39 Must-Visit Attractions in Uruguay

Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia del Sacramento | © Michele Falzone / Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Milena Fajardo

Don’t miss out on the 20 most important attractions throughout Uruguay. Get to know different areas of the country by visiting all of these; combining culture, cityscapes and natural sceneries. Discover the top 20 things to do on your next visit to Uruguay, from culture, to beaches, to countryside, vineyards, spa and more.

The Best Things to See and Do in Uruguay

1. Estadio Centenario

Concert Hall, Museum, Stadium

Centenario Football Stadium, Montevideo
© teddy holt / Alamy Stock Photo
This is the biggest football stadium in the country, and was built in 1930 for the first ever World Cup. It is still Montevideo’s main stadium, and a must visit even if you’re not a big football fan. The energy during a match is unlike anything else; going to see the national team is a spectacle in itself. You can also visit the museum in the stadium to learn all about Uruguay’s football history. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

2. Colonia del Sacramento

Architectural Landmark

Iglesia Matriz, Barrio Historico, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
© Stefano Paterna / Alamy Stock Photo
Colonia del Sacramento’s historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beautiful colonial architecture and urban landscape. Colonia del Sacramento changed hands between the Spanish and the Portuguese several times, each leaving their mark in the city that now is also blended with contemporary society. The historic quarter surrounded by the city walls feels like it’s suspended in time — a very picturesque place by the Uruguay river. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

3. Hot Springs

Natural Feature

Visit the hot springs in Salto and Paysandú for an extremely relaxing trip. Natural water is heated and flows from under the earth to the surface, where now there are water parks, thermal spas, inns and hotels. The water has a lot of minerals which makes it particularly good for drinking and soaking in. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

4. Salto del Penitente

Natural Feature

Uruguay has a very rocky landscape around Lavalleja, where you can find Salto del Penitente. You should mainly go for the breathtaking views from up the mountains, which lead you to small waterfalls and natural pools. There is also a restaurant in the rocky mountains that you can’t miss, and various adventurous activities offered, like rock climbing and horse riding. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

5. Pan de Azúcar

Hill Station

Pan de Azúcar is a hill in Maldonado. It is easily recognizable because of the big cross constructed on its top. The hill is home to a natural reserve that hosts a great display of native Uruguayan wildlife. Some species even used to be endangered and were saved by the efforts of the natural reserve. Do some hiking, experience nature, and climb to the top! Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

6. Teatro Solís

Theater

Teatro Solis, Montevideo, Uruguay
© Stefano Paterna / Alamy Stock Photo
Solis Theater is a landmark in Ciudad Vieja, the Old City district in Montevideo. The architecture and urban planning of Ciudad Vieja are beautiful—you can get lost wondering through the streets, people-watching, and discovering beautiful corners. Go inside Solis Theater to see beautiful ornamental décor from the beginning of the 20th century. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

7. Laguna de Castillos

Natural Feature

Castillos Lake is a great spot to go swimming and fishing, since the natural water is a refreshing change from the usual salty sea water from the beach. You can take a boat to the Ombú mount, a special place that hosts massive shrub-like trees that are hollow inside. There are also fields of very tall palm trees that are very distinctive to the area. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

8. Estancia La Aurora

Natural Feature

This seems like a typical countryside farm… until you discover the great mysticism behind it. Thousands of people visit every year because it is considered to have special energy that, for some reason, attracts UFOs. Many people have extraordinary stories about the sightings that occur here. You can also find the religious figure of Padre Pío, which some people also believe gives blessings to pilgrims that visit. Either way, it’s an interesting place to try your chances for some supernatural happenings. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

9. Visit mines of precious stones in Artigas

Natural Feature

The amethyst stone is abundant in the north of Uruguay. You can book an exploration tour that takes you inside the caves, to see some of the biggest, most incredible displays of raw precious stones that are yet to be mined. You can even collect your own with the help of special tools and guidance offered by the tour guides. You will also witness panoramic views of the fields where the mines are located. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

10. Pablo Atchugarry Foundation

Park

Pablo Atchugarry is a famous Uruguayan sculptor who works mainly with marble and metal. A few years ago, he opened a gallery in Manantiales, Punta del Este, that is also home to the best sculpture park in Uruguay. The gallery has two separate indoor spaces: one where Atchugarry’s works are displayed, and another one for changing exhibitions. The sculptures park, outdoors, expands and evolves as more sculptures are commissioned and the landscape is adapted to host them. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

