A Guest Post by Christine Ribeiro
When talking to other backpackers or looking at travel itineraries through South America, two countries tend to get left out of the routes: Uruguay and Paraguay. While we certainly enjoyed the sites we saw in Chile and Argentina, we were excited to head off the beaten path and explore places most did not. Thus, expectations were high when we took the boat from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay, the only site in Uruguay to make it into the top sites in South America in our travel guide.
Colonia is an old colony town that was well preserved and supposedly very picturesque. We got in at night and walked around the more modern part of town, saving the historic section for the next day. We got there and walked every street of the 5 block by 5 block old section in under an hour. While certainly nice, it was not what was expected from something on the same list as Macchu Pichu and the Galapagos. I am pretty sure they were just trying to throw Uruguay a bone, so they had at least something on the list.
From there we headed to Montevideo, where we walked the old part of town (often used in place of Havana, Cuba in films) in under two hours and there was little left to see. We did a lot more walking and saw basically every park and beach view possible, but again, nothing remarkable.
As we made our way north to Tacuarembo, gaucho/cowboy country, the scenery was picturesque and the town quaint, but little more to see.
Finally we ended in Salto, just over the border from Argentina, where this supposedly wonderful thermal bath/springs were. We arrived and it was basically a bunch of hot public swimming pools.
While there is nothing remarkable that we can point to from our time in Uruguay, we both loved it. It had this laid back relaxed feeling across the country. Even in Montevideo, the largest city, no one was in a rush. Every day after work, the beach fronts were full of people sitting at benches drinking their maté (local loose leaf tea that you drink through a metal straw with a filter and is shared with friends) and watching the sunset. It is a vibe that I only felt once before, in Laos. Maybe it is something about being between two large economic powers in the region (Laos between Thailand and Vietnam and Uruguay between Argentina and Brazil) that makes things just a little bit less rushed. Maybe it is their liberal politics that legalized gay marriage and marijuana (only for residents, don’t get any ideas). Maybe it was the tone set by their last president, who after his term ended went back to a simple life on his ranch, instead of continuing to play a political role. Whatever it is, there is something special about Uruguay. While there may not be anything specific to see, it is worth going just for the vibe. Or perhaps, even moving there!