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Despite to be a small country, Uruguay may surprise you with its tourist charms. Bathed by the Rio de La Plata and numerous parks, where the movement is constant Uruguayans and their thermos bottle of mate herb. The country does not have large skyscrapers, pollution or traffic jam as in large urban centers in the world, on the contrary, the peace hovers around the country. By knowing the historic center of Montevideo you understand how the city attracts many tourists with its ancient history and rich culture.
With a landscape of beaches, fields, historic towns, and winery, Uruguay is certainly a country that should be used and lived down to the smallest detail. You will be delighted by the place right away, to arrive in one of the nicest airports in South America. With its modern and sophisticated design, the Carrasco airport calls attention by its size, cleanliness and structure in general.
When you settling in your hotel, it’s time to start your tour through the city. You can go by bus or car, the Montevideo streets are very well marked, safe and the Uruguayans are very helpful. Below is our 5-day itinerary:
Day 1 – The starting point is the Plaza de la Independencia, the heart of the city, where it’s main artery, Avenida 18 de Julio, which is named after the date of enactment of the 1st Constitution of Uruguay. In addition to being the scene of several restaurants, theaters and pubs, is there that occurs every Sunday, the most important street fair of Montevideo, the Tristán Narvaja.
At the Plaza Independencia is the statue of the great national hero, General Jose Gervasio Artigas and just below the statue is the mausoleum where is the remains of Artigas. Access is by stairs side the statue.
Through one side of the square, you can meet what was already one of the largest skyscrapers of South America, the Salvo Palace (you can take the guided tour of the building).
Around the square, you will also find the Estévez Palace, the Torre Ejecutiva of the National Government and the famous Teatro Solís, which is the main artistic stronghold of Uruguay and worth a visit.
Also in the square is Puerta de La Ciudadela, a structure which was the entrance to a military fortress called Ciudadela, in the mid-eighteenth century. Now is an area that establishes the boundary between the old town and the new town. Passing through the door you will be in Ciudad Vieja and its heart is the Plaza Constitución where is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Montevideo, built in 1970. During the week the movement of people is intense, but on weekends the streets are deserted and not it is recommended to go through some of the dark streets. In the center of the square, there is a fountain opened in the 19th century.
After knowing the historic center of Montevideo, you can finish your day in the Port, to know the Mercado Del Puerto and savoring the famous Uruguayan meat in one of the several restaurants over there.
Day 2 – On the second day you can enjoy to relax and stroll the Ramblas, which is nothing more than a great avenue of 22 kms that is changing name along its length and along the Rio de La Plata. A good option is to rent a bike and see how Uruguayans maintains a good relationship with the river. If it is cold, sit in the river and take a mate to warm the body. Include that day a tour at the Rodó Park which is close there. If you are looking for nightlife, this is a great area to stay, where are the neighborhoods of Pocitos and Punta Carretas, known for its pubs and restaurants.
Day 3 – Leaving Montevideo, from bus or car, 180 kms south is the city of Colonia Del Sacramento. The small town is one of the most charming of Uruguay. The streets smell history, its so romantic restaurants, the colorful houses and its pleasant weather makes you want to return often.
To visit Colonia, just one day is enough, but go easy. Walk through its cobblestone streets, rest the edge of the Rio de La Plata, have a coffee in one of the charming restaurants with tables on the sidewalk.
Colonia is rich in history and culture, was founded in the 17th century by the Portuguese, but for a whole century, the city was fought with the Spaniards, who won the war. So the city has a unique architecture where the Lusitanian charm mingles with the Spanish. When walking through the city, you surely know the Calle de Los Suspiros, perhaps the best-known street in town. It has this name because of the slaves who lived there, rumor has it, to feel cold, hunger and pain, could be heard the sound of a cry, like a sigh. It is also on this street there is a famous workshop for its handicrafts and rare pieces.
Another historic building in Colonia is the Porton de Campo, built in the 20th century, is the gateway to the old town. In the vicinity of Porton is the main little square of the city, the Plaza Mayor and very nearby there is the lighthouse. Climb in the lighthouse and you’ll have a beautiful view of the city and Rio de La Plata.
End the day in the restaurants, delight you in a good chivito (typical dish) and tasting excellent Uruguayan wine.
Day 4 – Back in Montevideo, head north, 120 km’s is Punta Del Este. Known for its bustling summer, it is also very charming in winter. Surrounded by luxurious mansions and huge casinos, Punta is an extravagant city, but also quenches the plainest desires.
The city wakes up late and the movement in the streets starts around 10am. If it is summer, you can guarantee a place in the sun at Brava beach, where is the best-known landmark of the city, the Los Dedos (The Fingers). It was built by artist Chilean Mario Irrazabal in 1982, several arrangements for its meaning: the presence of man in nature, a man coming to life or the hand of a drowned man, so the monument is also known as La Mano (The hand) or Monumento ao Ahogado (monument to drowned man). You can enjoy exploring the river meets the sea. If you have time and want to take advantage best beaches and hype of Punta Del Este, you can extend your stay by a day or two.
If you go in winter, go on foot or ride a bicycle the Rambla enjoying the cool breeze of Punta. Visit Puerto de Punta, there is a marina, several restaurants and shops. It is in this port berthing large cruise ships.
At the end of the peninsula is a residential neighborhood with dozens of mansions, there is also the Punta lighthouse and the Iglesia de La Candelaria (a Church), it is worth to stop by. Another attraction can’t stay out and is also a postcard of the city is the Puente Leonel Vieira or Puente de la Barra.
Be sure to visit the Casino Conrad, considered the most important in South America and built in 1996, is the only Casino in Uruguay that is not managed by the government.
On the way back to Montevideo, worth the stop in Punta Ballena to enjoy the beautiful sunset at Casa Pueblo, a complex with many art galleries, museum, restaurants and hotel. It was built by the hands of the Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaró.
Day 5 – Last day in Uruguay, if your flight is in the afternoon, enjoy getting to know the Montevideo Botanical Gardens and the Centenary Stadium.