Uruguay

Uruguay

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  • Day119

    Leaving the port of Buenos Aires at 8am sharp, we needed to get up early for our trip to Montevideo, the capital of neighbouring Uruguay. We've become so experienced at packing and getting ready that we could probably rival Julie Bishop and be dressed, ready and out the door in thirty minutes. Well, close enough.

    The journey across the Rio del la Plata from Buenos Aires took about an hour and got us to Colonia, a small town in Uruguay. From there, we had a two-hour bus ride to Montevideo. At the port in Argentina, we had to check-in and go through customs, similar to an airport. Once we had gone through customs in Argentina, we were directed to another counter, an aisle away, to go through Uruguayan customs. The formalities and bureaucracy of a border crossing!

    The bus ride from Colonia was uneventful with scenery reminiscent of parts of Australia. Jason's reference point is normally Maryborough/Poona or Dalby. This appparently looked like Dalby. The only reason that the bus ride to Montevideo was unpleasant was that someone on the bus - how shall we put it politely - kept filling it with methane gas as if it was a hot-air balloon. Why do they seal the windows shut, trapping people inside?

    Once we got to the capital, we only had a short walk to our accommodation. Fortunately, we were close to the Tres Cruces bus terminal and centrally located to the city centre and Ciudad Vieja (Old Town), which made getting around the city easy. We stayed with a gay couple, who proudly shared their Uruguayan culture with us. The rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina is akin to Australia and New Zealand. Uruguay is New Zealand, being the smaller country of the two, with a similar flag to Argentina and situated across the ditch.

    Another similarity between the two countries is their dining habits, although they may not agree. Throughout Europe we had gotten used to people dining late at night, but Uruguayans, such as our hosts, don't eat dinner until midnight. Bars and clubs don't get going until 2am and it's not unusual for bedtime to be 5am, even on a school night. Often we would be getting up as our hosts were heading to bed.

    The night owl activities weren't the only foreign custom to get our head around. In Argentina, we had witnessed many of the natives indulging in a cup of mate, a tea that tastes like freshly cut grass clippings soaked in boiling water. In Uruguay, the craze has taken over the majority of the population like the plague. Almost every person in the street carries a flask of hot water, gripped tightly under one arm. Even mothers breastfeeding newborns multi-task with their tea cup in one hand and their baby in the other. We wondered whether some people had welded their flask to their arm. The obsession is so great that mate probably should be considered a class A drug.

    Ricky came up with a business plan to take advantage of this obsession. There's a entire market waiting to be exploited with designer (i.e. expensive / wanky) slings to prevent tennis elbow. Or the slings could be used more therapeutically to assist recovery from a mate-related injury. No matter how you look at it, there's money to be made from anything to do with mate in Uruguay.

    Of course there are many things that set Uruguay apart from Argentina. The former Uruguayan government was considered socially progressive by introducing legislation that legalised abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana. Certainly, the atmosphere seems quite relaxed and generally tolerant of diversity, kind of like Byron Bay / Nimbin in years gone by.

    On our second day in Montevideo, we spent the day wandering around the Sunday markets, which fill many of the streets for kilometres. Each part of the market had different sections from food stalls and fruit and vegetable vendors to second-hand bric-à-brac, some of which looked like rubbish ready to be thrown away – but one person's trash is another person's treasure! At one point, Jason said to Ricky “are they selling a used vibrator?”. Ricky looked down and responds “no, Jason, that is a lamp”. There was even someone selling Caipriniha cocktails. And of course we had to indulge, along with a tasty Chivito, a Uruguayan steak sandwich with bacon, cheese, salsa and salad.

    The following day, we walked into the city centre and old town to explore the peninsula of Montevideo. The weather had suddenly turned from almost heatwave conditions to cold, icy winds, which were so strong Dorothy could have been blown back to Kansas. The sea was so rough that the waves crashed against the shore like a mini-tsunami, flooding the walkways.

