Just thirty miles away from Buenos Aires, Uruguay is a country that often gets overlooked by travelers heading to South America. Without the name recognition of sites like Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, or Patagonia, the country ends up as a hazy gray spot on the map, perhaps known to exist but any other information about it still shrouded in mystery. Here at Knowmad Adventures, we strive to fill in those spots on the map for you and create lifelong memories in amazing destinations, even ones you may not know much about yet. Uruguay, being so close to the world-renowned metropolitan city of Buenos Aires, works wonderfully as an extension to a trip to Argentina, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks long.
Best Places to Visit in Uruguay
2 Night Uruguay Extension: Wine Country and Colonial Uruguay
Only an hour and a half by ferry from Buenos Aires one can slow down and experience the luxury and peaceful wine regions of Carmelo and the small-town vibes of Colonia del Sacramento. Especially after leaving the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires, these two areas, when combined, can make a perfect Uruguay extension to any Argentina trip. We recommend a minimum of two nights, and for history and culture lovers considering Colonia as your base to stay, while food and wine lovers and those looking for even more tranquility may be better off based at the charming 5-suite Narbona Wine Lodge an hour and a half north of Colonia in Carmelo. While it is also possible to explore Colonia for a day, using the public ferry to cross the wide Rio de la Plata, we typically don’t recommend it as it’s 3 hours round trip ferrying plus time spent getting to/from the ferry terminal which is more chaotic than an airport.
Ferries depart daily from Buenos Aires to Colonia, and after assistance from your Knowmad guide with checking in to the terminal, you’ll find yourself boating across the Rio de la Plata. After the short trip, arrive to Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage site and charming small town. Walking along cobbled streets and past beautiful squares, parks and churches, Colonia will almost feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, allowing you to take a deep breath, a sip of your maté tea, and settle into the slower rhythms of Uruguay. Stay at the gorgeous Hotel Charco while in the city, right alongside the river, and immerse yourself in the colonial charm.
While staying in Colonia, you’ll also be able to explore the beautiful surrounding region of Carmelo. Covered in farms, fields and forests, the area hosts many different agricultural industries, all of which you’ll be able to discover. Taste delicious and sustainably made local cheese at La Vigna Cheese Farm, guided by your own “Cheese Architect.” Stroll through olive plantations and learn about the old traditions associated with olive oil production while trying some of the many varieties produced. And of course, your time in the region would not be complete without sampling the wines of the region at a few different vineyards, tasting their unique and delicious wines, and learning about each vineyard’s unique and storied history and traditions. And instead of staying in Colonia, you may decide to entrench yourself in wine country even further with a stay at Narbona Wine Lodge, where you can relax with a glass of their delicious varieties while overlooking the vineyard, or use Narbona as a base to explore more of the beautiful Carmelo wine country. For those with 3 or 4 nights to extend in Uruguay, staying in both Colonia and Carmelo adds a lot to any trip but with very little travel.
This part of Uruguay also has many historical and natural landmarks that make your trip into the rural world even more fascinating. You’ll be able to visit La Calera de las Huerfanas, where the Jesuits, slaves, and Indians would meet to trade and talk outside of the Spaniards influence, and later would be the birthplace of all wine production in Uruguay. This area is also where the waters of the Río de la Plata and Rio Uruguay meet, a beautiful mix of deltas and islets that you’ll explore on a sunset cruise. Watch the sun dip into the Uruguayan landscape with a glass of wine in hand and luxuriate in the calmness and quiet of rural Uruguay. After two relaxing nights in Uruguayan wine country, you’ll then be able to return to Buenos Aires by ferry to continue your adventures or begin your journey home, perhaps laden with a few bottles of wine to bring a bit of Uruguay back with you.
Want to talk about adding a Uruguayan component to your adventure? Contact us at [email protected] to begin planning your trip today!
Extend Your Argentina Adventure With Additional Time in Montevideo
Situated on the southern coast of Uruguay, roughly two hours east of Colonia, spread along a peninsula that stretches into the Río de la Plata, the capital city of Montevideo is a wonderful opportunity to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of the country. With almost a third of the country’s population living in the city, you will immediately be immersed in Uruguayan culture, and all the music, food, and wine that comes with it. After a few nights in wine country, Montevideo can act as a wonderful finale to your Argentina and Uruguay exploration. Montevideo can be arrived to by a couple hour fast ferry from Buenos Aires or by short flight, or alternatively is just a couple hours by vehicle from Colonia.
Originally founded by the Portuguese before being taken over by the Spanish, Montevideo boasts a deep colonial history mixed with the Afro-Uruguayan culture, creating a unique and rich melting pot to discover while in the city. Visit the beautiful Independence Square in the historic Old City, alongside gorgeous colonial buildings like the President’s office and the mausoleum of the famed Uruguayan hero Jose Gervasio Artigas, known as the father of Uruguayan statehood. Alongside the beautiful architecture, you’ll also delve into Port Market, a vibrant food hall filled with the smell of sizzling asado and other delicious Uruguayan delicacies. Outside of the Old City, where narrow, cobbled streets wind and weave amongst each other, La Ciudad Nueva, or the New City, is built with wide, tree lined streets, gorgeous plazas and parks, and rows of majestic marble buildings, like the Palacio Legislativo. While exploring Montevideo, stay at the boutique Alma Historica, located in the center of the Old City, surrounded by restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and lively plazas filled with Montevideans enjoying the city.
