Uruguay

Where to go

Montevideo
, the capital, is the business heart of the country and has an interesting Ciudad Vieja (old city). The highlights are Mercado del Puerto, the former dockside market, which has become an emporium for traditional food and drink, and the magnificently restored Teatro Solís and the pedestrian Calle Sarandí. Within the city's limits are a number of beaches, which continue along the north shore of the Río de la Plata and on to the Atlantic seaboard. The most famous resort is
Punta del Este
which, in season (December-February), is packed with Argentines, Brazilians and locals taking their summer break. Beyond Punta del Este, there are quieter beaches with less infrastructure, but with sand dunes and other natural features. Along the coast, impressive villas and condominiums blend with their surroundings, a sort of museum of contemporary South American architecture under the open sky.

West of the capital is
Colonia del Sacramento
, a unique remnant of colonial building in this part of the continent. It is well preserved, standing on a small peninsula, and has one of the principal ferry ports for passenger traffic from Buenos Aires. Consequently it is a popular, but costly place, but well worth a visit. Continuing west you come to the confluence of the Río Uruguay with the Plata estuary. Up river are the last vestiges of the meat canning industry at
Fray Bentos
, which has a museum commemorating what used to be one of Uruguay's main businesses. Further upstream are towns such as
Paysandú
and the historic
Salto
, from which you can cross to Argentina, and the hot springs which have been developed into resorts.

The centre of the country is mainly agricultural land, used for livestock and crops. Many
estancias
(farms) accept visitors. Daytrips out of Montevideo, Punta del Este, or Colonia, for
instance, to an
estancia
, usually involve a meal, handicraft shopping and an educational element. Those ranches which offer lodging let you take part in the daily tasks, as these are working farms; you can do as
much or as little as you like. Horse riding is the main activity and is suitable for all.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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