In May, along with five others, I was lucky enough to be invited by the Uruguay Ministry of Tourism and Air Europa to spend a week sampling the delights of Uruguay for the first time. Known for its sweeping, golden sandy beaches, Uruguay is often seen as a seasonal beach destination – And while this is justified with a large range of coastal places to stay to suit all tastes, there is a lot more to this (relatively) small Latin American country.
The white-washed Gaudi-esque Casa Pueblo dominating the coastline at Punta Ballena and the idiosyncrasy of the self-built dwellings – although now somewhat curtailed – alongside the sealion colony at Cabo Polonio are unexpected, as is the feeling of exhilaration when standing off-season amongst the shifting sand dunes at Punta del Diablo close to the Brazil border. Inland a surprising number of wineries offer sophisticated wine-tastings, also highlighting other excellent local produce and working estancias offer a friendly and comfortable experience of rural Uruguay.
The arts are also important – the visibility of contemporary artists such as Pablo Atchugarry and a lively diverse music scene runs alongside pride in their national history and traditions, that culminates in what is thought to be the world’s longest annual carnival in the 40 days leading up to Lent.
It soon becomes apparent there is a good choice of accommodation on offer ranging from comfortable standard hotels, via quirky and characterful guesthouses to high-end luxury; and the quality of food and wine is excellent – particularly if you are a fan of red meat and full-bodied red wines, or seafood. There is definitely no need to rough-it exploring Uruguay.
It also feels safe and family-friendly. Outside rush hour in the cities the roads are easily navigable and distances are relatively short, opening up the possibility for either staying in one place and exploring, or making a self-drive holiday.
Uruguay is still relatively unknown as a holiday destination in the U.K. but for people looking for an enjoyable, authentic, and off-the-beaten-track Latin American experience it has a lot to offer.
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