Ever been to Uruguay? This country is not seldom forgotten between its more popular neighbors Brazil and Argentina. A lot of travelers miss out of Uruguay due to logistic reasons since it is super easy to cross the border between Argentina and Brazil at the Iguazu Falls. These falls are also on almost every South American backpacker’s bucket list and Uruguay does not have anything that compares to that, nor sights such as Machu Picchu and the Salt Dessert. Some people also simply miss out of visiting Uruguay due to the lack of knowledge about it.
There is obviously more to see and do in this amazing country than what I did. But since I am a sucker for the ocean I decided to travel through Uruguay along the coastline.
I decided to take the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia Del Sacramento with Buquebus, which cost me $50 and took 1 hour and 15 minutes (there is also one that goes to Montevideo in 3 hours). From the ferry terminal, I walked into the city center within 10 minutes and checked in at my pre-booked hostel.
Colonia Del Sacramento is a small town and an old fishing village. It is very walkable and filled with cozy cafes, wine bars, and restaurants. The food is very similar to the one that can be found in Buenos Aires, with meat playing a huge role in the country’s gastronomy.
I then went on to the capital, Montevideo. The bus terminal in Colonia was next to the ferry terminal and had departures to Montevideo once an hour. I paid around $25 and it took me about 2 hours to get to the terminal in Montevideo.Montevideo is much bigger and scattered, and just like a lot of other colonial cities, it is divided into an old town and a new town. The bus terminal is in the new town, but I highly recommend staying in the old town. Preferably somewhere around or close to the square, Plaza de Independencia, as it is much nicer to walk around there.
Do not miss out of walking along the streets between the independence square and the port. Down by the port, you will find market stands and fun little boutiques in between cheesy souvenir shops. Also, make sure to grab something to eat and drink by Mercado del Puerto, the local market in the harbor.
Neither Colonia nor Montevideo are places to go to if you are looking to enjoy the beach. Rio de Plata that runs along this side of the coast is not too nice for swimming. So take the opportunity to do some sightseeing and enjoy city life instead.
From Montevideo, I took another 4 hours bus ride to Punta del Este, also known as the Miami of Uruguay. At this point, I left Rio de la Plata and started facing the Atlantic Ocean. The beach here is huge and there are a lot of restaurants, bars, and casinos. It is definitely a place to relax and spend money. Do not miss out of walking along the beachfront if you find yourself here and if your budget can manage it, then there are plenty of fancy restaurants to dine at. I found Punta del Este to be too posh and it did not match my budget, but it was nice to relax for a few days.
From Punta del Este there are plenty of options of places to explore along the coastline up towards the Brazilian border. If you want an authentic experience and do not mind a simple living for a few days, then head to Cabo Polonio. This little village does not have running water, nor electricity. It is a bit more tricky to get to, but still not at all that difficult. There are not really any official hostels either but you will be able to spot signs on every other house that states that they rent out rooms for a night.
If this sounds a bit too much for you, then there are still several other relaxed beach towns to visit in the region of Rocha. Take Punta del Diablo for example, where I went. It is a hippie-like town which has grown very popular amongst Uruguayan, Brazilian and Argentinian tourists. I spent 3 nights here and my days consisted of taking it easy, hanging out with people at my hostel, relaxing on the beach, taking early morning beach walks and do some yoga. The beach in the town is divided into three parts, whereof the busiest one is the large one right by the “city center” where you will find shacks and street vendors.
From there I headed onwards to Chuí/Chuy on the Uruguayan and Brazilian border by bus. This trip took about 3 hours and cost me $20. This town is nowhere I would recommend anyone to go to though if you are not planning on traveling into Brazil. There is simply not anything special to do or see. The border, however, was very easy to cross here with no hassle. I was the only person on the bus who was not Uruguayan or Brazilian though, and thereby the only one who had to get an exit stamp from Uruguay. For this reason, the bus did not wait for me and since there were no taxis or buses leaving to the center, I had to walk for about 2,5 km to the bus station in town. From there on I had to wait a half day for the next bus to take me further into Brazil, but on this one we were several tourists and the bus waited for us at the Brazilian border control.
Pros & cons of the Uruguayan coastline
• Friendly and easygoing people
• Chill vibes
• Very safe
• Easy to travel in and between places by bus
• Nice climate
• Fast access from Buenos Aires
• Less touristic
• Not as easy access to fly into as to other South American countries
• Harder to find good information on what to see and do
• Once again, expensive!