Whenever I mentioned to anyone over the past few months that we were travelling to Uruguay for our next holiday, I always got the same response without fail. A slightly puzzled “Ah. Why?!”
Although it’s long been a very popular holiday destination for South Americans, Uruguay hasn’t quite made it onto the bucket list of Western travellers. Even backpackers tend to focus on its must-see neighbours Argentina and Brazil, often giving the tiny country sandwiched in between a miss.
So why on earth did we decide to spend our annual holiday in Uruguay, with a 14-month old in tow no less?
1) Well, for starters, it’s interesting.
For a small country, Uruguay has an awful lot to offer! Colonia del Sacramento, founded in the 17th century and the entry point for many visitors, is famous for its cobble stoned historic centre, a UNESCO world heritage site. Its capital, Montevideo, has been ranked the city with the highest quality of life in South America. 660km of coastline with every kind of beach you can imagine, from wonderfully unspoilt bays to high end beach resorts. Punta del Este, Uruguay’s number one resort, is often referred to as the St Tropez of South America, thanks to the magnificent beaches popular amongst Argentinean tourists and celebs. Estancias, working ranches, offer a very different kind of accommodation, allowing visitors to experience the daily life of the Gaucho cattle herders first hand. Add to that the wineries of the West, the hot springs in the North West, the nature reserves and rock formations in the middle and the North. And then there’s Asado, the Uruguayan barbecue!
2) Secondly, Uruguay is safe.
And when travelling with a baby that is paramount. With relatively low crime rates, a well-managed economy and very little corruption, Uruguay is considered one of the safest countries in South America. Some call it an ‘oasis of personal security’. The Global Peace Index ranks it as one of the three most peaceful countries in South America, behind Chile and Costa Rica.
Driving is easy and safe. And thanks to good standards of hygiene and health care, there are also no major health risks currently present in Uruguay. With the exception of Chile, it also remains the only South American country with currently no risk of Zika.
3) It’s easily accessible.
While direct flights to Montevideo are sparse (at least from London Gatwick), Uruguay is easily accessible through Buenos Aires. Argentina’s capital is well served by international airlines, including some cheaper carriers. Uruguay is just a short ferry hop across the Rio de la Plata – and it means we can spend a bonus few days in Buenos Aires!
4) Uruguay is small.
Unlike some of the South American favourites (which remain on the list!), Uruguay is very small and therefore easily tour-able. No need for internal flights, which eat into precious holiday time and are particularly stressful when travelling with a toddler. Instead, we just hire a car and explore, at our own pace.
So the question shouldn’t be ‘why are you going to Uruguay?’, it should be ‘why aren’t you?’…!!