The capital city, Montevideo, has a distintive European character. Founded by the Spanish in 1726, this “hill with a view” is today known for its leafy avenues; opera and symphony companies; baroque cathedral; excellent museums and abundant green space. One of its jewels, The Legislative Palace, was constructed during the 18th Century using every available color of marble.
Another of Uruguay’s prominent characteristics is its coastline; nearly a third the country’s border runs along the Atlantic coast, giving this tiny nation a disproportionate share of beautiful beaches. Eighty miles east of the capital is Punta del Este, one of South America’s finest beach towns. Here, the beach front extends along both the Atlantic coast and the Rio de la Plata. The area is known for its stylish resorts, casinos and country clubs. Off shore attractions include superb fishing, sailing, swimming and surfing.
East of the capital is the pastel-hued town of Colonia del Sacramento. Founded by settlers from Brazil in 1680, Colonia’s Barrio Historico contains well preserved colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. In 1995, Colonia was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This charming town lies within easy reach of Buenos Aires, Argentina, via a one-hour ferry cruise.
The sleepy town of Carmelo, located one-hour east of Colonia on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, is home to a casino, a Balinese-inspired Four Seasons resort, and a charming winery. Activities include golf, horseback riding, tennis, and river cruises.
Uruguay’s interior region consists of fertile grasslands, forests and vineyards. North of Montevideo, several private ranches (or estancias) offer riding and hunting programs. Here, gaucho culture still thrives.