Discover Uruguay: 10 reasons to visit this low-key South American destination
Part of the charm of Uruguay and its capital Montevideo, is that many visitors may not encounter another English-speaking tourist in sight, making this low-key destination a true hidden gem. Montevideo is Uruguay’s largest and only major city and is South America’s southernmost capital. The friendly laid-back vibe is evident throughout the city and this is the safest city in South America.
Uruguayans enjoy life and the simple pleasures of life are celebrated throughout the country. Montevideo invites everyone to carnival for 40 days each year over January and February. It is also the joint city holder of a UNESCO declaration as the city of tango. This is believed to be the city where tango was born. Many years of rivalry with Buenos Aires in Argentina about the roots of tango led to UNESCO declaring that both cities were inscribed on the ‘Representative List of the Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity’. Experience the exciting milongas where anyone is invited to join in and dance.
A new guide to this wonderful city was published late last year by Brit Karen A Higgs who moved to Uruguay in 2000. ‘The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo’ is the biggest English-language guide that exists to the city and is a fantastic resource along with the hugely popular sister website guruguay.com which offers insiders tips to Montevideo and Uruguay. Aside from the new guide and the website, Karen also runs an award-winning art-deco guesthouse in the heart of Montevideo’s old town.
Here, Karen shares her knowledge of the city and country with all guests, who are invited to enjoy a front row experience of magical Uruguay.
1. Hike Uruguay’s huge white sandy beaches deserted for nine months of the year. When the Argentinians and Brazilians have gone home after the short summer season, yours will be the only footprints.
2. Watch whales, seals and dolphins all along the coast. There’s no need to hire a boat, and you don’t even need binoculars. From June to November migrating Southern Right whales play just yards away from the shoreline.
3. Go gaucho. Uruguay’s ranches known as estancias range from the luxury to the very rustic. Just an hour after arriving you could be rounding up cattle under the stars at Estancia El Ceibo.
4. Marvel at Montevideo’s huge collection of art deco buildings in almost every corner of the city. And don’t limit yourself to photographing them. You can stay in one – like classic art deco guesthouse, Casa Sarandi.
5. Go fine wine shopping in Carmelo, the Uruguayan Tuscany, where tastings last the whole afternoon and the pourings are lavish (could add that all this for around thirty pounds).
6. Devour a huge portion of prime grass-fed “asado”, Uruguay’s classic BBQ, at Montevideo’s Port Market which The Guardian called Disneyland for carnivores.
7. Learn to tango. Uruguayans are the friendliest people and local dancers will love to invite you on to the floor. Much more fun than in stand-offish Buenos Aires.
8. Hit carnival. Montevideo has the world’s longest carnival lasting 40 nights from late January.
9. Be literally blown away by the Santa Rosa, an annual storm which blows into Uruguay every August.
10. See the Milky Way in its total splendour, more clearly than you’ve ever seen before. With a population of just three million in a country more than half the size of the UK, there’s almost zero light pollution almost everywhere.
‘The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo’ is out now and available from Amazon in paper and digital formats and priced £12 and £7.
Air Europa serves Montevideo from London Gatwick via Madrid on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays aireuropa.com
Image at the very top of the article credit: Kumsval (Playa Ramirez beach)