For the unenlightened, Uruguay is a small, proud country nestled like a jewel between the precious clasp of Brazil and Argentina. It may have formerly been overshadowed by its neighbours, but South America’s smallest country is finally shining and getting the recognition it deserves – a place to promote straight to the top of your destination list for 2015.
Progressive and culturally sophisticated, yet hosting swathes of untapped beauty and ‘not-made-for-tourists’ secrets to uncover, Uruguay, the ‘Switzerland of South America’, sits in a happy place for intrepid explorers. Whether you fancy windsurfing along golden sandy beaches; bathing in warm thermal springs or simply walking along cobbled streets overlooked by incredible colonial buildings, Uruguay has something for you.
Here is a showcase of some of the great hostels we have in Uruguay, and a glimpse of the many attractions, places to visit and free things to do while you are there.
Get to know fascinating, many-faced Montevideo
Introducing the many sides of Uruguay’s vibrant, multi-faceted capital: exclusive beach side suburbs resemble Miami, whilst art deco and neo classical architecture meet modern skyscrapers. A strong international flavour comes from the many cultural centres here, and if music, arts and theatre are your thing, tiny tango bars and slick clubs should keep you in check.
A few free things to do…
- Panoramic View from Torre de las Telecomunicaciones. The best view of Montevideo.
- Visit the Old Town & Antique Market Plaza Matriz.
- Visit Prado: A traditional neighbourhood in Montevideo where you can also visit Botanic Garden, Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden for free
- Flea Markets: Tristan Narvaja Market on Sundays and Plaza Matriz Market on Fridays and Saturdays.
Stay at Montevideo – Unplugged hostel
Located in the beautiful and safe Pocitos neighbourhood, base yourself at Montevido – Unplugged hostel to be just 500m from the beach. Enjoy the bar, see more of Uruguay with great public transport links and relish the hostel’s free breakfasts, full equipped kitchen and BBQ access.
Party ’til you drop in Punta del Este
Glamorous, celebrity-studded, and with a never-ending night life to immerse yourself in, Punta del Este also has a reference point for the unfamiliar, nicknamed – ‘The Monaco of South America’. For lovers of wildlife, you can take tours from the port to visit Isla de los Lobos, which has the biggest seal colony in the southern hemisphere. With good links from Montevido, you can lose yourself in this land full of beautiful people, surf, sun and great restaurants, party with friends you haven’t met yet, and then move on to explore the Uruguayan beyond.
A few free things to do…
- Visit the port of Punta de Este for breathtaking sunsets
- Pick your beach. Located on a coastal peninsula, there are two coastlines to choose from: head to ‘Mansa’ for peace and quiet, windy ‘Brava’ for some surf spots, and “La playa de los Dedos” – the famous finger beach – where you’ll see a giant hand emerging from the sand
- Marvel at Casa Pueblo, pictured at the top of this post. A beautiful, surrealist building-come-sculpture near Punta del Este (reachable by bus), it was created by the late Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez-Vilaró and is a sight not to be missed.
Stay at El Viajero Brava Beach hostel
In the heart of this coastal town, El Viajero Brava Beach is, predictably, just around the corner from the beach, and usefully, the bus station too. With en suite bathrooms and modern facilities, you can also enjoy night time activities at the hostel bar, with a happy hour to kick-start your night. To while away the days, these guys can also help to arrange surfing and kite surfing lessons from qualified professionals.
Feel the echoes of old Portugal in Colonia
Enshrined as a UNESCO world heritage site, Colonia del Sacramento is a dream-like traverse into history with its Portuguese-influenced architecture and winding streets. Being sandwiched between the Portuguese colony of Brazil, and the Spanish territory of the River Plate (later Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil), the city’s ruling was hotly contested and swapped between Spain and Portugal, and a roam around the city centre will engulf you in its tangible past.
A few free things to do…
- See Iglesia Matriz, Uruguay’s oldest church, begun by the Portuguese in 1860 and completely rebuilt twice under Spanish rule. The pretty area of Plaza de Armas is worth exploring, too.
- Visit Colonia’s 19th century lighthouse, Faro, which looks out on incredible views of the Old Town and the Rio de la Plata.
- Explore Colonia’s countryside for a restful stopoff on the way to Montevideo, go horse riding and eat locally farmed produce at our eco-friendly hostel Colonia – Horse Farm el Galope.
A perfect base for roaming the Old Town and close to the beaches, this beautiful 19th century house has en-suite for every room, free breakfasts, bicycle rental and friendly staff to help you organise day trips wherever else you may want to explore in the area.
Beach town with mountain surroundings at Piriapolis
A beachy promenade backed by two of Uruguay’s highest summits, Piriapolis is a Mediterranean-reminiscent paradise for beach goers, climbing enthusiasts and purveyors of beauty.
A few free things to do
- The first order of business is to pick a clear day and climb/catch a sillita – little chair – to the top of ‘San Antonio’, the city’s main hill. From here, you can enjoy the chapel, the views (spot Punta de Este’s condos) and stay until evening to appreciate the gorgeous sunset.
- Drop into the abode of the city’s founder, Castillo de Piria (Piria’s castle). To get there, head north of the city for 4 miles, but check opening times with the local tourist office before you set off
- Another mile north on the same route, is a natural reserve full of native South American fauna
- Take a bottle of water and climb the Cerro Pan de Azucar (Sugar Bread Mill), a huge granite formation with a spiral staircase worth conquering.
Stay at Piriapolis hostel
This home away from home allows you to see the authentic side of Piriapolis: just down the road from the reserve and next to restaurants and beaches, head here for a friendly, welcoming and pleasant atmosphere.
Take a look at all of our hostels in Uruguay.
Been to Uruguay and got some tips to inspire others? Leave us a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org