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Published: October 1st 2007
Sunset at Colonia
We had views like this every day in Colonia. Stunning!
Ururguay is just a great country. Apparently it is known as the Switzerland of South America. Having never been to Switzerland, I find it difficult to draw comparison, but based on this trip I now think that Switzerland must be a very nice place.
Colonia and Carmelo
We started our trip to Uruguay by catching the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento. This town is located north of BA and known as a popular day-trip destination. We decided to take our time exploring and so stayed for a total of 3 nights, all of them at the lovely Casa Teresa. It is a little bit outside the centre (maybe a 20 minute walk), but well worth the effort. Teresa lives in the main house with her family and has built a small complex in her back garden as a hostel. We had a decent sized bedroom, bathroom, small study and an outside table and chairs for whiling away the evenings after a hard day of sight-seeing. Perfect!
Colonia itself is a very pleasant town. Very relaxed, especially after the buzz of BA, but still with plenty to keep you busy for a few days. We visited the
We are here!
Map in Portuguese Museum, Colonia.
main museums of the town (most of them covered by one ticket - costing the equivalent of 1 US dollar), whilst also enjoying lots of nice coffees, beers, wines, meals, etc. We were a little surprised at the prices, mostly slightly higher than we had been paying in BA, but I think that was partly because Colonia is such as tourist town. And you could still get 2 big pizzas and a litre of beer to share for about US$6, so we couldn´t really complain too much!
One of Colonia´s strongest points though is the wonderful sunsets over the Río Plata. As it is spring, the sun is sertting in the early evening - the perfect time to relax on the waterfront and enjoy the myriad of colours. Locals and tourists alike gather at the waterfront for the spectacle, and when the sun finally drops beyond the horizon everyone gives a round of applause.
From Colonia we also took a daytrip to the small town of Carmelo. It came highly recommended in our guidebook and whilst it was enjoyable, I would not suggest it needs more than a day´s exploration. We were there for about 4 hours and
very ´olde worlde´.
in that time we took in the main square, the high street and walked out to the beach. Apparently, within South America Uruguay is renound for it beaches and I can see why that is. Carmelo had a lovely stretch of white sand, and the water looked pretty clear too. We were the only people on the sand, as the temperature was not quite at sunbathing-standards yet (but it wasn´t far off). I can imagine that Carmelo would make for a great summer retreat, if Colonia´s beaches were too crowded. Otherwise, it is not really a town worth more than a day trip from Colonia. Also it is the most dog-heavy town of the trip so far, and one took a special dislike to us...!
After our relaxation we were ready to head back into urban life and so moved on to Montevideo. As the capital of Uruguay it is a decent sized city, and yet we found it surprisingly quiet. We arrived on a sunday and the main square (which was overlooked by our hostel) was so empty that I half expected to see some tumbleweed rolling past. Our hostel was equally quiet and unfortunately very cold.
Old town gate
The next few days saw the temperature drop quite a few degrees and we found ourselves wearing the clothes we had been saving for patagonia! Still, despite the weather we were able to explore the city which came more to life the more time we spent there. We wandered through the port market, ate great empanadas, froze as we walked by the riverside and walked out to a hilltop with views back over the city. I was also surprisingly impressed with the "museum of gaucho life and the mint/money". Two very different sibjects but both intriguing in their own ways and an excellent way to while away a cold afternoon. We also had an enjoyable time recounting our Uruguay experiences to Melanie and Joshua who we had previously met at our BA hostel (hi guys!).
Piriapolis and Pan d´azucar
After a few days though in the freezer hostel we moved on eastwards. We wanted to see some of these renound Uruguayan beaches and so went to the resort town of Piriapolis. Our stay there was about 2 months too early weather-wise, but we had fun being the ONLY people staying in the massive hostel, walking along the beach at
sunset and hiking up hills. On our second day we decided to hike to the top of the Pan d´azucar (Sugar Loaf) which stands as the 3rd highest point in Uruguay. The hike was great fun, through forest and then finally some rock scrambling before reaching the top with views over the surrounding countryside and out to sea. At the summit stands a 30 metre high cross which you can climb (and which we did climb!). From the top we had a wonderful view of the birds flying around the mountain which had come up from the nature reserve below.
Time to move on again. After a long day of travelling we arrived in the north-west city of Salto. This was followed by two amazing days enjoying the local thermal pools. Many of the towns in this region are fed by hot springs and Salto has one of the best developed tourist attractions. Day 1 we were in the municipal pools which are all very hot and great for relaxing the muscles, etc. We had great sunny weather and the thermometer was hitting a perfect 26 celsius, so it was nice to spend the day outside. Day 2
View over the river during a lunch break.
we went to the next door waterpark (acuamania!) where we were much more active, enjoying the big slides, water basketball and floaty rubber rings!
When we were planning our South America trip I never really considered that Uruguay would be anything other than a place to transit through. In fact, we have spent much longer than expected here and thoroughly enjoyed our time. Uruguay is not well known outside of South America and I think this is such a shame. Despite this, the tourism infrastructure is well developed and we were given excellent maps of every town we visited. However, a bit of Spanish goes a long way here and - especially in the more remote parts - English was mostly not an option.
Generally we have found Uruguay to be a safe, friendly and engaging place, and I will be sorry to say goodbye to it tomorrow when we leave and head back into Argentina. However, having said that, we are experiencing some pretty big thunder and lightning storms here today, so maybe the gods are giving me a sign...
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