ABOUT Uruguay



The name Uruguay means river of the colourful birds. It is related to the name Guyana: Arawak Guayana, land of many waters.
Often Uruguay is called the Belgium of South America, not for geographical features but for a stable democracy and social benefits such as free education.  Long a desired country for immigration, Uruguay has been suffering from high levels of emigration for almost four decades, mainly of highly trained workers and people with high-level studies ("brain drain") seeking better opportunities abroad.
Uruguay has a rich agricultural and civic history among its indigenous people.

The dominant pre-20th century live stock driving techniques are still utilized in some areas, and are less visited tourist attractions than the pleasant beaches and city centers. The country has a mostly low-lying landscape. Cerro Catedral, the country's highest point, is 514m high.

The country can be classified as having a subtropical year round climate, however proximity to the ocean & the massive Rio de la Plata & due to the absence of any mountain terrain to act as a weather barrier, all locations in Uruguay are particularly vulnerable to rapid changes from weather fronts. It is a country that is chilly in winter & mild to hot springtime through summer into early autumn.

Uruguay was discovered by Spanish Adelantados in the ends of the XVI century, and was part of the United Provinces of the River Plate until 1811. Originally, Uruguay was simply known as the Banda Oriental, or Eastern Band, of colonies along the eastern edge of the Uruguay and Plate Rivers.
When Buenos Aires expelled the last Viceroy, Baltasar Cisneros, the capital moved to Montevideo. The rebel navy sailed from Buenos Aires in an attempt to overcome the Spanish troops in that city, aided by the local rebel troops.
When finally Montevideo was freed from Spain, Uruguay intended to secede from Buenos Aires, only to be invaded by the Brazilian Empire, which started the Argentine-Brazilian war in 1813. After a variety of confusing twists, the war ultimately ended in a stalemate.
With the assistance of mediation by the British government, both warring countries agreed to end their territorial claims on the Banda Oriental in 1828, thus giving birth to the new Eastern Republic of Uruguay. A constitution was subsequently drafted and adopted in 1830. British assistance in the creation of Uruguay led to a long history of British influence, which ended only with World War II.

Because the entire first two centuries of the country's history were dominated by the struggle to establish a national identity for the Banda Oriental independent of Buenos Aires, Uruguayans to this day are very sensitive about their country's relationship with Argentina.

The Argentinian Civil War which ravaged that country during the 19th century was not a stranger to Uruguay, which soon gave birth to two opposing parties, the Whites (liberals) and the Reds (traditionalists) that eventually also led to a Uruguayan Civil War that went on in various hot and cold phases until the beginnings of the twentieth century. The story goes that the parties' colors originally came from armbands allegedly torn from the Uruguayan flag, but the conservatives switched to red armbands when they realized that red faded less quickly in the sun than blue.

In the early 20th century, President José Batlle y Ordóñez oversaw Uruguay's modernization and industrialization, and was also able to squash the remnants of caudillismo political culture from the Spanish colonial era which to the present continue to cause trouble in countries like Argentina. This is why Uruguay since Batlle's presidency has enjoyed much lower levels of corruption than the rest of South America.

However, the simmering tension between the left and right wings of Uruguayan politics persisted. From 1954 to 1967, Uruguay tried an unusual solution borrowed from Switzerland: a collegiate Executive Office in which a different member was designated President every year. In this way, Uruguay became the "Latin American Switzerland" for a while, acting as model of democracy and banking liberties until a military coup ended all this.

A Marxist urban guerrilla movement, the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president Juan María Bordaberry to "agree" to military control of his administration in 1973. By the end of 1974 the rebels had been brutally crushed and Tupamaro leader and future president Jose Mujica was imprisoned at the bottom of a well, but the military continued to expand its hold over the government, by engaging in widespread torture and disappearances of alleged insurgents and anyone unfortunate enough to be perceived as opponents of the regime. Civilian and democratic rule was not restored until 1985.
Today, Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the most free on the continent.
In 2004, a leftist coalition (the Frente Amplio or Broad Front) which included the Tupamaros won elections which left them in control of both houses of congress, the presidency, and most city and regional governments. In 2009, former guerrilla leader Mujica was elected president, although he continued to lead a modest lifestyle of growing flowers on his farm outside Montevideo, driving an old Volkswagen Beetle, and donating 90% of his salary to charity.
What to do in Uruguay
Uruguay is a country that is often overlooked in favour of  Brazil & Argentina so one  wouldn’t go as far to say that Uruguay is a hidden gem, but South America’s 2nd smallest country has a great deal to offer.  You have some great history in cities like Colonia and you can even see glorious architecture in the capital of city of Montevideo.  While Argentina is known for having great steak, Uruguay is actually the world’s highest consumer of beef.  When you find yourself in Uruguay make sure to try plenty of their high quality red meat.
The two standout destinations in Uruguay are Colonia del Sacramento & Punta del Este.  The former is a year round attraction whereas Punta del Este being on the South Atlantic coast is more a summer time drawcard & much of it shuts down in the winter off season.
The city was founded and eventually overtaken by Montevideo as the most important city in the country but Colonia still has a lot offer.  This river front township of Spanish origin will remind you what life was like years ago with cobbled streets (watch your ankles!) and very humble historic buildings.
Colonia is set right on the river so make sure to walk around the shores and climb the stairs of the light house to get great views of the area.  You can reach Colonia via a short Buque Bus ferry crossing - one hour on the fast ferry - from Buenos Aires or about a 2 hour drive from Montevideo.

Here we introduce you to the Miami Beach of Uruguay.  Known for its beaches and nightlife, Punta Del Este is the place to go if you want a little sun, a little tan, and little kilombo (crazy parties).  Many Brazilians and Argentino`s come in droves to Punta Del Este for summer vacation.

Itineraries in Uruguay