If you’re planning a big South American adventure vacation, you must travel to Uruguay. The name comes from the Uruguay River, which means the "river of the painted birds" in the Guarani language. The Uruguay River starts in Brazil and ends in the Rio de la Plata Basin, which forms the water border between Uruguay and Argentina. Uruguay has many unknown yet fascinating places to visit and perhaps the friendliest of all people in South America.
Soccer Fans Rejoice at Estadio Centenario
One of the biggest attractions in Uruguay is the incredible Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, a soccer stadium originally built for the first ever World Cup in 1930. Even if you aren’t a big fan of soccer, the history and atmosphere in the stadium is unlike anything else. If you happen to be there during the soccer season, Estadio Centenario is still used as the main stadium of the Uruguay national team, so be sure to catch a game. Be prepared for crowds and buy tickets in advance from authorized agents via your hotel, not scalpers outside the stadium.
The Museo del Carnaval, Montevideo
Did you know Montevideo boasts the longest carnival celebration in the world? Lasting up to 40 days, the carnival involves cultural events like dance parades in the streets, street stages called "tablados" and artistic contests which attract the most talented performers across Uruguay.
Even if you're not in Uruguay at the time of the carnival (January-February) you can visit the Museo del Carnaval, a museum documenting the history of carnival in the country. The museum has a beautiful representation of the summer carnival season and is definitely worth a visit!
Wine Tasting at Bodega Bouza
Time to enjoy the countryside of Uruguay. Just 15 minutes outside of Montevideo is the stunning Bodega Bouza Restaurant & Winery. Taste the grapes off the vines and enjoy a relaxing lunch with locally produced wine tastings until the sun sets.
Bodega Bouza also has a classic car collection on the grounds, so stroll around with your wine while you wait for your food to arrive. (This is one of our travel editors favorite recommendations!) Uruguay is a foodie’s delight and all wine connoisseurs will fall in love learning and tasting their wines.
Explore the Cerro Pan De Azúcar
Further along the south coast of Uruguay is Pan de Azúcar, a hillside lookout in Maldonado. It is easily recognizable because of the man made cross that was constructed on its top. Pan de Azúcar is home to a natural reserve that hosts a great display of native Uruguayan wildlife. Some species even used to be endangered and were saved by the efforts of the natural reserve. Do some hiking, experience nature, and climb to the top! Make it a day trip; don’t plan anything else because chances are you’ll need some time to relax after. The views are amazing so bring your camera!
Get up close with Sea Lions
About fvie miles off the coast of Punta del Este is Isla de Lobos, a tiny island that's home to around 200,000 sea lions. Actually, Isla de Lobos is said to have the largest colony of sea lions in the Western Hemisphere. This is a very heavily protected area and visitors can only access the region with a tour guide on a very specific route. Sea lions are gentle and curious, but don’t get too close!
Colonia del Sacramento is a city in southwestern Uruguay with a fascinating Portuguese heritage and history. Attracting many tourists because of its historic quarter, you can also discover El Faro Lighthouse, built in 1857. Climb all the way to the top for an incredible view of the city - on a clear day, you can even see Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Not far from the El Faro Lighthouse is a museum. There are many museums that allow you to learn the beautiful culture of Uruguay and at less than $2 per entry ticket, there is no excuse not to step back in time and experience historic Uruguay.