Uruguay: A Hidden Gem In South America
I have to admit, Uruguay was never on my bucket list. There are so many OTHER amazing destinations to visit in South America like Machu Picchu, the Iguazu Falls or Rio, why in the world would you want to squeeze in a trip to Uruguay?
During my time in Argentina I did not consider going to Uruguay, despite how a short trip it is. Like, only two hours away (which is practically NOTHING in the long run).
I only went to Urugay because I had to leave Argentina for a Visa run.
Legally needing to leave Argentina for a bit ended up in me renting a car and driving up the (beautiful) northern coast.
And then it hit me, Uruguay is one of those countries no one visits (apart from some backpackers or Argentinan tourists). Because lets face it, nobody comes to South America saying, “nah I won’t go to Macchu Picchu or Iguazu, that’s way to touristy, I am going to Uruguay.” Seriously, nobody!
But my road trip took me to amazing beaches, national parks and forests. Uruguay is a nature lovers paradise, it is so laid back and relaxed that in fact you do not want to leave.
When to go
Uruguay’s high season in January, when the weather is incredibly hot. Many Argentinians take their vacation during this time to leave the huge city of Buenos Aires.
I visited during the off season in October and most of the cities were abandoned. Punta del Este, the Ibiza of South America, is literally dead during ten months of the year and population starts growing mid December!
But for a road trip I would consider the months right before or after High Season. When you have empty streets, nice weather and just a handful of adventurous travelers.
If you are traveling on your own the high season would make more sense, because otherwise you might end up not meeting anyone for some time.
Where to go
The typical trail would start in Colonia, a small town an hour away from Buenos Aires popular for its small streets and cute houses. Afterwards you would probably go to Montevideo the capital. If you have been to Buenos Aires before, Montevideo is a small, sleepy city with some good bars and a nice oceanfront.
In high season I would consider to go to Punta Del Este, but skip it during low season. When I was there, the streets surrounded by empty skyscrapers were abandoned. There was basically nothing to do and even the surf was not worth it. Punta del Este is a summer destination, for the people escaping the big cities in search for the beach and good parties!
After Punta del Este visit La Paloma (also better in high season, otherwise you will find it completely abandoned). But the actual hidden gems in Uruguay are called Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo!
Those are the places you should note in your traveler handbook and circle it in red not to forget it!
Why Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo?
These places are a magnet for travelers who are searching for peace, nature and good company.
Cabo Polonio is a Bungalow village inside a national park that can only be reached by a huge “sandbuggy” – as we called it.
To get there you have to pay some Pesos for the trip up to the village but it is totally worth it. Its a fun ride over dunes and the beach.
Cabo Polonio does not have much of electricity so do not even concider using your phone or laptop.
You spend your days there basically chilling in a hammock and watching the ocean.
You could also go for long hikes over the dunes into the woods or watch the sea lions at the lighthouse.
You will find some hippies or crazy travelers and have an amazing time.
Punta del Diablo is the new place to go! Known for its surf and the relaxed atmosphere it has a lot to offer, from the Santa Theresa national park to horseback riding or surf lessons.
In October there was not much going on, but the weather was good and the few people staying at the hostel always did things together to stay “entertained”.
Why go in 2017?
Ten years ago Uruguay was not even on the itineraries of backpackers or travelers. Places like Punta del Diablo or Cabo Polonio where not visited by tourists.
During the last year those places started to get ready for more and more visitors, still you can see that not as many people are coming as planed. Most of the year the hostels and Guesthouses are not even half booked – most of the places are ready for tourism that is not there yet! So if you want to experience a country without mass of tourists you should go as long as it is a hidden gem.
In ten years maybe you will not be able to experience those places without being on of a thousand tourists who already have been there!
(Ps. if Uruguay is now on your itinerary visit my website for the Full Uruguay Travelguide)