The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Uruguay

Sunset in Uruguay | © Marcelo Campi / Flickr
Sunset in Uruguay | © Marcelo Campi / Flickr
Photo of Georgia Mizen
26 May 2017

Most travellers who land in Uruguay go no further than the eclectic capital, Montevideo. But if you look beyond the city’s skyline, you’ll also discover an untrampled country with sprawling ranches, rustic beaches, elusive wildlife and a rich wine industry. From postcard-worthy colonial towns to natural hot springs, here’s our pick of the best experiences Uruguay has to offer.

Hunt for treasures at Montevideo’s markets

Uruguay’s capital is the place to go for succulent steaks and unusual souvenirs. Swing by Mercado del Puerto to find a selection of the city’s à la carte parrillas peddling beef that’s better than any you’ll find in Argentina. After a memento of your trip? Visit the Mercado de los Artesanos, packed with local handicrafts, or Sunday’s sprawling Feria de Tristán Narvaja to pick up a traditional mate and silver bombilla.

Mercado del Puerto | © André Ribeiro / Flickr

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.

Rocha Department, Uruguay

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.

Carmelo, Colonia Department, Uruguay

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.

Piriápolis, Maldonado Department, Uruguay

Take the waters in Salto

The waters of Salto’s termas, or hot springs, pour in from the Guaraní Aquifer – one of the largest underwater reservoirs in the world. With a super high mineral content and balmy temperatures reaching 46°C (114.8°F), they’re a perfect place to indulge in a little R&R. Splash out on a day at Arapey Thermal Resort & Spa – the most exclusive and remote hot springs complex in gaucho country.

Arapey Thermal Resort & Spa, Termas del Arapey, Salto Department, Uruguay, +598 4768 2005

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