While exploring Montevideo, you will also get to pay a special visit to the studio of Lobo Nuñez, a famed Afro-Uruguayan musician and percussionist considered a legend in the Uruguayan Candombe music scene. Lobo will teach you about the history of Carnival and let you inside the wonderful and secret world of the Uruguayan drums! And of course, no visit to Uruguay is complete without indulging in some of the nation’s delicious wine. You’ll visit the private home and gardens of Manuel Filgueira, owner of Los Nadies boutique winery, where Manuel himself will guide you through his delicious and unique reds and whites in a personal wine tasting. What better way to experience the energy of Montevideo than with its inhabitants, tasting their wines and listening to their music, all while being immersed in the majesty of their city. And once it’s time to depart Uruguay, the Montevideo airport works as a way to return to Buenos Aires, elsewhere in South America, or back home to finish your journey.
Extensive Argentina & Uruguay Combination
While Argentina, which clocks in at over 1 million square miles in size, can often seem like a massive and daunting country to view in its entirety, Uruguay, at only 68,000 square miles appears much more manageable, and offers visitors the chance to explore a large chunk of the country, including the beautiful and remote eastern coastal regions. It’s possible to experience the best of Uruguay in under two weeks and it makes a lovely addition to some time spent in Buenos Aires or another part of Argentina.
Leaving from Buenos Aires, spend your first nights in the north of the country, exploring the rural wine country and small town vibes of Colonia del Sacramento. Afterwards, dive into Montevideo to experience the energy of the capital, with music, food and culture before continuing onward down the coast, working your way east through Uruguay.
The landscape quickly turns rural again, with undulating hills dotted with olive oil farms nestled in-between. Leaving by car, travel through the rural countryside for roughly three hours, leaving the hustle and bustle of Montevideo behind. Visit Pueblo Eden, a beautiful little village that you will use as your base to begin hiking through the countryside, walking on trails used by locals to get between the many ranches of the area. Rolling hills and swaths of native forest cover this area, along with prairies of cows and sheep and bubbling streams, and after roughly five miles of hiking, a well-earned lunch overlooking the vineyards of Viña Eden will be yours. On the other side of the spectrum from Pueblo Eden, located just south, lies the seaside resort town of Punta del Este, known as the “Monaco of the South.”. Filled with elegant mansions, gorgeous beaches, and glitzy restaurants, you can explore a much different aspect of central Uruguay and get a taste of the high life with a glass of wine and a beautiful seaside sunset. Spend your nights at Hotel Sacromonte, a gorgeous modern take on a vineyard hotel, with fantastic views of the countryside paired with delicious food and wine.
Traveling further east, Uruguay returns to smaller towns and communities, scattered throughout the hills of the inland area or built alongside its sandy shores. Visit Garzon, a sleepy little town that hosts Garzon Winery, built atop a rocky outcrop that offers amazing views of the vineyards to soak in while you sip their delicious vintages. Evenings could be spent at Hotel Fasano, located inside a nature preserve of over 1200 acres, or at the beachside Bahia Vik, where the sounds of the Atlantic will be with you while enjoying delicious seafood and wines.
During your days on the eastern coastline, you’ll be able to adventure out to places not visited by many travelers. Explore the village of Cabo Polonio, only accessible by trekking across rows of sand dunes and home to one the largest colonies of sea lions in South America. You’ll travel by foot and by 4×4 trucks, experiencing breathtaking desert dunes that spill right into the Atlantic Ocean. This wilderness is also where you can horseback ride, journeying from pine forests to beaches, hopefully spotting local capybaras, America rheas, deer or armadillos. Here is where Uruguay becomes wild, giving you a chance to connect with the natural wonders surrounding you and the local Uruguayans who live there. Afterwards, you can return to Montevideo for your flight home, knowing full well that you experienced all that Uruguay has to offer.
Uruguay, while not known well, is home to energetic cities, fascinating small towns, delicious wines and food, and jaw-dropping natural beauty. It is truly one of the more underrated and wonderfully off-the-radar locations in South America. With a population of roughly 3.5 million people (around a quarter of the population of just Buenos Aires alone), Uruguay is a welcome addition of any length to any trip in Argentina.
It is always Knowmad’s goal that our travelers feel prepared for and excited about their adventure to Uruguay and South America. If you have any questions we can help answer, or if you’d like to discuss planning your own Uruguayan adventure, give one of our Trip Specialists a call today at 612-315-2894, or email us at [email protected] to begin planning your personalized itinerary.
Luke is an Operations Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. Luke has traveled extensively throughout South America and loves exploring new and amazing locations around the world and delving into the heart of the cultures that live there. He loves experiencing new cultures and cuisines, meeting people from all over the world and learning about their lives, and having incredible adventures along the way. Knowmad allows him to do that while working amongst kindred spirits. Read Luke’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.