What comes to mind when someone says “South America”? Probably Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer in Rio, or maybe the Amazon rain forest. Chances are, you will overlook Uruguay as a possible destination. But if you do, you are really really missing out. Each country in South America is beautiful in its own way, but there is none so underrated and overlooked than Uruguay. With less than 3.5 million people and roughly the size of my home state of Georgia, Uruguay might slip under your radar when it comes time to plan your next trip abroad. But don’t let its size fool you, Uruguay is a gold mine of culture and beautiful places. Here are the reasons you need to make Uruguay your next destination:
Though it’s pretty similar to Argentine food, Uruguay does have its unique dishes. They have their own versions of the usual favorites: empanadas, alfajores, pizza, dulce de leche, milanesa… But something unique to Uruguay is its amazingly delicious, overloaded sandwich of perfection called chivito. All my vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan friends might want to skip to the next number–this could get ugly.
Imagine the most ridiculous sandwich you have ever had, with layers upon layers of goodness and you might get something that resembles a Uruguayan chivito. Beef, ham, bacon, cheese, mayo (duh), and an egg (because… why not?). Yeah, you’re probably salivating right now.
Um, hello? Punta del Este anyone? It’s only one of the most beautiful, fancy beaches in the whole world. Personally, I’m not a big fan. It’s like South Beach all over again. My favorite beaches are in Rocha, Uruguay, especially Punta del Diablo. Super chill during the low seasons, April-November, and party central for the backpackers during the warmer months. I went during the winter and absolutely loved it. But regardless of what kind of beach scene you enjoy–you can find it here, from posh to hidden.
If beaches aren’t really your thing, and your idea of a good time is getting lost in a big city, then Montevideo is the place for you–a bustling city with beautiful architecture and history. Visit countless museums, restaurants, and shopping plazas while you contemplate the annoyingly beautiful people and delicious food that you find at every corner. Montevideo also has a huge avenue called La Rambla that goes up and down the entire coastline, perfect for late night strolls with your new Uruguayan girlfriend or boyfriend or hanging out with friends. If you’re a fútbol fan you have to check out Estadio Centenario, the stadium where the very first World Cup was played back in 1930 (and only 13 teams showed up!)
If you don’t dig big cities or beaches, there are still cool things to do in Uruguay. Travel to Colonia, a quaint little town with cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. It’s situated right on the River Plate (Río de la Plata) and is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Buenos Aires by ferry. Or try one of their many national parks: Santa Teresa, Cerro Pan de Azúcar, or Gruta del Palacio to name a few.
Gauchos, carnaval, mate, candombe, literature, music, artisan crafts… You can find it all in Uruguay. Some of the best music in all of the world (I might be a little biased) has come out of Uruguay. From rock (Cuarteto de nos, No te va gustar, La vela puerca) to tango (Gerardo Matos Rodríguez), to candombe, to murga, to folk music. Uruguay also has a rich history of art and literature, with some of the greatest poets, writers, and painters of Latin America: Mario Benedetti, Eduardo Galeano, Eduardo Barreto, etc.
Uruguayans are warm, outgoing, with just the right amount of sarcasm. They are known for their easy-going temperaments and their willingness to lend a helping hand when you need it. They might make fun of you, but it’s just their playfulness coming out. If they don’t make fun of you a little bit, you should be worried–they probably don’t like you. They’re open and kind people–just don’t piss them off!
Hey, I’m not condoning anything. But if you were wanting to try it, it should be in a place where it’s legal, right? Just sayin’…
The reasons you should go to Uruguay are numerous, but the most important reason is: why not? Get off the beaten path a little, try something new. Instead of heading to the Bolivian Salt Flats or Machu Picchu like every other tourist in the history of South American travel, go to Uruguay!