Uruguay is a country in South America, lies between Argentina to the west and Brazil to the north, it has a South Atlantic Ocean coastline. After Suriname, Uruguay is the second-smallest country in South America.

Map of Uruguay

Map of Uruguay

The name of Uruguay means: river of the colorful birds, a word in Guarani that was spoken by the natives of the area. Also its called the Switzerland of the South America, not for geographical features but for a stable democracy and social benefits such as free education. Uruguay has a rich agricultural and civic history among its indigenous people. The dominant pre-20th century live stock driving techniques are still utilized in the country, and are less visited tourist attractions than the pleasant beaches and city centres. The country has a mostly low-lying landscape.

Cerro Catedral, the country's highest point, is 514m high.

Cerro Catedral, the country’s highest point, is 514m high.

Uruguay was discovered by the Spanish in the ends of the XVI century, and was part of the United Provinces of the De la Plata river until 1811.  Originally, Uruguay was simply known as the Banda Oriental, or Eastern Band, of colonies along the eastern edge of the Uruguay and De la Plata river.

Spanish is spoken everywhere. Portuñol (or Brasilero) is a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish used on the Brazilian border. Amerindian traits can be found everywhere in Uruguayan culture, from cuisine to vocabulary.

Today, Uruguay’s political and labour conditions are among the most free on the continent. In 2004, a leftist coalition (the Frente Amplio or Broad Front) which included the Tupamaros won elections which left them in control of both houses of congress, the presidency, and most city and regional governments. In 2009, former guerrilla leader Mujica was elected president, although he continued to lead a modest lifestyle of growing flowers on his farm outside Montevideo, driving an old Volkswagen Beetle, and donating 90% of his salary to charity.

About half of the country’s population is crammed into the Montevideo area and a strip of sprawl reaching east to Punta del Este. The rest are distributed among the small towns, farms, and ranches in the interior of the country.

Montevideo

Is the capital city of Uruguay. It is situated on the east bank of the Rio de la Plata and is the southernmost capital city in South America. Was founded in 1724. For much of its early history, the city consisted of what is now known as the Ciudad Vieja (Old Town). By the mid-19th century the city began to grow eastward towards what is now known as Centro. The demolition of the old fort that used to mark the eastern boundary of Old Town enabled the construction of what is now Plaza Independencia. Eventually Boulevard Artigas was built around Centro, but by 1910, suburbs were already developing beyond it which were later annexed into the growing city.

Montevideo old town

Montevideo old town

Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

Boulevard Artigas

Boulevard Artigas

What to do in Montevideo?

  • The Rambla — This waterside roadway has people biking, fishing, drinking mate, and enjoying the great views. 22 kilometers-long (13.6 miles), the Rambla goes along Montevideo’s waterfront. Lovely at sunset.

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  • La Feria Tristán Narvaja Flea Market — Spend part of Sunday morning with the locals on Tristán Narvaja Street, where vendors sell everything from t-shirts to antiques to kitchen supplies. It’s right off of 18 de Julio Ave. and the entrance is often marked by people selling puppies.

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  • Pocitos — This barrio lies about 2 miles south-east of El Centro. The Pocitos beach runs east from Punta Trouville for about a mile. Highrise apartments ring the beach along the Rambla, but going in-land a few blocks brings you into an older neighborhood reminiscent of San Francisco’s Marina district. Head uphill on 21 de septiembre St. from the Rambla at Punta Trouville for about 7 or 8 blocks to avenue Ellauri, turn left and walk another 4 blocks to Punta Carretas Shopping, a major shopping mall that is built on the remains of a prison (they preserved the prison gate inside the mall).

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  • Walking — Montevideo is a relatively safe place. The city is built on a slight hill, the spine of which extends into the Rio de la Plata to create the point that was the original city (Ciudad Vieja). From the Plaza de la Independencia, the main street that extends east from the plaza is 18 de Julio Ave. El Centro (downtown) is in this area and there will be lots of shops and places to change money. You can walk around without worry almost anywhere, and there are lots of side streets and areas you can explore: be aware that the port area, just off the main tourist and port terminal areas, is considered dangerous by locals as much as by the police. Parts of the city may appear run-down, but do not confuse this with it being a bad neighborhood. Along with Buenos Aires, this is one of the few cities in South America where poverty is not overly prevalent. That being said, there is simply not enough money in Uruguay to construct lots of new, modern buildings, so buildings are kept in use for long periods of time.
  • Take touristic bus — They don’t have maps(print one form website, but have free WiFi. Costs 442 as of June 2014

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Colonia

Colonia (Colonia del Sacramento) situiated in the Rio de la Plata region of Uruguay. It is filled with old colonial buildings and cobbled streets, and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese (Manuel Lobo), sandwiched in between the Portuguese colony of Brazil and the Spanish Vice Royalty of the River Plate (later Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil). Its strategic position and use as a smuggling port meant that its sovereignty was hotly contested and the city changed hands several times between Spain and Portugal.

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The old city of Colonia, which holds the main attractions, is quite small. It can be easily walked in a single day. There are shops where you can rent bicycles, scooters or golf carts which you can use to ride around the city or in to the countryside. Streets aren’t always in perfect condition, so keep an eye on the road, especially cobbled ones.

The ferry terminal is about half a kilometre south of the old city and the main bus terminal is about a kilometre south of the city center. You can rent row and sail boats from the marina.

The main attraction of Colonia is its historic center. Eight small museums can be visited with only one cheap entrance ticket which must be purchased in the Museo Municipal. Seven of these museums are in the town center itself but it must be said that although not costly the museums have little to recommend themselves – most only consist of one or two rooms of very uninspiring exhibits. For a few pesos you can go up to the top of the lighthouse (faro) for a view of most of the city and the river. Outside of the city there is a semi-abandoned amusement park with Uruguay’s only bullfighting ring, no longer in use.

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