Uruguay

Uruguay is the only country we knew nothing about before coming to South America. But, it’s free for Americans to visit, and it’s only an hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires, so we figured, “why not?” It turned out to be an interesting destination, and we ended up spending a week there all-told. The primary motivation for going are the beaches on the east coast, which are some of the nicest in South America, with the exception of Brazil. Unlike Argentina, they share the same water currents as Brazil, so the water is relatively warm (vs Argentina’s Antarctic blasts).

Heading to Punta el Diablo for some R&R

Heading to Punta el Diablo for some R&R

There are several ferries daily between Buenos Aires and Colonia (a small town where many Argentinians go for day trips) and Montevideo (the capital, and closer to the beaches). We ended up going on the shorter ferry to Colonia and transferring by bus, since it was a bit cheaper. This turned out to be a fantastic choice, as the winds were very bad for the ferry we took, and it was the choppiest ferry ride we’ve had to date (worse than during the storm in Thailand, even). Over half of the ferry got sick and most everyone left nauseous.

Famous hand

Famous hand

After two boring bus rides, we arrived in Punta Del Este, our stop for the night. PDE is a cruise ship port for most South American cruises, and it’s also where rich and famous Brazilians and Argentinians go to vacation. We couldn’t find a room for less than $70/night, food was expensive (>$12/entrée), and it was a very rich place, with several designer shops, casinos and nightclubs lining the streets. It was a nice town to walk around in (think Cape Cod meets Destin, Florida) but a little too touristy/ritzy for us. They did have a nice sculpture of a hand sticking out of the sand, which they are apparently famous for.

Beach at Punta el Diablo - just what we were looking for

Beach at Punta el Diablo – just what we were looking for

We hopped on an early bus for Punta El Diablo, where we’d spend the next three nights. PED is a smaller former fishing village that is just getting on the map for tourists. The town was more about relaxing and enjoying the long sprawling beaches than shopping and parties. We stayed at a very relaxing hostel where we met some other travelers (including some just starting their RTW trip!) and had some great conversation. The beach was really nice, with excellent white sand and swimmable waters. While not the nicest beach we’ve been to (it’s no Ko Samui!), it was better than several SE Asian beaches (looking at you, Langkawi), surprisingly.

Horseback riding on the beach for Sara's birthday

Horseback riding on the beach for Sara’s birthday

Sara’s birthday fell during our time here, so we went on a fun 4-hour horseback riding adventure with a local horse rancher. He took us through town and into the adjoining national park, and let us trot around “off trail” for a while. Half-way through, we stopped in the park and he pulled out two large bottles of local wine, which he insisted we finish so we’d be more “relaxed” for our sunset ride on the beach. As the birthday girl, Sara got extra. When we arrived at the beach with the sun going down, he let us take off with the horse if we wanted. It was really a cool experience to gallop along the sand on the beach at sunset. Back at the hostel, another girl was also celebrating a birthday, so there was a cake and we had a small birthday party.

Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!

Our last day, we went back to Montevideo for an afternoon and just walked around the city. It seemed nice enough – kind of like a run-down Buenos Aires, really. There was a decent boardwalk near the ocean, and the old city had some charm. We were glad we only spent a night here, as there wasn’t that much to see or do. The highlight for us was the hotel we stayed at put us on the top floor with a huge balcony and sea views, which also looked over the top of a building where they were filming a Uruguayan beer commercial, so that was kind of fun to watch. The next morning we took the airport bus and caught our flight to El Calafate, Argentina for some hiking in Patagonia!

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