It was inhabited by a tribe called the Charrúa. The Spanish arrived in the territory of present-day Uruguay in 1516 but the people’s fierce resistance to conquest limited their access to the region in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1603, the Spanish brought cattle to the territory, which became a source of wealth in the region.
Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century specifically for the military. Its harbour soon developed into a commercial area competing with Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, one of the biggest ports in South America. Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay and its largest city. With one of the finest natural harbours in the region a permanent settlement was established here by the Spanish in 1724 and over time it became a prosperous commercial centre for shipping. These days, little remains of Montevideo’s Spanish past and the city has become a magnet for Argentinians from Buenos Aires eager to soak up the sun, sea and laid back atmosphere.
Candombe is a vital part of Uruguayan Carnival and features in one of the biggest street parades of the season, the Llamadas. Uruguay has one of the longest carnival seasons in the world with events spreading out over 80 days, but the llamadas parade is definitely one of the most exciting.
With its long stretches of golden sand, the coastline east of Montevideo is known as the South American Riviera and has been attracting the rich and famous for decades. At the centre of it all is Punta Del Este. Once a traditional fishing village, Punta Del Este’s 20 miles of pristine beaches caught the eye of developers back in the 1940’s who transformed it into one of the most exclusive resorts in South America.
Taquarembo is the capital city of the Tacuarembó Department in north-central Uruguay. Uruguay has three times more cattle than people and beef and leather goods are some of its most important exports. Ranches known as Estancias dot the countryside and many are happy to take in visitors as long as they’re willing to pitch in.
Every March, ranchers come to Taquarembo for the annual Fiesta Patria Gaucha, the largest Gaucho festival in the world, to compete in almost every aspect of traditional ranch life, ending the celebration with a rodeo.
- What to wear
- Getting There
- Guacho Culture
- Tango Culture
- Eat & Drink
- The Globe Trekker Itinerary
- Useful Websites
Best time to visit is mid-October to late March; be prepared for heat and humidity.
High season is January and February.
What to wear
Uruguay is more laid back than its neighbour Paraguay. The majority of tourists come to Uruguay to visit the beautiful beaches, so don’t forget to pack your swim wear. Travelling inland and visiting Estancias you should take practical clothing. It also gets cold at night, even during high season.
International flights arrive in Montevideo.
Ferry from Buenos Aires goes into Colonia and Montevideo.
Once you are on the ground, the most convenient method of transport is local buses. If you hire a car in either country, be prepared to take your life into your own hands due to the low standard of driving.
Don’t forget to pack:
1. Mosquito repellent
2. Anti-Malarials (if you’re going to Ciudad del Este or Iguazu Falls
At time of publication
Uruguayan Peso ($ or $U)
€1 = 25.7733 $U
£1 = 32.9247 $U
$1 = 21.0000 $U
Check currency converter www.xe.com for more accurate exchange rates!
Though the country speaks Spanish, Uruguayan Spanish has some modifications due to Italian immigration.
Total population amounts to around 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area, according to a 2011 census.
With three times as many cattle in Uruguay than people, a strong Gaucho culture is hardly unexpected. The gaucho has held an important and symbolic role in the hearts of the people of Uruguay.
To many of fervent nationalists the independent and loyal gaucho is the one symbol that sums up how they view themselves. These cowboys are perceived as having the freedom and courage to make their way through life by holding fast to their own ideals and beliefs. To many people of Uruguay, these horseback riding men are their heroes. Even now, the word gauchada refers to an act of kindness or a good deed.
No one is quite certain when the word gaucho actually came into existence. It was first recorded during 1816 when Argentina declared its independence as a nation. The word is believed to have been derived from cauchu which means vagabond or perhaps it is a derivative of the word huauchu which means orphan. Either of these words would fit in well with the history of the transient, and often solitary, lifestyle of many early gauchos.
La Fiesta Patria Gaucha
Gaucho Festival held in Tacuarembo on 7-11th March.
The biggest in South America – nearly 3000 horses attend.
This is a family run estancia that occasionally takes in tourists on the side. Anyone visiting has the opportunity to ride with the owners and assist with all the daily needs of running an estancia – rounding up cattle, veterinary requirements, weighing the cows (to see if they are ready to be slaughtered) and testing them for pregnancy!
It is a common mistake to say that Tango is the music of Argentina. Tango is the cultural expression of the Rio de la Plata. Carlos Gardel is perhaps the most prominent figure in the history of Tango and is only known as The King of Tango or “el zorzal criollo”.
The unerring musicality of Gardel’s baritone voice and the dramatic phrasing of his lyrics made miniature masterpieces of his hundreds of three-minute tango recordings.
Gardel has caused controversy among Uruguayans and Argentinians by claiming to have been born in Buenos Aires. Uruguay has set out to prove he was born there, and they appear to have achieved their aim.
The Carlos Gardel museum in Valle Eden was built purely to assert their claim to be the birthplace of tango. This museum is in a former pulperia (rural shop) which was once frequented by Gardel and now houses various artefacts to support his purported birth here. A story of extra marital affairs, shame and family secrets unfold as the reason for his rejection of Uruguayan nationality. However, when pushed, it seems he indicated otherwise. A clipping from a newspaper article in the museum claims he said: “… if you insist, Uruguayan, born in Tacuarembó.”
Argentina now states that it doesn’t matter where Carlos Gardel was born, for them the reality is that it was made famous in Buenos Aires. Under the slogan, “It takes two to tango,” Argentina and Uruguay have finally decided to make peace over where the tango originated so that both countries can benefit from the international surge in its popularity.