    The beaches of Montevideo aren't exactly world famous, and most of them are relatively small, but it was a relaxing way to enjoy the city. Playa Ramírez reminded us of Nudgee beach, while Playa Pocitos was more like Sandgate crossed with a small beach on the Sunshine Coast. People weren't interested in bathing in the brown-coloured water of the Rio del la Plata. Instead, people were out bathing in the sun, touching up their tans for the summer. It was like a leather factory along the shoreline. It could have easily been Donatella Versace’s latest range, the living leather collection.

    Another day was spent wandering around the Old Town markets, gasping at the prices of all the merchandise. We thought Argentina and Brazil were expensive! Even Australian price tags are cheaper. It's no wonder that we witnessed a guy, who appeared to be under the influence of a mind-altering drug, steal a pair of shoes and pants. One moment he was standing around chatting and then took off at a million miles an hour. Next moment he reappeared with the merchandise trying to off-load them to another guy. At the same time, we struck up a conversation with two young guys. Their thick Uruguayan accent was difficult to understand but we understood one of their names was Gabriel, like the angel. We're not sure about the second guy. We never did catch his name or anything that he said. On our way home, Jason stopped in his tracks, turned to Ricky and said: “Did she just urinate in the street? Yes, she did”. Ricky looked across the road and the woman was hitching up her pants as she walked away down the street, a lasting memory of Montevideo.

    Next stop: Punta del Este.

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/yi5bCZ2wgL4
    Read more

  • Day82

    Leaving Argentina

    After our trip to the Parana frontiers, we nipped into town and had lunch with Robert De Niro, before returning to the hotel to finish packing. As we were not catching the bus to our next destination until 5.45pm, we had extended our check-out until 2pm. So, after stowing our bags at reception, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool with the Wifi. The journey to Concordia took all night, with no blankets, pillows, or food, until nearly midnight when we stopped at a terminal to pick them up, along with a large number of other passengers, and the hostess. We should have learnt from experience and been more prepared (we had brought fruit and a couple of biscuits this time, and had had a large, late lunch), but it was too little. We had thought it couldn't happen again!

    When we reached Concordia, around seven the next morning, we had planned to catch the bus into Uruguay, but enquiries revealed that we had missed it by just 5 minutes - the next one wasn't until late afternoon. So we decided to take a taxi to the ferry instead, and cross the border via the river. However, the driver told us that the service no longer ran. We had no means of checking this out, so rather than risk being stranded, we let him take us over the border to Salto, to the bus station. We had planned on spending some time here in any case, before our next bus left, if things had gone to plan, but this gave us even longer for our visit. Second mistake. As this had all happened so fast, we had not thought to get any Uruguayan money, so again, we had to search out a Cambio before we could eat breakfast - the station facilities were not open so early on in the morning.

    After refuelling, we caught the bus into Salto Central, and wiled away the morning, strolling along the river, and exploring the plazas and sidestreets. I lost my photos of the central square (accidental deletion), so you'll have to take my word that it was a very pleasant and well kept town, by South American standards. You could walk the pavements without falling down a large hole (actual event in Cusco), of which more later. We had empanadas from a coffee booth outside the cathedral, and a drink in a cafe in the main shopping area, before Chris posed for a photo with Suarez - luckily just a statue. Chris didn't fancy being bitten on his arm, which already has various injuries, both surgical and volleyball related. Apparently Suarez was born in Salto. On the way back to the station, we waved to 'Steptoe', an old man on a rag and bone cart before heading onward - an uneventful 6 hour bus ride to our penultimate destination of the trip...

    Montevideo

    Six days in an apartment with a sea view, to stroll along the prom, to rest and recuperate before our flight back. No more long bus journeys. No need to go out to eat if we didn't want to. Enough time to just look at one thing a day, catch up with my blog, or just do nothing for a bit if the fancy took us. We did go out to eat on the first night, but we soon discovered Bradleys by the Sea (opposite our hotel), which had all the staples, fresh food, and a deli counter - things that we could take 'home' and chop up, or just warm in the microwave, saving valuable lying down time.

