December 2012

Uruguay Travel

A small country with a variety of big delights 

Although Uruguay is a small country, a Uruguay travel experience offers a variety of big delights that include beautiful beaches, a unique urban center, vast rolling prairies, and a picturesque spa region.

When its winter in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer on the beaches  of Uruguay
Uruguay has 300 kilometers of coastline which stretches along the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) and the Atlantic Ocean.

Punta del Este  beach
Punta del Este, Uruguay 
Punta del Este is South America’s most popular and fashionable beach resort. Geographically it is the official dividing point between the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean. During the high season from mid-December through February, the Uruguay traveler has a 24 hour menu of things to see and do, which includes beautiful beaches, a variety of water sports, entertainment and sporting events, a broad assortment of restaurants, designer shops, casinos, and nightclubs that go until dawn.

Piriapolis beach

Uruguay’s river beaches 
West of Punta del Este is the Rio de la Plata coastline where there are several lovely communities with nearby sandy beaches, which include Colonia del Sacramento, Atlantida, and Piriapolis.

Punta del Diablo beach

Uruguay’s Atlantic coast beaches 
East of Punta del Este is Uruguay’s Department of Rocha. Rocha fronts Uruguay’s mostly rural Atlantic coastline, which is known for good surf and outdoor adventure. The towns along the Atlantic coast include La Paloma (the largest beach community east of Punta del Este), La Padrera (good surf), Cabo Polonio (a beach town with no roads or power) and Punta del Diablo, where summer vacationers and surfers share the beach with the local fishing boats.

Montevideo Plaza
Uruguay travel - for a unique urban experience 
Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital city with a population of 1.4 million. Visit Montevideo to add some unique urban sights and cultural experiences to your Uruguay travel adventure.

Montevideo has a wide shoreline walkway (called the Rambla) made of red cut granite, sand beaches, sycamore lined streets, outdoor cafes, lots of public squares, monuments, and large green parks. A part of Montevideo known as Ciudad Vieja (the small peninsula where Montevideo was originally founded in 1730) is where you will find the highest concentration of colonial architecture, museums, and galleries.

Tango in Montevideo 
While Buenos Aires is known as the world’s tango capital, tango developed simultaneously on both sides of the Rio de la Plata, in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Tango is still very popular in Montevideo, where you can listen to tango music, watch tango dance performances, and if you have the desire, take tango dance lessons.

Carnival in Uruguay  
Uruguay’s carnival is the longest in the world with 40 days of performances and celebrations including the famous Montevideo carnival parade known as Las Llamadas.

Learn Spanish in Montevideo 
Some people add a practical element to their Uruguay travel experience by studying Spanish at one of the several Spanish language schools in Montevideo or by doing volunteer work.

Uruguay countryside
Uruguay travel - spend time in the great outdoors 
Most of Uruguay’s interior is vast rolling prairie lands scattered with palm trees, known as pampas. Driving through the pampas of Uruguay, you will see groups of Rheas (which look similar to ostriches) and are known in Uruguay as ñandú. The pampas of Uruguay support cattle and sheep grazing, while some land is used to grow various crops such as grain, citrus, olives, berries, and wine grapes. There are several guest estancias (large guest ranches) where you can spend time in Uruguay riding horses and living the country life.

Uruguay travel includes wildlife viewing
Uruguay’s coastal areas are home to large colonies of sea lions. Four species of sea turtle come to the beaches of Uruguay. During the winter, Southern Right Whales come close to the shores of Punta del Este. Uruguay’s coastline, large lagoons, and wooded river valleys provide habitat for 450 species of birds, making Uruguay a popular travel destination for birders.

Uruguay travel - enjoy thermal spas in a beautiful natural setting 
There are several thermal spas located in Western Uruguay near the City of Salto, where therapeutic mineral water comes out of the ground at temperatures between 39° and 46° C (102° - 115° F). The area has a couple of all-inclusive private resorts with multiple pools, showers, and full service spas. There are thermal pool campgrounds for the economy traveler. And, there is a public day-use thermal water spa called Parque Termal Municipal, which is next door to Acuamanía, a 5.7 acre aquatic park with an 18 meter high slide.

Uruguay is a welcoming and comfortable place to travel 
One big plus for Uruguay travel is that Uruguay doesn’t have hurricanes, earthquakes, or tropical diseases. Uruguay has safe drinking water, the best maintained road system in South America, and the availability of good medical care.

Uruguay has the most highly educated population, the lowest crime rate, and the largest middle class in Latin America. The vast majority of Uruguayans are tolerant and friendly toward foreign travelers. For them, un tourista, un amigo (A tourist, a friend).


Food and dining  
Uruguayan food offers travelers a variety of culinary experiences, from fine dining to neighborhood street cafes. Uruguay is famous for its organic grass fed beef that is cooked over wood coals in barbecue restaurants called ‘parillas”. Uruguay has a popular sandwich called a “chivito”, which is piled high with sliced roast beef, Canadian cooked ham, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled bell pepper, and sliced olives. Italian food is very popular throughout Uruguay. Uruguay is also well-known in wine circles for its Tannat.

Uruguay travel accommodations 
Hotels
There are international hotel chains located in Uruguay, such as the Radisson and Sheraton in Montevideo, and a Conrad Hilton hotel and casino in Punta del Este.  There are several unique independent hotels with high standards in Montevideo and Punta del Este, as well as a variety of budget hotel options throughout the country.

Apartments 
For stays of a few weeks up to a few months, renting a furnished apartment is popular with summer vacationers in Punta del Este. Many apartment buildings in Punta del Este are operated like hotels with porters, maid service, and often beach service during the summer. Short-term apartments (without the services) are also popular for longer stays in Montevideo.

Punta del Este Peninsula apartment

Local maps and Uruguay travel information
Uruguay’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports (Ministerio de Turismo y Deporte) has Uruguay travel information centers at the Montevideo airport, at most bus terminals, and at many points of interest throughout the country. The travel information centers have maps and travel information pamphlets, much of which is printed in both Spanish and English.

Getting to Uruguay 
Most flights to Uruguay arrive at the Montevideo airport (Carrasco International Airport, airport code: MVD).
Flights to Uruguay connect from:

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Puerto Allegro, San Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Asunción, Paraguay
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Panama City, Panama

Outside Latin America, there are direct flights available from Madrid and the United States.

Uruguay’s Carrasco International Airport has a new modern terminal that was completed at the end of 2009. It is a 30-minute drive from the airport to Montevideo’s city center and a one-and-a-half hour drive from the airport to Punta del Este.

There is another smaller international airport in Punta del Este with some regional commercial flights and services for private planes.

In addition to flying to Uruguay, 200 cruise ship stops are scheduled in the 2010/2011 season for Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (Old City) and Punta del Este.

Taxi line at Montevideo main bus terminal
Getting around in Uruguay 
Uruguay has several international brand rental car companies. Uruguay has a good city-to-city motor coach network with regular service between cities. Montevideo and Punta del Este both have good community bus systems, and most all cities in Uruguay have plentiful taxi service. Montevideo also has remis service (a hired car and driver) for more personalized service.

Tip: Many travelers to Uruguay, who are not accustomed to driving and parking in Montevideo, prefer using a taxi or a remis service over a rental car. 

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