The Best Day Trips from Montevideo
Countryside day trip | © Bicentenario Uruguay/Flickr
If you visit Uruguay, you will most likely want to stay in the capital, Montevideo. There are plenty of things to do there, but you might miss out on some unforgettable experiences that you can only have outside of the buzz of the city. If you don’t have enough time to spend a night exploring the rest of the country, you can rent a car and do a day trip to one of these fantastic locations.
This is a beautiful seaside resort in the department of Canelones, just an hour’s drive from Montevideo. Atlántida is home to beautiful beaches that you can enjoy during the morning and the afternoon; finishing the day watching the sunset on the beach is a spectacle not to be missed. It’s a great place to get in touch with nature, not too far from the city. There are numerous restaurants and the whole town has a very cozy and familiar ambiance, perfect for visitors. You must visit the main church, for its unique design makes it a Uruguayan architectural landmark.
Atlantida, Canelones, Uruguay
This town is perfect for a one-day trip, as it is very small but still worth visiting. As you enter Pueblo Edén, driving through a mountain range, you will feel like you are being transported to a different world, yet are only two hours from the capital. There are signs every few blocks reminding you of the nature of the place: “This is a tranquil town,” “Go slowly, don’t rush,” and “Here we take life very calmly. Enjoy this place.” You will probably encounter more animals than people, as it seems like it’s siesta time 24/7. Walk around the town with only 80 inhabitants, visit the beautiful and clean main square, and have a delicious meal in the only restaurant in town before heading back.
Pueblo Eden, El Edén, Maldonado, Uruguay
This is a bigger seaside city with plenty of things to do during the day and is less than two hours’ drive away. Visit its gorgeous beaches, walk around the promenade and enjoy great ice cream. Have some nice seafood in one of the many restaurants around the promenade. There are also two hills, one that you can go up by cableway, called Cerro San Antonio, and another that is easy enough for kids to hike up, called Cerro Pan de Azúcar. It takes a couple of hours to climb Pan de Azúcar, but the striking view is totally worth it. There is also an old castle near Piriápolis that is open for visits.
Piriápolis, Maldonado, Uruguay
Sierra de las Ánimas
This is a famous mountain range close to the Southern Uruguayan coast and only two hours from the capital. The unspoiled trek consists of paths that go up and around the mountains, and some lead to natural pools formed by the rocks. The area is rocky with a lot of forestry; this is an incredible way of getting in contact with nature, spotting many species of trees, and breathing in the pure air of the mountain. The hike up is not very hard, it’s a great form of exercise that can be done as a family with children as young as eight or 10 years old.
Sierra de las Ánimas, Maldonado, Uruguay
There are a number of vineyards where you can book tours to explore the landscape and surroundings, learn secrets and history about particular ways of wine making, and of course taste the selection of wines. Some of the most famous ones, no further than 40 minutes away from Montevideo, are: Juanicó, De Lucca, Bodega Artesana, Bodega Bouza, and Stagnari. Ask about their restaurants and complete your day with a nice traditional meal to complement the wine.
Vineyard in Uruguay | © Ana Raquel S. Hernandes/Flickr
Parque Lecocq is a 120-acre natural reserve that you can visit to see 33 different species of native and exotic animals from all over the world, some in their natural habitats and others enjoying the big open spaces. The exotic animals were brought to Parque Lecocq from other small zoos, where they couldn’t have access to the big spaces they need. Visiting the park is a joyful experience, especially for children, as you can see more than 500 healthy, happy animals who found their home here. What’s more, it’s only a 30 minute drive from the city.
Zoológico Parque Lecocq, Montevideo, Uruguay
This town—an hour-and-a-half from Montevideo—was founded by mainly Swiss immigrants, and is one of the most popular areas in the country to buy excellent quality cheese! True to its origins, this town is also renowned for amazing beer and sausages, and even has their own Beer festival once a year where people dance in traditional costumes. Walking along the cobbled streets, with old streetlights, passing through the main square is a walk back to the past. Forget you’re in Uruguay and have some local beer and sausages, or try some amazing fondues in one of the many bars and restaurants in the area.
Nueva Helvecia, Colonia, Uruguay
There are many touristic farms close to Montevideo, where you can book a horse riding or hiking tour for the day, and finish with strictly Uruguayan traditional food (think proper Grandmas’ recipes). Some of these are Finca Piedra, Estancia Don Miguel, El Galope, El Retoño, Renacimiento, but there are plenty more. Do some research and pick your favorite, and don’t forget to call in advance to book your reservations, so you are sure that there is space for you in the restaurant and to go horse riding. They usually have very tame horses for kids or unexperienced riders to go on, so don’t be scared to feel like a gaucho for a day.
Check out the classic Uruguayan sheepskin saddle | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr