Uruguay is a country generally known for its vast countryside, its football team and players, and high-quality beef. What a lot of people don’t know is that the country also has a beautiful coastline to the Río de la Plata river and the Atlantic Ocean, vibrant cities full of culture, and striking landscapes. Check out the most epic places in Uruguay that you probably didn’t know about, and plan your next vacation accordingly.
Punta del Diablo, Rocha
Punta del Diablo is a fishing town on the far southeastern coast of Uruguay, right on the Atlantic Ocean. This paradise of unspoiled beaches gets busy during January with young people vacationing here. The area is surrounded by forests and nature, and you can find Santa Teresa natural reserve very near the town. It’s perfect to enjoy and relax at the beach, practice some water sports, and visit the natural reserve when you get bored of the sandy landscapes. There’s a beach nearby called Cerro Verde, which also hosts a natural reserve and organizations dedicated to rehabilitating animals such as sea turtles.
Cabo Polonio, Rocha
Cabo Polonio, another peninsula on the east coast of Uruguay, is a very unique, bohemian place. The big sand dunes surrounding it are protected, so the only access to the town is on big trucks designated by the government, or by foot or horseback riding from a nearby town called Valizas. The journey from Valizas is kilometers long and includes crossing a stream. Cabo Polonio has beautiful beaches from where you can see dolphins, and a pack of sea lions that live on the rocks next to the lighthouse. That area is also protected so as to not disturb the sea lions, but you can still watch them and photograph them safely.
Cerro Pan de Azúcar, Maldonado
Pan de Azúcar mount is a popular destination among locals because it hosts an animal reserve. As you climb it, you can see different types of indigenous animals in their natural habitats. The reserve has managed to save several Uruguayan species that were near extinction, and safely allow visitors to see and know more about them. You can continue up to the top of the mount after the reserve ends, and do some rock climbing and other adventurous sports like canopy railing and rappelling. There’s a big cross at the top that you can go into and makes for amazing views and photographs.
The Indigenous Mount near Punta Rubia, Rocha
This mount is an incredible display of indigenous species, since it is one of the few habitats that has remained untouched throughout the centuries. It is a complex system, where innumerable living beings interact in their natural environment. The mount is the result of millions of years of evolution and adaptation of all of its species, making it particularly interesting. Everyone must make an effort to maintain these conditions, so visiting the mount comes with a great responsibility to not alter it or soil it.
Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia
The historic quarter of this important colonial city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, because of its unique architecture and urban landscape. Spain and Portugal disputed the territory back at the end of the 18th century, transforming the city into an amalgam of the styles from each civilization. Nowadays, the modern fuses with the historic; you can explore the old city and discover quaint little restaurants where you can enjoy amazing cuisine, based on fish, seafood and beef. You can also take a walk along the old city walls for some beautiful coastline views.
Montevideo’s Rambla, Montevideo
The Rambla is the coastline promenade that borders the whole capital city on the south coast. Everyone loves the Rambla; you can walk, jog, cycle, or skate for kilometers watching the urban landscape change on one side, and the natural landscape made of beaches and water on the other. It’s perfect for people watching, and seeing the sun rise and set behind the palm trees. It’s very vibrant and many locals’ favorite place to go on a sunny day.
Sierra de Minas, Lavalleja
The Sierra de Minas is a group of rocky mountains in the countryside of Lavalleja. There are spots where you can practice a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding, rappelling, canopy railing, camping, hiking, and rock climbing. You can see some of the most stunning views of Uruguay there, looking down to the countryside from the mountains. There are also small waterfalls, as well as natural pools and caves to discover.
Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo
Tristán Narvaja is a very famous street market in the capital city, Montevideo. The market extends over several blocks, transforming itself from a fruit and vegetable market, to an everyday amenities market, to an artisans and antiquities flea market. There you will find beautiful jewelry and old artifacts, vintage clothing, plants and animals, music, precious stones, and other various curious trinkets. There are also performers on each corner, who make this lively and colorful market even more so. The market is so popular that several antiquity and vinyl shops have opened along the same streets, as well as typical bars and cafés where groups of old people gather to watch what goes on.