With very short distances between destinations, Uruguay offers the tourist a wide range of choices to make the most of their visit. Gastronomy is one of Uruguay’s main attractions. It has strong native components such as various types of meat roasted over a fire, which is kept in good company by their famous re wine, and their best grape, the Tannat.
For many European visitors there’s something strangely familiar about the landscape of Uruguay. Largely devoted to agriculture, the green countryside is dotted with sheep and cows. As far back as 1868 – when the British built a railway connecting the capital, Montevideo, with the countryside – Hereford and shorthorn cattle were reared in Uruguay.
It is a land of rolling hills and verdant pastures, best explored on horseback like a true gaucho, or by staying at one of the many colonial Estancias that have opened their doors to visitors. Relax and adopt the lifestyle of the countryside or take part in the daily work of the ranch – you can do as much or as little as you like.
You’ll taste the colonial flavour as soon as you set foot in the country. Colonia del Sacramento, a very short ferry ride from Buenos Aires, was founded by Portuguese settlers in 1860. It has some of the finest remnants of colonial architecture in this part of the continent – a well-preserved historical gem on a small peninsula jutting into the Rio de la Plata.
In the capital, Montevideo, things are a little more multicultural. Buildings in a riot of architectural styles – Spanish, French, Italian, English and Art Deco – line the streets. Mercado del Puerto, the 19th century market building near the docks, is a carnivore’s dream – dozens of restaurants sizzle and steam with tray after tray of succulent and delicious asado (grilled meat), the staple diet of most Uruguayans.
Escape the cities and the giant barbeque and drive along the spectacular coast stretching east of Montevideo, a conveyor belt of small bays, beaches and promontories backed by hills and woods. Stop off at the resort of Punta del Este – a favourite sun-and-sea spot with the international elite. Further east still, the population dwindles and you’ll find quiet lagoons where you can kayak through still waters to a soundtrack of chirruping birds.
For a classic road adventure, choose Route 7 towards Melo, heart of the cattle-ranching country, for most of its length the road runs through the Cuchilla Grande – a range of soft, curving hills – and past fragrant vineyards and orchards up to the Brazilian border.
Environmental awareness and caring for their surroundings is one of the main characteristics that feature throughout the people of Uruguay and the country. In Uruguay it is possible to enjoy the great diversity of natural landscapes and protected areas. Moreover, the natural beauty of the country is enhanced by the continued improvement of infrastructure such as the two new terminals at Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo and at Colonia port.
The new Carrasco terminal, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, has parking with a capacity for 1200 vehicles and has replaced the old terminal. This new terminal building has four jet ways, separate floors for arrivals and departures and a large viewing area on the top floor. The new fluvial terminal in Colonia was inaugurated in October 2009 and hopes to especially attract passengers from both shores of the Rio de la Plata. Thanks to all this, when the time arrives to decide on a destination, choose one where you can enjoy nature, colonial history and a high quality of life, choose Uruguay.