    The promenade in question was a 10 km long ramblas, along a perfect crescent shaped bay, edged with apartments and hotels, so we weren't short of space to roam. There were palm trees every few feet, presently being pruned for Spring, and large grassy areas for recreation. Our first day in the city was beautifully warm and, as we walked east along the sea, the locals were certainly taking advantage of the sunshine, and were recreating fully. There were lots of ladies walking fast (rather than jogging), mostly in full lycra fitness gear and baseball caps. De rigueur for the older man was 'shirtless', to better display the pre-exercise abs above their shorts. The poodles wore those plastic, Hollywood sun visors that faded starlets wear, or the ladies that Jon Voight picked up in Midnight Cowboy. Chris had done his running earlier - he couldn't have competed with the mid-morning Montevideons.

    We walked over a sandy, sea-grass area, past the massive ant trails, to a concrete jetty that jutted into the sea. This was where the dogs exercised - standing on rocks as the waves came in, waiting for their owners to throw their rubber rings, so that they could swim. Chris tried a paddle on our last day, and assures me that it was warm, which explains why they were so keen. The beach birds were unusual here. There were some seagulls and cormorants, but also lots of pigeons and doves, and a heron, and a kingfisher; this is where the River Plate merges with the South Atlantic, and obviously the birds as well. The results of this can also be seen in the colour of the water, which is clay earth brown, more like the Amazon than the clear blue sea, but with contrasting pure white horses, whipped up by the gusty winds. One day, on first glance I thought the tide was out, because the water looked more like mud flats than ocean, gilded peach by the early sun. On our second day, it was still bright, but very breezy, and the sea was peppered with sails, spinnakers taut to bursting. Large grey ships lined the horizon. On day three, we walked westward down the ramblas, as far as the Naval Museum, to watch the video about the Graf Spee, the German battle ship that was crippled by the British in WW2, subject of the classic film, 'Battle of the River Plate' that Chris is so interested in. On the Thursday, we found our way to the port to buy our ferry tickets to Buenos Aires. Last leg. After we had sidestepped security (the Southern Lapwing that fiercely guards the port building), Chris asked for a photo in front of the big ships in the dock. It was only after posting it, alongside a wartime picture of the port, taken from a documentary about the Graf Spee, that he realised he had been standing in exactly the same place, in front of the same building.

    We explored the old town, with its large stone gate, preserved in a concrete surround, and the many plazas, all containing huge statues, often with multiple figures and fountains. Then there was the trendy, arty area with its Parisian style market - the local crafts and Montmartre style paintings, with tango too. On the Sunday, when all the main shops were closed, art spaces sprang up, filled with junk sculpture. Poky little book shops opened their doors, selling anything from 1950s fashion hardbacks, to Lawrence Durrell and local artwork. On our second day, we discovered the place they created tango, or rather the music that had made it more acceptable and respectable, and popularised it enough to allow a variety of people to dance it. Prior to this, it had only been performed by men, who danced with each other (as a type of fighting apparently), and 'low class women'. I think the guide may have meant prostitutes. The music was 'La Cumpasita', which I'm sure that almost nobody has heard of, but that everybody who hears it will instantly recognise as the classic piece of tango music that it is. It has even been on Strictly. On the rainy day (and I do mean torrential) we visited the National Theatre (Teatro de Solis) for a tour - we were treated to several mini dramas, by a young couple with just a rose and a suitcase as props. We were then entertained by a German on the tour, who asked multiple questions, "...and when were the chandelier blue prints destroyed? How did that happen?" They were bombed by the Luftwaffe in a glass factory in Birmingham in WW2! He obviously wasn't listening properly when the guide explained this in detail earlier. "The crystal came from France, but nobody will ever ever ever be able to recreate the scintillating, dazzling, decorative lights if they are ever damaged", said the guide. The day before we left, we visited the Museum of the Carnival. It is a big thing in Montevideo, the rhythms and costumes influenced by the different cultures allowed access through the port. We were not even aware that the city had one, perhaps overshadowed by Rio? However, here it is different - performed on outdoor stages, and in mini tableaux, rather than in processions as in the Brazilian versions.

