Uruguay: Learn Spanish in South America's safest country

Uruguay

One of the smallest and safest country in South America, Uruguay’s biggest attraction is its coastline, which boasts endless sandy beaches and tiny fishing villages. Even inland, the network of streams and rivers means that you’re never far from somewhere to swim or enjoy watersports. The landscape’s gentle hills, pampas plains, marshland and woodland are great for enjoying nature and spotting wildlife, and the relatively sparse population makes for stunning night skies, unspoilt by the lights and smog of big cities. Uruguay enjoys a high level of education and good sanitation standards – tap water is drinkable throughout the country. Montevideo has all the nightlife, culture and facilities you would expect to find in a capital city, within an urbanisation compact enough to navigate on foot. What’s more, connections are easy and quick to Uruguay’s gigantic neighbours, Argentina and Brazil.

prev  album 1/3  next

Places to visit :: Spanish immersion programs Montevideo Uruguay

  

Places to visit...

 

Montevideo: Montevideo is situated in the south of the country, on the bank of the Rió de la Plata. Montevideo is the largest city, the capital and the chief port of Uruguay. The city has a population of 1.3 million and Uruguay has a total population of about 3.4 million. According to statistics from 2007, Montevideo provides the hightest quality of lif in Latin America.

Colonia del Sacramento: Founded in 1680 by Portuguese settlers, this UNESCO world heritage site charms visitors with its shady cobbled streets, cute restaurants, vintage cars, abundant museums and extensive beaches.  We recommend watching the sunset from the riverfront Rambla.

Salto and Paysandú: In the northwest of Uruguay these two provinces have natural hot water springs or termas which attract visitors particularly in the colder months, to enjoy the relaxing effects and health benefits of a bath in the steamy pools.  The springs at Daymán are the biggest but those at Guaviyú, Almiron and Arapey are worth visiting too.

Rocha: This province contains almost all of Uruguay’s Atlantic coast (anything west of Punta del Este is officially part of the Río de la Plata) and is well-known in and around Uruguay for it’s seemingly endless white-sand beaches.  La Paloma and La Pedrera attract surfers, Punta del Diablo and the Santa Teresa nature reserve are wild and natural, Valizas is known as a hippy hangout.  During the summer months there are bars, parties and beach bonfires in almost all of them, but out of season you could well have the whole beach to yourself.  There are several good places for birdwatching.  It’s nice to rent a car and take your time cruising the coast, stopping when you find a place you like.

Piriápolis: The town and beach attract summer tourists, and an aerial lift takes you up to the San Antonio hill where you can enjoy a view of the coastline in front of you and the hills behind.  Pan de Azúcar hill is one of Uruguay’s highest points (493m!) and you can even climb up inside the huge concrete cross at the top of the hill.

Punta del Este / MaldonadoAside from the famous resort with its 5-star hotel, casinos, beautiful beaches and fashionable visitors, this is a good place to arrange boat trips to see a sea lion colony or to go diving or try other watersports.  You can visit the iconic hand-in-the-sand sculpture and nearby is Casapueblo, a bizarre wedding-cake of a building built by and still inhabited by Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaró, where you can enjoy an exhibition of his work.

MinasThis hill town is a useful hub if you want to visit some of Uruguay’s prettiest natural landscapes such as the woodland, hills and waterfalls in Parque Salus, Cerro y Virgen del Verdún, or Arequita cave (where you might just see some bats).

Sierra de las ÁnimasThis protected area of wildlife owes its name to the indigenous Charrúa people’s tradition of lighting funeral pyres on the hilltops.  These days you can enjoy totally unspoilt nature by climbing the hills, having a picnic by the river or cooling off under a little waterfall or natural rock pool.

 

San Gregorio de PolancoYou can visit the birthplace of tango legend Carlos Gardel in this traditional gaucho town in the north of Uruguay, where some of the streets have been brightened up with murals and painted houses.

 

uruguay places to visit

When to come :: Spanish immersion programs Montevideo Uruguay

When to come...

Our courses run all year round and Uruguay has different things to offer at different times of year.

The high season for tourists is from December to February, which is summertime in Uruguay. Many people spend their summer at the beaches all along the coast, where there are places to party as well as quiet relaxing beaches. Montevideo's city beaches are also lively in summer – you can swim and sunbathe as well as enjoy beach sports such as volleyball.

Christmas and New Year make up what the Uruguayans call "las fiestas" (parties), and there are lots of fun things to do. Carnival runs throughout February and there are events almost every night. The biggest date is the ‘llamadas’, which are held in the first week of February (check the web for exact dates).

In March the northern city of Tacuarembó hosts a Gaucho festival where you can learn about the lifestyles of Uruguay's cowboys. There are rodeos, cattle competitions, craft sales. country fairs, folk dances and barbecues. Or, if rock music is more your thing, Uruguay's first rock festival "Pilsen Rock" is held in late March and you can find out who are the best local bands, both old and new.

Easter week has been renamed "tourism week" by the Uruguayans and lots of people use the days off work to visit other parts of the country. One popular event is the Paysandú beer festival – like "Oktoberfest" – in the north-west of Uruguay. The event includes live music, an outdoor theatre, lots of beer, and you can relax on the city's extensive grassy riverbanks.

In April the gauchos come to Montevideo for the annual Criolla – a huge country fair and rodeo in a large park in the city. It runs for two weeks and you can watch the expert cowboys, try traditional foods, buy handicrafts and meet real life gauchos.

Uruguayans celebrate Labour Day on May 1st with political rallies, processions, and live music in the city's streets and squares.

Autumn, winter and spring are good times to do some of the outdoor activities that Uruguay has to offer, as summer is too hot for many people. Explore the hills around Minas and Piriápolis, go rock climbing at the Quebrada de los Cuervos in Treinta y Tres, visit the caves in Rivera, go on horseback treks in the peaceful countryside, or explore the unspoilt beaches in the east. Be warned, the water is usually too cold for swimming from June to August.

However you can have an outdoor dip in winter if you go to visit the hot springs in Paysandú and Salto. They are particularly popular in June, July and August, and people travel from all over the country to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and health benefits of the naturally warm water.

Uruguayan wine, especially the classic ‘Tannat’, is worth drinking all year round but in June there is a one-day wine festival where fourteen vineyards open their doors to the public to share fine wines and roast lamb. It is also this month that Uruguay celebrates the birth of its most famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel, with a tango festival mainly in his hometown of Tacuarembó but also in Montevideo. It includes live music, tango performances and milongas.

One of the nightlife highlights of the year is August 24th, known in Uruguay as Nostalgia Night, where DJs across the city dust off the classic records from yesteryear, both Uruguayan and international, the older generations take over the clubs and discos, and young and old dance the night away together.

Spring starts in September or October, and this is also the start of the whale-watching season, which runs through until January. You can take boat trips from coastal towns in the east, such as Punta del Este, and you can also visit colonies of seals and sea lions which have their pups at this time of year.

Heritage day is in October and across the city public and private buildings alike open their doors to the public, allowing visitors a close-up view of places like the Parliament building, grand embassies, colonial mansions, and the iconic Ancel Tower (which has a stunning view across the city from the upper floors).

 

 

Cigarette shop: low-cost cigarettes