These 10 wonderful experiences show why Uruguay is the under-the-radar destination you’ve been looking for

Palacio Salvo in Montevideo, Paraguay is a must-visit attraction. (Image by pirizluz from Pixabay)

Nestled between its famous South American neighbours of Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is an often-overlooked destination that boasts a plethora of secret treasures waiting for you to discover. If you’re planning to visit this remarkable nation, here are ten unforgettable experiences that you simply shouldn’t miss:

Marvel the architectural marvel that is Palacio Salvo

Palacio Salvo is a striking building that dominates the skyline of Montevideo, Uruguay. It was designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti and completed in 1928. The building is a fusion of various architectural styles, including Gothic and Art Deco, and features ornamental statues and intricate bas-reliefs on its exterior. Palacio Salvo was once the tallest building in South America, and its grandeur extends to its interior as well. Visitors can admire the building’s lobby, with its marble floors and elaborate decor, and learn about its fascinating history. While access to the upper floors is restricted, the ground-level commercial spaces and occasional guided tours provide a glimpse into the building’s past and present.

Discover the timeless charm of Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento, a quaint city nestled on the southwestern coast of Uruguay, is a treasure trove of history and charm. Its Barrio Histórico, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a living museum of Portuguese and Spanish colonial architecture, with its well-preserved bastions, fortifications and stone walls. Visitors can meander through the narrow, winding streets, each turn revealing a new vista or a hidden courtyard and feel transported to a bygone era. The city’s lighthouse, dating back to the 19th century, offers breathtaking views of the Rio de la Plata and the historic district. The street Calle de los Suspiros, or Street of Sighs, is lined with colourful houses and antique lanterns, creating a picturesque setting that’s perfect for photographers and romantics alike.

Explore the bohemian vibe of Café Brasilero in Montevideo

Café Brasilero is located in the heart of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja and represents Uruguay’s rich café culture and bohemian tradition. Being the oldest coffee shop in the city, it has been a place where poets, musicians, and thinkers gather for more than a century. The café’s interior oozes a warm and nostalgic atmosphere with antique mirrors, dark wooden furnishings, and period photos decorating the walls. Visitors can enjoy the taste of traditional Uruguayan pastries, such as medialunas and bizcochos, served with yerba mate or cortado, a strong espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk. The café is also known for hosting cultural events and live music, making it a lively spot to discover the local arts scene.

Hunt for the ghosts of bullfighters at the abandoned Plaza de Toros

The Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos is located just outside Colonia del Sacramento and was once a bullfighting arena. However, bullfighting was banned in Uruguay during the early 20th century. This majestic structure was inspired by Moorish architecture and has been left to the elements, allowing nature to slowly reclaim it. Visitors can explore its ruins, and the grand arches and columns create a dramatic backdrop. The arena’s past and present offer a stark contrast, and its sense of tranquility is a poignant reminder of the impermanence of human endeavors.

Immerse yourself in the cultural offerings of Teatro Solís

Teatro Solís, situated in the bustling heart of Montevideo, is not just a premier venue for performing arts, but also a cultural beacon that has illuminated the city since it opened in 1856. The neoclassical facade of the theatre, adorned with Corinthian columns and a stately pediment, invites visitors to discover the opulence within. The interior of the theatre is a spectacle of elegance, with plush red velvet seats, golden balconies, and an awe-inspiring ceiling mural. Attending a performance here is a sensory feast, be it a classical concert, an avant-garde play, or a ballet. For those who are unable to catch a show, the theatre offers guided tours that reveal its storied history and architectural splendour.

Discover the whimsical world of Zooilógico del Futuro

Zooilógico del Futuro is a captivating sanctuary where art and nature blend together in the most unexpected ways. This outdoor gallery, nestled amid the verdant Uruguayan landscape, showcases a variety of sculptures that challenge the traditional concept of a zoo. Rather than living animals, visitors will encounter fanciful metal and stone creatures that evoke a feeling of wonder and playfulness. The park’s founder, Agó Páez Vilaró, designed this space to encourage creativity and environmental awareness. Each piece depicts a story or conveys a message, urging guests to contemplate their connection with the natural world and the animals that occupy it.

Attach your love lock at Fuente de los Candados

In the lively shopping district of Montevideo, there is a delightful fountain called Fuente de los Candados. This charming fountain has become an iconic symbol of love and commitment. Couples from all over the world come here to attach padlocks with their initials, as a way of sealing their promises in a romantic ritual. This tradition is inspired by similar practices in cities like Paris and Rome and adds a touch of whimsy to the city’s urban landscape. The fountain is itself a marvel of art, with intricate ironwork and flowing water that provides a serene soundtrack to the clinking of locks. It is a must-visit spot for lovebirds and a testament to the enduring spirit of romance.

Explore the mystical Grutas del Palacio

Grutas del Palacio is a geological wonder located in the Flores department of Uruguay. It is known for its network of caves and grottoes which were formed over millions of years. Stalactites and stalagmites beautifully adorn the subterranean chambers, creating an otherworldly ambiance. The geopark is a part of Uruguay’s efforts to preserve and showcase its natural heritage. Guided tours are offered, which delve into the site’s scientific significance and mystical allure. The surrounding area is a haven for wildlife, with native flora and fauna thriving in this protected ecosystem. A visit to Grutas del Palacio is an incredible journey into the heart of the Earth that reveals the hidden beauty beneath our feet.

Cabo Polonio is your rustic retreat in nature

Cabo Polonio is a remote coastal hamlet that provides a sanctuary for those seeking solitude and a deep connection with nature. The community is accessible only by 4×4 vehicles through shifting sand dunes, making it a world apart from modern life. Cabo Polonio does not have electricity or running water, offering a rustic experience where the sea and stars dictate the pace of life. The village is well-known for its lighthouse, which provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the resident sea lion colony. Visitors can enjoy pristine beaches dotted with colourful fishing shacks for long walks, meditation, and unplugging from the digital world. Cabo Polonio is a reminder of the simple joys of existence and the beauty of untouched landscapes.

Take the artistic pulse of Uruguay at San Gregorio de Polanco

San Gregorio de Polanco is a peaceful town located on the banks of the Río Negro. It serves as an open-air museum exhibiting colourful murals and sculptures. Both local and international artists have contributed to the transformation of the town’s walls into canvases, creating a lively gallery that reflects the community’s spirit and history. While strolling through the streets, visitors can discover artistic gems at every corner and engage with the hospitable locals who take pride in their town’s creative identity. Moreover, the town offers serene beaches and recreational activities on the river, making it an ideal destination for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

ENS Editors

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