11. Punta Ballena

Museum

Pool and terrace of Casapueblo, the Whitewashed cement and stucco buildings near the town of Punta Del Este, Uruguay
© TravelPhotoExpert / Alamy Stock Photo
Punta Ballena is located very near Punta del Este. One of the main attractions here is the viewpoint, from where you can watch splendid sunrises and sunsets with cliff and ocean views, and Punta del Este city far away in the horizon. Another one is Casapueblo, Carlos Páez Vilaró’s workshop-turned-museum, a stunning work of architecture by one of Uruguay’s most prominent artists. Finally, you can also visit Las Cumbres, or “the hills,” to see more views from above, and an arboretum. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

12. Garzón

Hotel

Famous Hotel and Restaurant Garzon in Garzon, Uruguay, January 28th 2019
© TravelPhotoExpert / Alamy Stock Photo
Garzón is a small village near Rocha that has remained quaint and enchanting throughout the years. Chef Francis Mallman opened a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel there, which put the town’s name on the map. The place is very remote and perfect to walk around, as if you were the only citizen. It is very peaceful and quiet, and very close to the countryside. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Grutas del Palacio

This geo-park is highly recommended, especially for anyone who enjoys alternative experiences related to geology, palaeontology and archaeology. You can enter ancient caves filled with cave paintings, and geological formations that are 2,500 million years old. It is one of the only two geo-parks on the continent. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Touristic countryside houses

Visit one of the many countryside houses that offer tourist accommodation. Not only will you be able to hike and explore the gorgeous countryside landscape, but also take part in horseback riding. These countryside houses offer guided horse riding tours for all skill levels, and exploring Uruguay this way is an unmatchable experience. You will also enjoy delicious homemade food. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

13. Rambla

Architectural Landmark

The Rambla is the coastline promenade, present in every coastal city of Uruguay. It is the typical meeting place because of its stunning views of the rivers and ocean. Walking along the Rambla is a peaceful activity, and watching the sun rise or set on the sea is rewarding. The Rambla of Montevideo is 22 km long (14 miles) Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

14. Vineyards

Architectural Landmark

There are several vineyards in Uruguay, and most of them offer wine tasting tours with meals and visits to the estate. The typical Uruguayan wine is a red Tannat, but there are also several very high-quality reds and whites with different grapes. Visiting a vineyard is a great excursion because you get to appreciate the countryside views, great wines and food. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

15. Museo del Carnaval

Museum

Interior of Carnival Museum. View of Murga Gallery. Montevideo, Uruguay
© Vanessa Volk / Alamy Stock Photo
Carnival is massive in Uruguay—it is the longest lasting carnival in the world and lasts all summer. If you visit Uruguay when it’s not carnival, you can still learn about it and experience it in Montevideo by going to the Carnival Museum. It’s very picturesque and definitely worth the visit. If you want to listen and see a show very similar to what goes on in Carnival, you should visit El Milongón, where you can have dinner while enjoying the cultural show. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

16. Dine in José Ignacio

Architectural Landmark

Lighthouse in José Ignacio beach, Maldonado, Uruguay
© Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr
Once a sleepy fishing village east of party town Punta del Este, José Ignacio is now making waves on the international foodie scene thanks to an explosion of fine-dining establishments on the coast. Try the acclaimed La Huella (which now has an outpost in Miami) for fire-grilled octopus and standout caipiroskas. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

Find refuge in Rocha

The deserted sands and laid-back villages of Rocha are an oasis on the eastern border of the country. From hidden lagoons to rocky outcrops peppered with protected birds, the department’s wilds remain untamed. Escape civilisation in electric-free Cabo Polonio, make friends with fur seals in La Pedrera, or trek across the sand dunes in La Paloma. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

Hike in Minas

The closest thing to a mountain in Uruguay is Cerro Arequita in Minas, about two hours northeast of Montevideo. Pack a pair of walking boots and set out on a hike through the hill’s mythical Ombú forest, or head underground to spot millions of bats in the Cretaceous-age Gruta Colón, or Columbus Cave. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

Get tipsy in Carmelo

The pretty colonial town of Carmelo is worth a visit in itself, but the real draw is the boutique wineries that encircle it. This region, known to grape aficionados as the Uruguayan Tuscany, is home to five family-run vineyards: Familia Irurtia, Almacen de la Capilla, Campo Tinto, El Legado and Narbona. Email ahead to coordinate personalised tours and tastings with the winemakers themselves. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

