Colonia, Uruguay

Lighthouse and street sign Colonia Uruguay

A famous former Portuguese colonial outpost, Colonia is a step into a bygone age. Wander slowly past old and pretty colonial buildings, set in picturesque, quiet streets

There are two or three good restaurants to try, a couple of small museums worth a visit and you can swim in the refreshing Rio de la Plata river.

El Buen Suspiro (the good whisper) is Colonia’s most famous street. Some say its name derives from the enticing whispers of the prostitutes that worked here, others that it was the last breath of animals that were slaughtered here.

East coast beaches of Uruguay

Cabo Polonio sunset Uruguay

Uruguay’s 660km of white sand coastline, capes and dunes are almost completely deserted and unspoiled.

Drive north past Punta del Este and into more remote areas for wild and beautiful coast.

The fishing village of José Ignacio is the new up-and-coming place to stay, while La Pedreda calls to surfers, kite-surfers and eco-travellers.

Cabo Polonio is another old fishing village now turned eco/hippy resort. It’s basic with little electricity, but has a huge sea lion colony, peaceful waters to swim in and beautiful sunsets and clear skies for star gazing.

Further up, Punta del Diablo has more of a nightime scene as well as good swimming beaches.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Tango at Fun Fun bar Montevideo

Montevideo is South America showing Europe a slice of its own laid-back, crumbling elegance mixed with a modern feel.

Surrounded by part of the world’s widest river, the Rio de la Plata, there are lots of lovely plazas and city beaches, great for watching the blazing red sunsets.

People here are open and chatty – by day, conversation flows around the country’s famous writers and literature, by night Milongas (dance nights) and Tango bring the city alive.

All of this can by enjoyed alongside Uruguayan BBQs (asados) and Tannat red wines, which more than rival those of Buenos Aires over the water.

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Beachfront sunset Montevideo

Uruguay’s most famous resort, Punta del Esta is a playground for the rich and famous as well as tourists from all over the world.

People flock here from December to February to enjoy the calm waters and wide variety of top-end hotels, restaurants and boutique bars and shops.

The city is often referred to as “The Monaco of the South”, “The Pearl of the Atlantic” and “The St. Tropez of South America”, thanks to its glitzy reputation.

Less than an hour from Montevideo, this is for sun and beach lovers who like to add a little glam to their stay.

Route 109 self-drive, Uruguay

Lake and views Route 109 Uruguay

Route 109  between Aigua and La Roncha in the east of Uruguay,  is one of the most scenic roads to self-drive.

It’s a bit up and down, a dirt road in the main but good quality, and little traffic.

You’ll go past green hills with boulder and streams, accompanied by panoramic views most of the way as you wend through some forests and farms.

Also en route is Uruguay’s highest peak, the mighty Cerro Catedral which stands at a not-so-mighty 513m/1,685ft!

Vineyards of Uruguay

Cabo Polonio sunset Uruguay

Uruguay holds a secret –a red wine called Tannat that more than matches its boisterous neighbour’s Malbec variety.

They’ve been making Tannat for more than 250 years in Uruguay and while it has gone under the world’s radar so far, it must soon come to prominence.

Brought to the shores by the French and Spanish, then lovingly kept on by Jesuit settlers, Tannat is now more important in Uruguay than in its native France.

Wine enthusiasts will love the chance to stay at historical haciendas, sampling some fine reds alongside great BBQs (asados).

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