    Leaving Uruguay
    This morning we caught that ferry we booked, which turned out to be a very fast catamaran. We had counted on it taking four hours to get us to Buenos Aires, but we got here in two and a half, and arrived just after lunch at a relaxed and quirky hotel - lots of terracotta-tiled stepped levels, with copious potted plants, and mini terraces overlooking the internal courtyard reception and the roof tops of hip Palermo Soho. We have come full circle in South America. We visited this area on our city bus tour on our first stay in Buenos Aires, when we stopped here for lunch in a pavement cafe. This time, we spent the afternoon exploring further, and picking a restaurant for this evening. We went for a different one in the end, but were not disappointed. Final flight tomorrow afternoon. Hasta luego. Until the next time.

    Post Script:
    We shared our hotel room with quite a number of large mosquitos. As the Dalai Lama said, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, spend the night with a mosquito."
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  • Day126

    Two hours by bus, along the eastern coast of Uruguay, is the seaside town of Punta del Este. Our bus driver was obviously keen to get us to our destination quickly as he tailgated the cars the entire way; that is, until the air-conditioning broke down. This small hiccup delayed our arrival by about half an hour but got us to Punta del Este in time to explore the town before sunset.

    Punta del Este is considered by some as the riviera of Uruguay. Maybe if you squint really hard. The town felt more like the Sunshine Coast circa 1980s or 1990s, before full-on development took over. No doubt in the eighties Punta del Este would have been the place to be. It was once the playground of the rich and famous from Argentina, Brazil and the USA. But since the Argentinian and Brazilian recessions in the early 2000s, there has been a bit of a downturn for the town and many buildings have become vacant. However, there has been a change in the tide in more recent times with investment and development returning in the form of a Trump Tower.

    Prices in the town haven't matched the downturn and remain the most expensive in the country. Fast-food prices exceed those of even Australia, with a Whooper with Cheese from Burger King costing about AU$12. That's without the combo deal or an upsize! At those prices, a liquid diet for us two! It's probably for the best anyway, as our food intake needed to be curbed. We both feel as fat as a townhouse. But Jason is still living in denial, blaming the weight gain on the full moon. “I think it's the full moon. That's why I'm retaining fluids”, says Jason. Ricky replies: “has it been the full moon for the past three months”. It's those damn alfajores. They're so irresistible with their dulce de leche filling. And the beer, cocktails and the list goes on ...

    When we arrived in Punta del Este, the wind from Montevideo had also followed us. It didn't let up for three days, except for a few short moments, which was enough time for us to get a few snap shots. The sun was out in full force but was countered by the chilly Antarctic winds. It was like a kids' pool in winter – there were some really cold spots and some really warm spots in the shallow end.

    We had counted on bright, sunny weather and thought much of our time would be spent at the beach. With that in mind, we went for a budget hotel and, by the looks of it, it hadn't been renovated since before the last military dictatorship in Uruguay. On the positive side, it was located close to both sides of the peninsula, the main beaches and the bus terminal. The bus terminal was close but fortunately it didn't seem to be frequented by many buses. In fact, most of the buses didn’t stop at the terminal at all. Instead, most buses stopped outside of the terminal, with passengers quickly running after them to catch their ride out of the town.