Eat & Drink
Uruguay is typically known for its servings of different meat, such as beef, steak, pork, sausage, etc. Chivito is a typical dish that includes ham, cheese, beef, a few eggs, and a couple of symbolic vegetables.
Asado is a term used both for a range of barbecue techniques, and the social event of having or attending a barbecue in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. It usually consists of beef, alongside various other meats, which are prepared la parrilla, or cooked on a grill, and open fire.
Tereré is an infusion of yerba mate and is similar to typical mate but prepared with cold water rather than with hot. It is of Paraguay origin, and can also be found in various parts of South America, such as Argentina.
In the mid 19th century, a German engineer working on railways in Uruguay spotted the potential for using the meat of cattle raised for leather. In 1865 he sent his first 800kg of extract to Europe and followed it to London in search of investment. In 1866 a meat extract company was set up in Fray Bentos called Barrio Anglo. This was one of the first companies to use modern marketing techniques, and by 1975 the plant was producing 5,000 tonnes of extract per year.
In 1887, once canning technology had advanced, the Liebig company started to produce corned beef and various other canned meats. In 1883 the first electric lighting in Uruguay was installed there. The plant’s record year was 1890, when 208,890 animals were killed and almost half of Britain’s meat came from the Southern hemisphere. In subsequent years the plant’s products were used by Henry Morgan Stanley, Captain Scott, Florence Nightingale, Alcock and Brown, as well as on the first British Everest expeditions and apparently by the first men on the moon. They were also crucial to the British war effort of 1914-1918. (One of the early British tanks was code-named ‘Fray Bentos’ because its crew were ‘meat in a can’.) Can get great archive for this.
The meat was exported all over the world, but mostly – as colourful labels bearing names like ‘Donald Cook’ and ‘Hereford Corned Beef’ in the tiny ticket office attested – to Britain. The factory was the toast of Uruguay – presidents and other dignitaries were regular visitors.
Its fame and success did not last, however. In 1979, a few years after it was nationalised, the factory closed. Changing trade patterns – notably Britain’s entry into the then Common Market – saw the company’s fortunes decline. In 1987 Uruguay declared Barrio Anglo, the great kitchen of the world which gave food to Europe during more than 130 years became a National Historic Monument and it now houses a museum dedicated to the Industrial Revolution in Uruguay.
The Globe Trekker Itinerary
Holly Morris begins her journey in Uruguay’s capitol, Montevideo. Montevideo is the largest city of Uruguay and home to a very substantial port that has lasted since the 18th century. Holly tries some Chivito and heads out to the waterfront promenade called the Rambla. Luckily, Holly happens to visit during carnival season. Candombe is the traditional music from Uruguay, and was taught by the African slaves who were brought to Uruguay in the 17th and 18th centuries. Candombe is a vital part of Uruguayan Carnival and features in one of the biggest street parades of the season, the Llamadas.
With its long stretches of golden sand, the coastline east of Montevideo is known as the South American Riviera. Holly visits the Punta Del Este, 20 miles of pristine beaches that was transformed it into one of the most exclusive resorts in South America during the 1940’s. Another waterfront area Holly visits is the Cabo Polonio, which was nothing more than a tiny fishing community, when a small group of hippies moved there back in the 1960’s. It is now a beach hangout for people looking for a humble and modest vacation.
Holly then heads north into Gaucho country around Taquarembo. Holly is immersed in the festival and watches the ranchers compete in almost every aspect of traditional ranch life, ending the celebration with a rodeo.
Starting in the capitol, Asuncion, Holly begins her adventure in Paraguay with a visit to the hottest lunch spot in town, the Lido Bar. She tries the house specialty, de pescado, which includes a fish soup made using local catfish called Surubi. Holly meets Dr. Martin Almada, a local doctor who teaches Holly the history behind the torture and slaughter of the people of Paraguay under the German dictator Alfredo Stroessner.
Before heading east to the lakeside resorts of Aregua and San Bernardino, one of the most sought after lakeside vacation spots. She then moves south to the ruins of the 18th century Jesuit missions of Trinidad. Here, she meets Carlos Canillas, a Jesuit inspired by his fore father’s achievements. She learns of the tremendous impact Jesuits had on the peace and standard of living of the Guarani Indians.
Holly then travels 200 miles north to the jungles of the Mbaracayu Nature Reserve, hunting ground to the indigenous Ache people. Nature reserves like Mbaracyu have been key to reviving their culture.
Here are some of the places the crew received amazing hospitality during filming and would highly recommend bedding down for the night in Uruguay:
PANAGEA ESTANCIA, Tacuarembo
LA PERLA DEL CABO, Cabo Polonio
HOTEL LAFAYETTE, Montevideo
HOTEL LA BLUETTE, Punta Del Este
COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO
CONGLOMERADO TURISMO DE MONTEVIDEO
SECRETARIA NACIONAL DE TURISMO – SENATUR
FIESTA PATRIA GAUCHA
CUERDA KIAMBA CANDOMBE
LOS SUENOS MONTEVIDEO
LA PERLA DEL CABO, URUGAY
HOTEL LAFAYETTE, MONTEVIDEO
HOTEL LA BLUETTE, PUNTA DEL ESTE
MUSEO DE LAS MEMORIAS
HOTEL ARMELE, ASUNCION
MOISES BERTONI FOUNDATION
HOTEL SANTA MARIA DE FE
Uruguay & Paraguay
Top Ten South American...
Treasures of Latin America
Las Llamadas Festival,
Ultimate Guide to South...
The Story Of...The Origins of...
Great Explorers: The Americas