I have a confession to make. Before booking my tickets to South America I knew nothing about Uruguay, I couldn’t point the country on the map, I could only say it exists and name the capital. As soon as I found out it’s so close from Argentina and it’s super easy to reach it from Buenos Aires I just knew I have to include it in my itinerary. Not only to cross another place from my list of countries to visit but also to learn something about Uruguay, to see what it is about. I went totally unprepared, had no expectations at all. And I loved it! Here are my impressions from Uruguay – the Switzerland of South America.
First of all, I’m no expert in Uruguay, I’ve spent only two days there and visited just two places – Montevideo and Colonia del Sacramento. My impressions and thoughts, the way I’ve seen the country is based only on these and I know I’d have to spend much more time and go to some less popular places to fully understand it. Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to return there but for now here is how I found Uruguay.
Table of contents
First impression of Uruguay – it was surprising!
What I could see from the bus’ window on the way between Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo was just boring. And that was basically my first image of Uruguay. Flat terrain, green fields and nothing really exciting in the landscape. When I looked at the view I thought it could as well be in Poland or well, anywhere in the world. Just the random countriside. It was the same when we approached Montevideo, it looked grey and insular. It was just not a good begining. The bus station was already in a modern shopping center and Uruguay (or at least these two cities) was nothing like it seemed at first!
Uruguay is confusing
Uruguay felt different than other countries I’ve visited in South America, Brazil and Argentina. While Buenos Aires was like Paris or Madrid, Montevideo seemed much more exotic to me. But then people looked more European. Also the waterside boulevard in Montevideo – Rambla – with its park, people rollerscating or enjoying the beach could as well be in some Mediterranean country. This left me pretty confused actually.
Speaking of people – they looked and dressed much more European than in Argentina or Brazil. Also Uruguay was the only country of these three where I’ve seen so many people reading books around – in the cafes, sitting on the grass in park or on the wall along Rambla. It felt so good to do the same, without too many eyes staring at me! In the center of Montevideo I also found a really impressive bookstore – not as amazing as famous El Ateno in Buenos Aires (that I somehow missed!) but still worth a visit!
It’s easy to communicate in Uruguay!
After struggling with the language barrier in other visited South American countries Uruguay was a bliss. It could have been only my luck or the fact I was dealing with people working in tourism but every single person I talked to – at the bus station, in the hotel, in the restaurant, cafe, in the shop or at the tourist office – could speak at least decent level of English but in most cases in was really good! That made Uruguay the easiest country on the continent to be in!
Uruguay feels old-fashioned!
For most of the time I felt like I traveled back in time some 10-20 years, sometimes even more. The old part of Colonia del Sacramento was full of vintage cars and from what I could see on the pictures online it wasn’t just a one-time thing, these machines are the showcase of this town. Montevideo was also somehow rusty, with many old fashioned signs, lanes in the shadow of venerable trees, traditional bakeries and crumbling houses. The atmosphere was somehow oldschool mixed with young vibe and I really enjoyed it!
Country of yerba mate
And last but not least – everyone in Uruguay carries a flask with yerba mate. Literally everyone! Small, big, plain, colourful, funky – everyone has one! I haven’t seen that much of yerba mate in Argentina or Brazil! Uruguayans are addicted and they are proud of it!
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The term “Switzerland of South America” gives some expectations but I really had no idea what’s hidden behind it and what I will see. After a so-so first image of the country Uruguay enchanted me and was one of the biggest surprises in my travelling career. The trip there just proved one more time it’s best to visit a new destination with no expectations in your head and then just let the place surprise you. That’s how my story with Uruguay was. If you happen to be in Buenos Aires do yourself a favour, hop on a ferry, cross Rio de la Plata and visit the still unknown country with a smiling sun in the flag!
What comes to your mind when you think of Uruguay? Would you like to visit it? What destination surprised you the most?
If you think of visiting Uruguay or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it! If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you. Or just take a look at the “destinations” page.
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