    The most “famous” attraction in the town, apart from the many casinos and beaches, is a sculpture of a hand protruding from the sand, La Mano de Punta del Este. The statue is suppose to mark the point between two sections of the beach: on one side the waters are calm and on the other side rough. The harbour is also an attraction, but unlike on the French Riviera, the boats weren't so affluent. The boats were more Bribie Island than St Tropez. Maybe we were too early for the high season but the sleepy seaside town, with its mate tea drinking residents, was an opportunity to relax and to plan the next part of our adventure.

    Next stop: back to Buenos Aires

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/2dtyjxtQozg
    Read more

  • Day11

    Nach großer Aufregung, wenig spanisch Kenntnisse, und vielen Ämter wechsel und nach ca. 4/5 Stunden später hattem wir endlich unseren Bus wieder. Sind jetzt auf dem ersten Campingplatz Suizo Paraiso, ist 80 km von Montevideo entfernt und wird von Schweizer geführt. Es ist wirklich ein kleines Paradies.🌴jetzt können wir erstmal den Bus startklar machen🤗

  • Day4

    Nach einem Tag aussetzen Krankheitsbedingt war Heute die erst lateinamerikanische Busfahrt dran, Linie 60 mas rapido sehr gut gesagt und getan.
    Busfahrt sehr angenehm. Dann der erster Behörden Gang (der erste von 4 Gängen) "certificado de llegitimation" super Sache, brauchen wir um den Bus zuholen. Den Portie an der Information gefragt wo ich eine Nummer her bekomm er sagt al casa war nicht ganz richtig aber der Englisch sprechende Sachbearbeiter, sehr freundlich, zog mein Pass ein und sagte er ruft mich auf (kenn ich ja von Grenz abfertigungen) aber in südamerikanische Einfachheit. Nach einer Stunde warten ist alles perfekt gelaufen, gezahlt noch kurz anderen Traveler geholfen den einfachen Weg zugehen. Dann zum nächsten Büro ( Gang 2) um die weiteren Papiere zu bekommen und los zur Bank um das Schiff zu bezahlen hat leider nicht geklappt (Kreditkarten Limit) dann halt zum Mercado de la Porte und zack Patagonia Weisse und Lager.Read more

  • Day14

    Zu den traumhaftesten Erfahrungen unseres Lebens gehören sicher die drei Tage in Cabo Polonio, einem kleinen Dorf an der Küste Uruguays. Im 100-Seelen-Dorf kann man hervorragend abschalten, denn die Zeit steht hier still. So gibt's es beispielsweise keine Wasser- oder Stromleitungen, die Einwohner helfen sich aber mit Wassertanks, Solarpaneelen und Windstromgeneratoren. Sogar Wi-Fi hatten wir in unserem Hostel zwischen 21 und 22 Uhr – für den modernen Hippie sozusagen. 😊
    Zwei kleine Läden bieten die wichtigsten Produkte zum Leben an. Der Bäcker des Dorfes macht jeden Morgen seine Tour mit frischem Brot, Kuchen und abgespaceten Brownies.

    Neben den Einwohnern und Touris, die alle entsprechend easy drauf waren, ist die Natur atemberaubend. In Gehweite gibt's einen wunderschönen Strand, riesige Sanddünen, einen malerischen Leuchtturm, Felsen mit hunderten Robben und nachts den perfekten Sternenhimmel. Und Wind... Viel Wind...
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  • Day17

    Vor der Rückkehr nach Buenos Aires legten wir einen dreitägigen Zwischenstop in Montevideo ein. Die Hauptstadt Uruguays ist sauberer als angenommen und hat ein paar super Grill-Restaurants, ist sonst aber nicht sehr spektakulär. Darum gibt's dieses Mal etwas weniger Fotos und weniger Text. 😄
    Das grösste Abenteuer war die Fahrt mit dem Mietauto durch die Stadt, denn in Montevideo gibt's ganz besondere Vortrittsregeln. So gilt oft nicht etwa Rechtsvortritt, sondern Vortritt hat derjenige, der parallel zur Küste fährt. Da man die Küste in der Regel nicht sieht, ist das für Touristen eine spannende zusätzliche Challenge im sonst schon chaotischen Verkehr. 🙄
    Dank Nadines hervorragenden Fahrkünsten (trotz manueller Schaltung...) und Janis' langjähriger Erfahrung als Beifahrer haben wir's aber gemeistert! 😊
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  • Day13

