Chances are you won’t be flying over to South America just to visit Uruguay. Most likely, you’re already over in this part of the world to check out Argentina, Brazil or as part of some bigger bolder adventure around South America. If this is the case, then Uruguay is well worth the visit. No, it won’t blow you away with a wonder of the world or one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences everyone salivates over. But, it will be one of those 4/5 days you look back on and think “that was cool”, in large part because of the people – they are super proud of their country and make Uruguay a great little spot to visit
#1 Mercado de Puerto - a former rail station with open showing parrillas serving world class food and a cracking atmosphere
#2 The Locals - getting to know some of the local Uruguayan people who couldn't be more friendly and proud of their country
#3 Wandering through the old markets and streets of Montevideo - the nation's capital is home to around half of Uruguay's population and offers some lovely places to walk around and soak up the atmosphere, especially by the various beaches for sunset
#4 Colonia del Sacramento - wander the cobbled streets of the UNESCO world heritage site of Barrio Histórico
#5 Walking along the Rio de la Plata - an unusual sight seeing the waves roll up to the fine sandy beaches from the brown sea!
#6 Sampling the local Chivitos - yes, they are basically a steak sandwich, but the local pride in them adds to the flavour!
#7 Sunning yourself in Punta del Este - if you must
The route. For the link to see the route in google maps, see the link below in the Rough Itinerary
- Day 1 – Grab the ferry in Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento (can either go from Puerto Madero with Buquebus, or Terminal Internacional de Cruceros on Ave. Inmigrantes. with Colonia Express Ferries). Crossing takes an hour, but 2 hours with customs etc. Have a wander and stay the night around the cobbled streets of the UNESCO world heritage site of Barrio Histórico, an irregular colonial-era group of narrow cobbled streets, that occupies a small peninsula jutting into the river to the west of where you get off the ferry. For more details, see Trip to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires
- Day 2/3 – take the bus to Montevideo. Takes around 2.5 hours and typically the buses in Uruguay are super clean, efficient and cheap. Base yourself for 2/3 nights in Montevideo to check out the Ciudad Vieja, walk along the beach fronts and MUST MUST MUST get a bar seat by one of the parrillas in the fantastic Mercado de Puerto
- Day 4 – take a day trip to Punta del Este, the glitzy seaside town many Brazilians and Argentinians flock to flaunt their beach bodies amongst the crowd and for a chance to spot a celebrity. Although, I certainly wasn’t a fan!
- Day 5 – either get the ferry back to Buenos Aires from Montevideo, or fly off to the next part of your journey
- For the link to the route on google maps, see Google Maps for 4/5 Days in Uruguay
- Ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento – you’ll want to go with one of the two main ferry companies, either Buquebus or Colonia Express Ferries. Pretty similar from what we saw in terms of price, although Buqebus seemed to have more departures. Buquebus departs from Puerto Madero, Colonia Express Ferries from Terminal Internacional de Cruceros on Ave Inmigrantes. Make sure you get to the terminal 30mins before departure as you’ll need to clear customs
- Colonia del Sacramento food – there are quite a few restaurants in town, but many are quite touristy and offer only fairly basic food. Although on the plus side you can get your fill of the Uruguayan Chivito! (super tasty steak sandwich) We tried a few places, but none that really stood out. One place which we did like was La Pergola by the waterfront on the western tip which was a nice place on a sunny day to watch the crowds go by and hear the waves hitting (see more tips in the entry for Trip to Colonia del Sacramento from BA)
- Colonia del Sacramento things to do – the Old Bull Ring (Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos) is around a 10min cab ride outside of town. While the bull ring itself is not really much to write home about (and you can’t get in!), the hour long walk back along the beach on a sunny day is quite nice
- Montevideo food – simply must eat at the Mercado de Puerto (Eating in Mercado de Puerto for more details). Try to get a seat by the bar overlooking the parrilla. There’s something hypnotic about watching the food sizzle, plus you get served quicker. Also consider going a little later than the usual lunch crowd as quietens down nicely at around 3pm. Don’t only stick with the meats, some of the vegetable kebabs were wonderful
- Montevideo walks – walk around the Ciudad Vieja to soak up the atmosphere and walk along the beaches near the Playa Ramirez for some lovely sunsets and trying the Chivitos (the restaurant El Tinkal did some great ones)
- Montevideo place to stay – the backpackers La Aldea on Dr Emilio Frugoni was wonderful. The guys there make you feel like you’re stepping back into your home and can help you with just about everything you want in Montevideo
- Punta del Este – my honest advice would be don’t bother!
The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences
Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"? That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others. That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score
This overall experience score is calculated by: take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10). Then convert into a score out of 100
Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique". Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides. So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique". But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience). So, both of these scores are standalone