Uruguay map

Region by Region

The Historic South:
From the arrival of the first Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the early 1500's to the present, the southwestern region of Uruguay has played a major role in the country's history. This legacy, combined with the region's natural beauty and economic prosperity, make this part of the country most interesting for foreign visitors. Montevideo: This most attractive city is the capital and country's political, economic, and cultural center. The city is located on the wide shores of the La Plata River, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Montevideo contains a third of the country's population, yet it is renowned for retaining the safety and friendliness of a much smaller town. The old city, between the main plaza and the port, is the center of business activity. Walking through its pleasant streets is highly recommended. Places of interest include: the main plaza with the Mausoleum of Jose Artigas, Uruguay's national hero, and City Hall, with an interesting exhibition of old Montevideo. Most city tours also highlight the Legislative Palace, which combines 45 varieties of marble and granite in its mosaic floors and walls. Additional points of interest include: La Carreta Statue, a bronze monument to the pioneers of Uruguay, Tristan Narvaja flea market; the Solís Theater, and the Colonial Art Museum. Montevideo's beaches are the heart of city life, from Pocitos Beach to Carrasco. The Riverfront Drive is a favorite place for locals to promenade and meet; for an unforgettable luncheon the nearby port market (Mercado del Puerto) should not be missed. Montevideo has excellent hotels and restaurants. Casino gambling is lively.

Colonia del Sacramento: This waterfront city, usually known simply as Colonia, was founded in 1680 by Portuguese seeking to gain control of the La Plata Estuary. It was conquered by the Spaniards and became the most important city in southwestern Uruguay, and a crossing point to Buenos Aires. Colonia's carefully restored and protected architecture are of interest to the visitor. Well worth a visit are the Lighthouse, Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), city walls, and the old city's several museums. The bullring (no longer in use) is interesting, as is the court of Cest-Punta, a deadly ball game, still played today. Colonia is also a good place for river fishing. The nearby National Park of Anchorena is inhabited by wildlife including deer.

Costa de Oro:
Uruguay's Atlantic golden coast (Costa de Oro) boasts some of the world's best beaches and outstanding resorts. The area comes alive in late November and continues to March. In the off-season there are very few visitors. Whether it is casino gambling and chic international shows, or a siesta in a hammock, or plentiful fresh seafood, Uruguay's Gold Coast has something for everyone. The area also offers small fishing villages, secluded coves and endless beaches.

Punta del Este: Punta del Este is one of the world's most fashionable seaside resorts, popular among the European, Uruguayan, Argentinean, and Brazilian jet-setters. On a peninsula that juts out into the water, Punta del Este is surrounded by luxuriant pine forests. On the western slope of the peninsula, the sea is safe and calm enough to allow water skiing, while on the eastern side the Atlantic offers great surfing. The two beaches are a 20-minute walk from each other. There is an excellent 18-hole golf course; tennis is available at many locations; horses can be rented to ride on the beach. Fishing all along the coast is very good, and there are inland lakes for freshwater fishermen. Two nearby islands offer excellent excursions. Gorriti Island (2 mi,) is a natural reserve for over 500,000 sea lions. Good hotels and restaurants as well as a very lively nightlife and casino action make Punta del Este an unforgettable experience December thru March.

La Coronilla: On the eastern part of the coast, bordering with Brazil (190 mi. from Montevideo), La Coronilla is quiet even at the height of the summer season, and sufficiently near Santa Teresa National Park to attract those interested in camping in incredibly beautiful surroundings. The beaches are vast and wild, and fishing probably Uruguay's best. Worthwhile side trips include the border town of Chuy and the Fortress of San Miguel. Other leading coastal beach resorts north of Montevideo include: Piriapolis, Pinamar, Atlántida, Parque del Plata, La Floresta and Costa Azul. The area also has many small fishing villages, secluded coves, endless beaches.

The Northern Grasslands:
Uruguay is divided northeast to southwest by the Negro River. To the north lies an area of hilly meadows broken by streams and rivers which provides fertile grazing land for sheep and cattle. The area is also known for many spas and hot springs. Increasingly popular throughout the region are vacations on working ranches (estancias). There is an old saying that Uruguay is one giant estancia bordered by the sea. One soon understand this when staying with the gauchos at large ranches like Estancia Las Calera, La Rabida, and La Sirena. All welcome visitors.

Salto: Center of the cattle-raising area, Salta is home of the gauchos, Uruguay's colorful cowboys. There are three museums: Museum of Fine Arts, Municipal History Museum, and Museum of Man. The Theater Larranaga, built in 1882, is famed for its early acoustical design and lack of columns. There are also the ruins of two meat-salting plants that date to the 1870's, where meat was salted and sent to feed the slaves in Brazil. Bargain priced amethyst and polished agate in the shops. The thermal grounds near Salto are a major attraction. Most popular is Termas del Arapey (60 mi. northeast of Salto), where the visitor can enjoy therapeutic baths and active sports. The Salto Grande Hydroelectric Dam, an impressive structure near the town on the Uruguay River, has brought rapid growth to the area. Salto can be reached by road and rail (6 hr.), as well as air (1 hr.) from Montevideo.

Paysandu: Founded as a European village in 1769 on the shore of the Uruguay River (80 mi. from Salto), Paysandu today's is the region's main industrial town, and is well known for leather, wool, sugar, beer, milk and other agriculture products. The attractive cathedral on the main square and the old cemetery are worth a visit. Fishing on the Uruguay River is very good. From Paysandu, visitors may cross the bridge for a day's excursion in Argentina.

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