|Country Information & Lifestyle|
River of the Colorful Birds
Uruguay, the name means River of the Colourful Birds, is a small country in Latin America bordered to the north by Brazil, to the southeast by the Atlantic, and is separated from Argentina in the west and south by the River Uruguay.
Laid-back and off the beaten track, tiny Uruguay welcomes visitors with miles of pristine beaches, vast open skies and one of Latin America's most cosmopolitan capital cities. The landscape features mainly rolling plains and low hill ranges with fertile coastal lowlands. The green rolling hills provide first rate cattle ranch and agricultural lands.
The people are hospital, kind, easy going and very respectful of each other. They welcome visitors from all over the world. Many people speak English as a second language. There are no political, religious or racial conflicts of any kind, and Uruguay is a safe country with low crime rates.
Uruguay has a relatively mild climate with no extremes, cool winters and warm summers. The absence of mountains, which act as weather barriers, makes all locations vulnerable to high winds and rapid changes in weather as fronts or storms sweep across the country. One of the most enjoyable seasons for people to explore Uruguay is the summer when the tropic breezes of Brazil gently waft through the region.
Food in Uruguay is great. The best range fed beef in the world, fine wines, a strong commitment in natural and additive free fruit and vegetable growing, make a great gastronomical proposal. Mate, an herbal infusion, is always present in Uruguayans' diet together with the local style barbecue - asado.
Popular foods include beef platters, morcilla dulce, a type of blood sausage cooked with ground orange fruit, orange peel and walnuts, milanesa, a breaded veal cutlet and snacks such as olimpicos (club sandwiches), hungaras (spicy sausage in a hot dog roll), and masas surtidas (bite-sized pastries).
Montevideo is the capital city with flat and open prairie stretching as far as the eye can see. The city is located on the wide shores of the La Plata River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and is a wonderful, comfortable place to live. The city is green and beautiful, with rivers, parks and bike trails winding through. There is a lively arts scene, breezy beachfront promenade and the world's longest carnival celebration. Stepping back in time at Chippewa City Historical Park gives a glimpse of a bygone era and features a pioneer church, school and historical homes.
Looking for a panama hat? Or a new pair of laces? Or a gerbil? Come to the Tristen Narvaja flea market on a Sunday morning and you can buy any of these things and much more besides. For many Montevideo residents Sunday would not be Sunday without a stroll through "Tristen".
Maldonado is one of the most popular cities in Uruguay for tourists because it is such a diverse and interesting experience and still manages to retain its own unique identity and charm. The city has blended modern life with traditional customs and the unhurried pace means that you will have plenty of time to explore the land and visit with the people who live here.
This is one of the cities of Uruguay that takes pride in the deep ties to the past and there are a number of historically significant attractions for visitors to appreciate. If you want hang out with locals, you need to visit downtown Maldonado and walk around the narrow streets, check out the great shopping deals and maybe even enjoy a Mate while sitting in the San Fernando Square.
Uruguay's Atlantic Costa de Oro boasts some of the world's best beaches and outstanding resorts. Whether it is casino gambling and chic international shows, or a siesta in a hammock, or plentiful fresh seafood, Uruguay's Gold Coast has something for everyone. The area also offers small fishing villages, secluded coves and endless beaches. Two nearby islands offer excellent excursions. Gorriti Island is a natural reserve for over 500,000 sea lions.
Punta del Este is the most exclusive and glamorous beach resort in South America and Uruguay's Pearl of the Atlantic. This magical place puts together nature and entertainment infrastructure in a unique manner; first class services and tourism diversity make Punta del Este the best resort city. Punta del Este has its own international airport and is only an hour away from Montevideo, Uruguay's capital city.
Punta Ballena (Whale point) is 15 minutes from Punta's centre where there is a rocky point where whales can be watched in winter. This is probably the place with the best sight and sunsets in all the country. Another unforgettable experience while visiting Punta del Este is a trip to Isla de Lobos (Sea Wolf Island). This is one of the largest natural reserves of these great sea mammals in the world.
Cabo Polonio is the most hidden and secret spot in Uruguay's coast. The access is usually on huge trucks over dunes and through pine forests in a one hour journey. When you finally leave the forest behind and walk over a huge sand dune you can see the Cabo Polonio Cape village. It is also a tiny fishermen village but there are practically no services. This place is disconnected from technology and out of the world's reach, therefore it is the perfect spot to unplug and relax mind and body.
Cultural Heritage of Mankind is the title that was given to Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest city in Uruguay. Declared UN World Heritage, this magical place is a true jewel from the colonial past. A stunningly beautiful restoration of an original colonial city, the magnificent homes, grounds and buildings are a grand tribute to 17th century life in Latin America.
When the evening hours arrive the landscape is transformed into a magical wonderland. There are tall, old lamps that line the cobbled streets and they begin to twinkle and shine when the sun sets. At night guests can stroll through Colonia del Sacramento with these street lights shimmering overhead and it is easy to believe that you have suddenly been transported back to a much earlier time and date.
It is exciting to enter the city of Colonia del Sacramento through the Port in del Campo. This gated drawbridge, the city walls and other city features have all been restored to their original condition, and today they serve as historical reminders of the city borders that were first created more than 300 years ago.
Uruguay's interior is full of history, legends, and memories and if you care to believe in them ghosts. Sometimes significant discoveries are made by mistake. In Valle Eden, a little south of Tacuaremb, is where the most celebrated tango singer of them all, Carlos Gardel, was born.
Villa Soriano is the country's oldest European settlement, dating back to 1624. Little more than a village, some 1200 people call Villa Soriano home; many of these earn a living from fishing. There is little to do here other than to stroll around the quiet streets, visit the old colonial church, one of the first built in Uruguay, and walk along the pleasant wooden jetty.
Uruguay is divided northeast to southwest by the Negro River. To the north lies an area of hilly meadows broken by streams and rivers which provides fertile grazing land for sheep and cattle. There is an old saying that Uruguay is one giant estancia bordered by the sea. One soon understands this when staying with the gauchos at large ranches like Estancia Las Calera, La Rabida, and La Sirena.
Salto is the centre of the cattle-raising area and home of the gauchos, Uruguay's colourful cowboys. There are the ruins of two meat-salting plants that date to the 1870's, where meat was salted and sent to feed the slaves in Brazil. It is possible to buy bargain priced amethyst and polished agate in the shops.
Paysandu was founded as a European village in 1769 on the shore of the Uruguay River and today is the region's main industrial town, and is well known for leather, wool, sugar, beer, milk and other agriculture products. The attractive cathedral on the main square and the old cemetery are worth a visit. From Paysandu, visitors may cross the bridge for a day's excursion in Argentina.
There is much more to see in this tiny country - "Como Uruguay no hay" - There is no country like Uruguay, say the Uruguayans, justifiably proud of their small country.