The north of Uruguay has thermal springs that run close to the Earth’s surface, which create pools of natural warm water. There are pools of all shapes and sizes, and these are perfect to visit during the winter, when it’s cold outside, and hot inside. Lying in a thermal pool is very relaxing, so many people go to unwind and to enjoy the multiple spa treatments that are often offered. There are also thermal water parks, with slides, tunnels, bridges, waterfalls, and pools with artificial waves.
Winter is the perfect season to visit the countryside, as it can get too hot and humid in the summer. There are many inns, countryside hotels, and tourist farms to choose from that offer excursions, homemade meals, and local beverages. You can enjoy a peaceful getaway, or do some hiking cross-country to get you back in touch with nature. You’ll also be able to find horse riding, fishing, canoeing, and activities for kids.
There are many football games during the winter, specially in the capital, because of the Uruguayan Football League. Watching the local teams and feeling the energy in the big stadium is a thrilling experience. Watching die-hard football fans singing, playing the drums and trumpets, and waving flags is a spectacle in itself. For the ultimate Uruguayan experience, get a choripan, a delicious sausage inside a bread roll.
Winter is prime whale-spotting time in Uruguay. Whales migrate to the east coast of Uruguay at the beginning of July, stay in Punta del Este to procreate and take care of their young, and then leave again in October. Even though it can be difficult to see them, as they are usually quite far away, you can be lucky and witness their enormous tails splashing around or see the water being spurted upwards as they breathe. There are many boat tours you can take that stay a safe distance away but still allow you to see the whales.
Colonia del Sacramento’s historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of this, it can get very busy with tourists during the spring and summer, which naturally takes away part of its charm. Winter is a much better time to explore it, because the shops, bars, and restaurants will be open, but won’t be as crowded. Walk along the city walls and cobbled streets to feel as if you have been transported back to Uruguay’s colonial period.
Located 16 miles (25 kilometres) from the main city of Tacuarembó, the small town of Valle Edén hosts some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Winter is a great time to appreciate the thick vegetation, the mountain ranges, and the old abandoned train station and tracks. Stay at the old pulpería, a stone shop built in the 17th century that used to sell all kinds of artifacts, and now functions as an inn. Visit the caves, natural pools, and rock formations that are created by the erosion caused by a nearby small waterfall. There’s also the Carlos Gardel Museum, if you would like to learn the history of tango.
Uruguay makes its own wine from a particular kind of grape called tannat, but most vineyards also make red and white wines of different grapes. The best way to try them all is to visit them and go on a wine tour. There are several vineyards towards the southwest and east of the country, so you can visit more than one, regardless of which direction you want to go. The vineyard tours are very interesting; you will learn the history of each vineyard and of the wine-making process, as well as walking through the fields and seeing the machinery that is used to make wine.
Pueblo Garzón used to be a town just like many others in the east of Uruguay. It was easily accessed by train, and had a beautiful train station covered in mosaics. It was then largely abandoned, until Chef Francis Mallman put the town on the map again by opening a Michelin-starred restaurant and boutique hotel here in 1977. Since then, more shops, art galleries, and restaurants have opened, but the quaint appearance of the forgotten town has been retained. This results is an incredibly picturesque setting where you can enjoy the fine things in life and still feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.