Spot whales from the beaches of Piriápolis

For half of the year, between June and November, Atlantic southern right whales breed off the coast of Uruguay. Punta Colorada and Negra, near the quaint seaside town of Piriápolis, have some of the best lookout spots up and down the coast. Start out early when the waves are calm and look out for circling gulls to have the best chance of spotting whales frolicking in the waters. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

The Best Beaches in Uruguay

The beaches of Montevideo

The capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo, has a lot of beaches. The city is surrounded by the Rambla, which could be seen as border between city and sea, and is about 22 km long. Therefore, it is very easy to reach the city’s beaches by walking, riding a bicycle or by public transport. Some of the prettiest beaches are Playa de los Pocitos, which is located very close to the center, and is a busy place for sports fans. Another one is Playa Ramírez, which is close to the Parque Rodó, and is ideal for families and suitable for wheelchairs, and Playa Malvín, with some of the calmest and clearest waters in Uruguay. Recommended by Ricarda Reininger.

Playa Chihuahua

While Uruguay might not have the white sands and towering palms of neighbouring Brazil, it does share the same sunshine. If you’re after an all-over tan, head to the country’s famous nudist beach, Playa Chihuahua. Here you can bare it all alongside bronzed sun-worshippers from nearby Punta del Este. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

17. Punta del Este

Natural Feature

5544062556_1463c41357_b
© Jimmy Baikovicius

Punta del Este is located in the department Maldonado, on the east side of Uruguay. It has three beaches, of which Playa Brava and Playa Mansa are the most popular ones for tourists. The most famous attraction is ‘Los Dedos’, a sculpture made by a Chilean artist. But there is also a lighthouse, a casino and an annual film festival, the Festival Internacional de Cine de Punta del Este. Also, party people will find this the perfect place to make the best of the night. Recommended by Ricarda Reininger.

Costa de Oro

The longest stretch of beach in Uruguay: Costa de Oro is a coastal section of Uruguay which is about 45 kilometers long and extends along several resorts and beaches. In the past it was an useless area, which was reclaimed by planting different trees and offering attractive activities for visitors. Mostly, Costa de Oro is visited by local tourists, but beaches like Costa Azul and La Floresta are popular places by foreign tourist too. All of them are highly recommendable, but the most beautiful ones are Neptunia, with its white and wide sandbanks and Jaureguiberry, which leads into a creek. Recommended by Ricarda Reininger.

Playa de la Moza

Located within the impressive Santa Teresa National Park, here you will find beaches, forests, lagoons, and even a Medieval fortress. Also growing in popularity, Playa de la Moza is one of the most beautiful beaches in the park, with a few dusty paths leading through the area that some might not even classify as a town. Many visitors pitch their tents and occupy a patch of grass at one of the campsites, there is a very small market to buy snacks, and a couple of bars and restaurants open at random times, usually only during high season. Recommended by Will Lees.

The Best Seaside Towns to Visit in Uruguay

La Paloma

The woods creep onto the beaches of La Paloma in a hypnotising blend of green and blue. Nature lovers will be in heaven here, perched on the edge of Cape Santa Maria. Wake up early and hike to the nearby Laguna de Rocha to spot over 200 types of birds, including Uruguay’s salmon-pink flamingos. If rain threatens, duck into this rustic town’s lighthouse or the quirky Casino Cabo Santa Maria. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, grab a board and make a beeline for the windswept beaches for surfing and swimming. Don’t leave without catching the breathtaking sunset from La Balconada – La Paloma’s picture-perfect waterfront. Recommended by Georgia Mizen.

18. Punta del Diablo

Natural Feature

Punta del Diablo Beach, popular tourist place in Uruguay
© Kseniya Ragozina / Alamy Stock Photo
The area surrounding Punta del Diablo is extraordinary. There is an old fortress called Santa Teresa, a natural reserve with the same name, campsites, and different unspoiled beaches. Cerro Verde is another natural reserve nearby, on the beach where people take care of sea turtles that get stranded. Punta del Diablo is a charming fishermen’s town with unspoiled beaches and great seafood. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

19. Cabo Polonio

Architectural Landmark

Lighthouse in Cabo Polonio, Rocha, Uruguay
© Kseniya Ragozina / Alamy Stock Photo
This is a protected area that can only be accessed on a special route with special transport, or by foot or horseback from a nearby town called Valizas. The journey from Valizas is a great hike along the beach, through big sand dunes and a stream. Cabo Polonio is basically made of tiny ranches and a big lighthouse. Next to the lighthouse, you can watch sea lions in their natural habitat, that is also protected. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

La Pedrera

It might have just one strip of short road running through it, but La Pedrera is an enchanting place. The main road ends in a long, sloping staircase that goes right into the ocean, offering many picturesque views for you to enjoy. To this day, only a few restaurants, a very small supermarket, a café and a hostel make up the centre of La Pedrera. Recommended by Will Lees.

20. Manantiales

Architectural Landmark

Outside of the chic, trendy, upscale city of Punta del Este, you will find the relaxed surf town of La Barra. Continue on a little further and you will reach the small commune of Manantiales. With a semi-permanent population of under 150, make sure you don’t accidentally miss this small locale, as it’s made up of just a few hundred meters of main streets and avenues. A few restaurants, cafés and, of course, a beautiful beach is all you really need. Recommended by Will Lees.

The Best Markets in Uruguay

Tristán Narvaja, Cordón, Montevideo

The ultimate flea market, Tristán Narvaja extends for blocks and blocks of streets in Montevideo city centre, displaying all kinds of goods. You can find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade food, toiletries, DVDs, antiques, old newspapers and magazines, artisan jewelry, vintage clothing, and even animals. It takes place every Sunday morning, is always very busy, and takes hours to go through. There are so many stalls offering such varied merchandise that you’ll probably want to visit more than once. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Feria Artesanal de La Paloma, La Paloma, Rocha

La Paloma is a great seaside city, and you will find lots of things to do there as well as seeing some beautiful beaches. During the night, this big market opens, where you will find various trinkets and handcrafted objects. There are a lot of artistic creations, such as landscape paintings and drawings, sand art, and ceramics. You will also find some really cool musical instruments originating from all over Latin America, small wooden toys for kids, and gorgeous wooden board games. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

21. Mercado del Puerto

Market, Fusion

Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo, Uruguay
© Stefano Paterna / Alamy Stock Photo
The “Port Market” is not actually so much of a market anymore but more of a giant space with restaurants and shops in it. You can find street markets right outside during the weekends, and an artisan market nearby every day. It’s an amazing place to involve yourself in Uruguayan culture, because you can eat the most typical food, listen to street performers play typical music, and people-watch for hours on end since it’s a busy part of the city. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Mercado de los Artesanos, Montevideo, Ciudad Vieja

This indoor market displays the best-quality artisanal creations in the city. The artisans’ guild organizes what can be displayed: usually, artisans apply to display their work here, and members of the guild assess the quality and originality of the work. You can also find many shops in the area, as well as other artisans selling their work on the street. Among the multiple materials used, you will predominantly find batik designs, cane, ceramics, leather, metal, mate, wood, soap, bone, resin, glass, candle, and cloth. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Feria Artesanal de Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia

The historic quarter in Colonia del Sacramento is a unique place, named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its well-maintained colonial urban landscape. In the artisan market, you will find unique souvenirs handcrafted by locals, completely different to the ones found in the typical tourist shops on the main street. It is more modest than markets in other cities, but is still enjoyable to browse through. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Pescadería de Punta del Diablo, Punta del Diablo, Rocha

The fish market in Punta del Diablo is a quaint and lovely place with wooden stalls where the local fishers sell their goods. Some even sell their catch straight from their own boats. You can buy cooked meals in town during the summer, such as fish empanadas, mussels, fried algae balls, and calamari; all the fish and shellfish that are used will come from this market. If you’re cooking for yourself, don’t miss the chance to find fresh fish and shellfish caught on the day to cook on the grill. Ask for flounder, bay scallops, shrimp, and octopus. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

Paseo de los Artesanos de Cabo Polonio, Cabo Polonio, Rocha

Cabo Polonio is a unique place in the far east of Uruguay, with Atlantic Ocean beaches. It is only accessible by travelling on big trucks designated by the government, to prevent the deterioration of its big sand dunes, or by walking or horseback riding from a nearby town called Valizas. Once you’re there, you can’t miss the artisans’ market; it’s one of the most beautiful markets in the whole country, featuring unique handcrafted clothing, jewelry, and unique objects such as wind chimes made from shells. You will also see live shows and find some amazing homemade food here. Recommended by Milena Fajardo.

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