    Alles chli eifacher und langsamer als in Buenos Aires, alli nämeds chli chilliger obwohls au e grossi Stadt isch... mir hend fasch alles z'Fuess chöne erkunde und sind per Zuefall am Canabismuseum verbiicho wo mir de feini duft hend chöne schmöcke... isch nämli legal döt zum kiffe, das schmöckt me au immer ide Strosse... Mir hend ime Hostel mitere wunderschöne Dachterasse gwohnt wo alles mit viel Liebi igrichtet xi isch und d'Lüt sind oberfründlich, au wenn mir no fasch kei Spanisch chönd... aber mir sind fliessig am lerne... Üsen Usflug noch Punta del Este het sich nöd wahnsinnig glohnt, isch chli snoobig xi,... riese Hochhüser... grrrr...defür hend mir Seeläue vo ganz noch xeh :)... vo Montevideo us hend mir üs denn ufde Wäg gmacht noch Salto Uruguay für de Grenzübertritt noch Concordia Argentinie zum als nöchsts zu de Wasserfäll Iguazu z'cho wo mir üs im Moment riesig druf froied!!Read more

  • Day19

    Nueva Helvecia – ein Ort an dem die Traditionen der Eidgenossen hochgehalten werden. Gegründet wurde er 1862 von Schweizer Auswanderern und ziemlich genau dann blieb auch die Zeit stehen. Auch wenn um 1950 eine zweite Welle aus der Schweiz die damals noch als Colonia Suiza bekannte Stadt erreichte. Unsere Landessprachen haben die Generationen zwar nicht überdauert, die eidgenössische Kultur wird aber bis heute noch sehr stark gelebt mit omnipräsenten Kantonswappen, der jährlichen 1.-August-Feier ...oder dem allseits bekannten Schweizer Bierfest. 😏
    So genossen wir auch hausgemachte Schokolade in der Tante-Eva-Chocolatería sowie natürlich ein obligates Fondue (tatsächlich ganz lecker!) im 150-jährigen Granja Hotel Suizo. 😋
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Oriental Republic of Uruguay, Uruguay, Yurugwae, ኡራጓይ, Uruguai, أورجواي, Uruqvay, Уругвай, Urugwayi, উরুগোয়ে, ཨུ་རུ་གྷེ།, Urugvaj, uruguaydukɔ, Ουρουγουάη, Urugvajo, اوروگوئه, Uruguwaay, Uruguei, Urugua, ઉરુગ્વે, Yurugai, אורגוואי, उरूग्वे, Irigwe, Ուրուգվայ, Úrúgvæ, ウルグアイ共和国, ურუგვაი, Urugwai, អ៊ុយរុយហ្គាយ, ಉರುಗ್ವೇ, 우루과이, ئوروگوای, Urugway, Uraquaria, Wurugwayi, Irigwei, ລູກວຍອຸຣ, Urugvajus, Urugvaja, Orogoay, Уругвај, ഉറുഗ്വേ, उरुग्वे, Urugwaj, ဥရုဂွေး, Yurugwai, युरूगुए, ଉରୁଗୁଏ, یوروګوای, Uruwayi, उरुग्वाय, Uruguëe, Uruguaj, Uruguaji, உருகுவே, ఉరుగువే, Уругуай, ประเทศอุรุกวัย, ʻUlukuei, ئۇرۇگۋاي, Уруґвай, یوروگوئے, U-ru-goay (Uruguay), אורוגוויי, Orílẹ́ède Nruguayi, 乌拉圭, i-Uruguay

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