Switzerland of the south
Malicious tongues claim that Uruguay is just another district of Buenos Aires but its way more than that. The small country of 3.5 million inhabitants is located in the south of Brazil with a western border to Argentina and the vibes there are just amazing. The people of Uruguay seem to be so relaxed and happy, they are extremely friendly and helpful. Country offers endless beaches at the Atlantic coast, lagoons with incredible wildlife, nature and lots of interesting places to visit, like the National Park Cabo Polonio, the former smuggling port of Colonia de Sacramento, touristic places like Punta del Este, hippie towns like Valizas or Punta del Diablo and of course the capital Montevideo.
We came by ship from Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento from where we took the bus to Montevideo. Besides the arrival by plane this is probably the most common and cheapest way to enter the country. There are several companies to book this trip like Buquebus or Seacat Colonia For the overnight ferry with Buquebus we payed 490 AR$ (=35€). The ferry brings you to Colonia de Sacramento and the bus ride to Montevideo is included in the ticket. The Bus stops at Tres Cruxes (the main station in Montevideo) from where you have an excellent connection to all the cities and places of the country.
Montevideo itself counts 1,3 million inhabitants (almost half of all Uruguyos). Its a pretty calm city, at least that was our impression for the beginning of February. Locals told us that the city becomes more lively during the winter time when the tourist areas at the coast are not that frequently visited anymore. It offers some nice beaches to hang out in the south of the city, where the Río de la Plata and the Atlantic ocean meet. In la Ciudad Vieja (the old town) you will find several museums, restaurants, bars and clubs to spent your time. Its a beautiful place to just stroll along the streets and visit the great architecture of bygone times. You could have a walk to the harbor and see the Mercado del Puerto, to get some impressions of the crazy BBQ culture of Uruguay. Besides that we can really recommend the Mercado Agricola de Montevideo, which is located in the south eastern part of the city centre. You will find there a huge variety of fruits, vegetables and different other agricultural products from local farmers. Of course you could stay longer, but 3-4 days should be enough to discover the whole city.
From Montevideo we took the bus to La Paloma, where we were working in the hostel Posta de la Laguna for almost 1,5 months. The prices for the buses are fair and like in the most countries of South America queit comfortable. So basically we settled down in La Paloma and used the weekends for short trips to different locations.
All along the Atlantic coast you will find lots of small surfer towns and its worth to visit each one of them. You will see lots of fairs for handcrafted things, beautiful beaches, street art and a really welcoming and tranquilo atmosphere.
If that all sounds like a backpackers dream to you, you are probably right if the prices wouldn't be that high. 1kg of grapes is almost as expensive as 1kg of meat (actually the only really cheap things are meat and mate). Some things are truly insane, a small bottle of olive oil could be around 6€ the cheapest (and worst) bread up to 2€ and a liter of beer in the supermarket 3€. In general the prices are comparable with central Europe, sometimes even higher. If you are traveling on a budget it might be the wrong place for a longer stay. eo,For more visual impressions of this beutiful country check also our galleries of Montevideo , La Paloma and Cabo Polonio & Valizas.
Things you should definitely try in Uruguay:
1. Have a mate with friends. The Uruguayos are obsessed with the strong tea from the mate leaves, its so rooted in their culture and every area has their own way to prepare it with different traditions. They drink it basically all day long, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in the meantime. You can see people everywhere walking in the streets with a thermo in one hand and the mate with bombilla in the other hand. Usually its like a small event, people meet in a park or a cafe in a small group and hand around their mate while having a chat.
2. Parilla - Like Argentina and Brasil, Uruguay has a very strong BBQ-culture. The food is traditionally prepared on a grill over a wood fire - the parilla. Really common are different cuts of beef, salsicha (a sausage from pork), morcilla (a sausage made from blood) as well as different vegetables like peppers filled with scrambled eggs, onions, grilled tomatoes, eggplants and queso a la parilla (grilled cheese). All of that is served with bread and a huge amount of chimichurri, a sauce out of vinegar, oil, garlic, parsley and a variation of different herbs. Usually people meet at weekends in bigger groups like family and friends and eat together, the event lasts for several hours with lots of folklore.
3. Try buñuelos de algas. Translated by word it means seaweed doughnut and its a delicacy from Rocha, the state around La Paloma. Its really common in that area and consists of a deep fried dough filled with seaweed.
Leave a comment
Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.