Classicists among you will spot that the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, literally translates as ‘I see the mountain’. Yet unlike several of its South American brethren, Uruguay is less a country of steep and jagged peaks, but rather a land of rolling hills and verdant pastures, where you can ride out on horseback in true gaucho style, returning to your estancia at the end of each day to tuck into steak and some excellent local wine.
Perhaps it was the familiarity of such a green and pleasant land that attracted such numbers of European settlers. Nowhere is the legacy of colonialism better illustrated than in Colonia del Sacramento, only a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Founded by the Portuguese in 1680 and coveted by the British, Colonia is one of the continent’s best-kept secrets, a charming collection of whitewashed buildings, tile and stucco homes and original cobbled streets.
Montevideo is far more multicultural, though the Mercado del Puerto has secured its place in history, having taken place in the same spot since 1868. It’s a great place to grab a chivito, the steak sandwich that’s the national dish of Uruguay.
For something more upmarket, head along the coast to Punta del Este, a see-and-be-seen jet-set mecca with a white sandy beach whose restaurants, clubs and designer boutiques would not look out of place on the French Riviera.
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