Mate is the epitome of Uruguayan culture and tradition. It is a bitter, caffeinated beverage made of herbs (yerba) drunk through a metal straw from a very distinctive cup. The cup is traditionally made of leather, but can also be made of ceramic or silicone. Since it is commonly passed around a group of people, the mate cup symbolizes community and sharing. You don’t have to be a mate drinker to buy one as a souvenir: the beautifully crafted cups are a nice ornament and can also be given as a gift to signify familiarity to those close to you.
The classic Uruguayan souvenirs found in any coastal city are made of seashells. Artisans collect shells big and small to glue them together and make impressive little works of art depicting important sights, like lighthouses or sea animals. You can also find glass bottles brimming with shells, seashell jewelry, and other pretty creations such as wind chimes.
Polished minerals and stones
A large region of Uruguay is dedicated to mining semi precious minerals and stones, which are then treated and polished to be sold as jewelry or decoration. Uruguay has large quantities of amethyst, which is the national stone. It has beautiful purple crystals and can be cut into different shapes, like hearts, making for an awe-inspiring souvenir.
Wool or wool clothing
Organic wool from Uruguay is world famous for its outstanding quality. The country is most renowned for the production of Merino wool, which provides better thermal protection than any other weight of wool. It is extremely soft, usually hypoallergenic, and absorbs humidity. Hit the souvenir jackpot with a Merino wool garment or buy some skeins of yarn for knitting.
Dulce de leche
Imagine a combination of flavors somewhere between toffee and caramel with a creamy yet firm texture and an invitingly sweet aroma. Dulce de leche is irresistible and if you have a sweet tooth you will not want to leave it behind. Luckily, you can buy jars of dulce de leche by the kilo. Try it on anything: toast, pancakes, waffles, with banana and chocolate, even with peanut butter if you dare…
Uruguay is the place to buy leather because it’s abundant, inexpensive, and excellent quality. The best places to find leather belts, wallets, bags, and shoes are in street markets across the country. You can also find all sorts of leather souvenirs engraved with images of the Uruguayan countryside and other useful trinkets like keychains, bottle holders, and coin purses.
Bring home some high-quality wood items for a classic, elegant souvenir. You can find treated organic wood items for the kitchen, like chopping boards and wine holders, or rustic decorative pieces like lamps, coat hangers, and small sculptures.
A box of alfajores
You cannot visit Uruguay without trying the local alfajores, and chances are you will not leave Uruguay without a box full of them! This delicious treat is a cake the size of a cookie and comes in three traditional flavors: the most popular is chocolate, followed by nieve which tastes like meringue, and finally coconut. They consist of two layers bound together by dulce de leche and smothered with chocolate, powdered sugar, or coconut respectively.
A gaucho hat
Travelers leave Uruguay wanting to take the liberating gaucho spirit home with them. What better way of doing so than by bringing back a key element of the gaucho’s attire: their hat! This wide-brimmed, stylish hat is ideal for blocking the fierce Uruguayan sun, so it’s better to pick one up at the beginning of your trip than at the end.
You will find charming artisanal ornaments for decoration in every street market and artisan boutique in Uruguay. The options are extensive: you can find authentic pieces of art, decorative mini sculptures, unique children’s toys, glass objects, musical instruments, and more. Just make sure you find something special that resonates with you as well as representing your holiday, then you’ll know that you found the perfect memory to take home.