As the second smallest country in South America, Uruguay is often overlooked by visitors in favor of bigger South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina. However, don’t let its small size fool you - it’s actually oozing with natural beauty and history. The fact that it doesn’t draw as many as crowds as its neighboring countries may also be a perk for those who want to avoid the crowds and absorb the local culture. Montevideo, the capital city, alone is worth a visit thanks to its rich history, lively nightlife, fantastic beaches, and rich cultural scene. There’s plenty of sights and activities that await you in this South American country so be sure to check out this list of things to do in Uruguay to find out what activities to plug into your itinerary.
Uruguay is actually one of the top wine producers of South America. You don’t have to buy bottles from the store during the visit if you want to try out some of their creations. Instead, you can simply go on a winery tour. Not only will you allow your taste buds to test the different flavors, you will also get to learn more about the history of wine making in the area and see the vineyards for yourself. This tour is also inclusive of a traditional lunch.
Montevideo to Uruguayan Wine Country Small-Group Tour, Lunch
Duration: 5 hours
Whoever said Uruguay isn’t a place of love has not tried this dinner and show in Montevideo, where you are served a romantic Uruguayan dinner while watching professionals showing off their dancing skills. Besides tango, they will be performing candombe and milonga, both of which are traditional Uruguay dances. Meals are accompanied by wine, soda, or juice, as well as dessert. Food and drinks are brought directly to your table so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the performances while getting a bite to eat.
The best Montevideo Dinner Show. Tango and Candombe. El Milongon.
Duration: 4 hours
3. Measure your height against La Mano de Punta del Este
“La Mano de Punta del Este” is a giant sculpture that has become the most distinguishable landmark of Punta del Este. It depicts fingers of one hand protruding out of the sand. Made by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal in 1982, it’s also known as “Monumento al Ahogado”, “Los Dedos”, and “Hombre Emergiendo a la Vida”. According to the story, Irarrázabal sculpted this as a warning to swimmers to be careful on the beach, as swimming in the treacherous waves can put their lives in danger.
La Mano de Punta del Este
Address: Av. Eduardo Victor Haedo km 162.500, 20001 La Barra, Departamento de Maldonado, Uruguay
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4. Do some shopping at Feria de Tristán Narvaja
Feria de Tristán Narvaja is a traditional street market that opens every Sunday in the historic street of Tristán Narvaja street at Montevideo. You can find just about anything and everything being sold here, from local produce, clothes, and household goods to souvenirs, antiques, and books. This is a must-visit for fans of flea markets.
Feria de Tristán Narvaja
Address: Dr.Tristan Narvaja 1545 | Av 18 de Julio, Montevideo 11205, Uruguay
Opening hours: Sun: 9am - 4pm (closed from Mon - Sat)
5. Marvel at the architecture of Salvo Palace
Otherwise known as Palacio Salvo, the Salvo Palace is a Gothic-style building that was built by Mario Palanti, who also designed the similar Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1928. While it was originally built to be used as a hotel, it never actually served this purpose, and is currently used to host offices and residential units. It was also originally built with a lighthouse, but the light was later replaced by antennas.
Address: Palacio Salvo, Plaza Independencia 848, 11100 Montevideo, Departamento de Montevideo, Uruguay
Website: Salvo Palace
Opening hours: Sat, Tue, Thu: 10:30am - 1:30pm; Sun - Mon, Wed, Fri: 10:30am - 4pm
6. Relish a steak at Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet
Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet is considered as one of the best restaurants in Montevideo, and with good reason. Meat lovers will enjoy the steaks offered here, although there are also other items on the menu, such as fish and pasta, for those who want to skip the red meat. The restaurant has a good selection of wines for those who want to enjoy a drink with their meal. There are also desserts that you can enjoy here if you want to indulge your sweet tooth after you enjoy your dinner.
Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet
Address: Dr.Hector Miranda 2432 | Hector Miranda 2432, Montevideo 11308, Uruguay
Website: Uruguay Natural Parrilla Gourmet
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 12pm - 12am; Sun: 12pm - 4pm (closed on Sat)
7. Savor the sun, sea, and surf at Santa Teresa National Park
If you’re in Uruguay to have some fun under the sun, you won’t be disappointed if you visit Santa Teresa National Park, which is home to some of the beautiful beaches in the country that allow its visitors to go swimming and surfing. What’s more, the park also features forested areas and campgrounds, which are added perks for outdoor enthusiasts. There’s even a nature reserve where you can keep your eyes peeled to spot local wildlife. There are on-site supermarkets if you need to grab some supplies for spending a night at the park.
Santa Teresa National Park
Address: Ruta 9 km 300, Rocha 27000, Uruguay
Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)
8. Explore Pittamiglio Castle, an alchemist's abode
Pittamiglio Castle, otherwise known as Castillo Pittamiglio, once served as the home of the alchemist Humberto Pittamiglio. While most of his possessions have already long disappeared, the structure - easily noticeable thanks to its brick-red facade - alone is still worth exploring. Many of the features of the castle were designed by Pittamiglio to reflect his unique beliefs and ideas. Guided tours in the Spanish language, with dance presentations, are offered here daily at 5pm.
Address: Rambla Mahatma Gandhi 633, 11300 Montevideo, Departamento de Montevideo, Uruguay
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 10am - 9pm; Sat: 1pm - 9pm; Sun: 2pm - 9pm
9. Spot some sea lions at Isla de Lobos
If you’re a nature lover who likes getting an adrenaline rush, hop on a boat and head over to Isla de Lobos, which serves as the home of one of the biggest sea lion communities in the world. Docking at the island itself is not allowed, but you can take photos right from the sea. Isla de Lobos is also the home of the first automated lighthouse in Uruguay. The boat ride to the island takes about an hour, although it can get longer or shorter depending on the weather conditions. Do note that because the ride takes passengers to the open sea, the waves can get rough.
Isla de Lobos
Address: Punta del Este 20100, Uruguay
10. Browse through the exhibits at National Museum of Visual Arts
Opened in 1911, the National Museum of Visual Arts features the largest collection of artworks in the whole country. Besides featuring the works of local artists such as Rafael Barradas, Pablo Serrano, Joaquín Torres García, and José Cúneo, it also occasionally hosts exhibitions of foreign artists, including the works of Pablo Picasso.
National Museum of Visual Arts
Address: Av Tomas Giribaldi 2283, 11300 Montevideo, Departamento de Montevideo, Uruguay
Website: Natonal Museum of Visual Arts
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 1pm - 8pm (closed on Mon)
11. Grab a bite to eat at Mercado Del Puerto
As its name suggests, Mercado Del Puerto once served as a marketplace. Today, however, most of the stores have made way for food stalls, restaurants, and bars. The area can get pretty crowded especially when a cruise ship docks here. There are also some souvenir shops here in case you want to bring home a trinket or a keepsake to remind you of your stay in Uruguay.
Mercado Del Puerto
Address: Perez Castellano, Esquina Com Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825, Montevideo, Uruguay
12. Marvel at the works of Juan Manuel Blanes at Museo Blanes
This destination is definitely a must-visit for art lovers, even if it’s located just outside of the center of Montevideo. Otherwise known as Juan Manuel Blanes Municipal Museum of the Arts, Museo Blanes houses paintings of artists such as Juan Manuel Blanes, Carlos González, Rafael Barradas, Pedro Figari, and José Cúneo. The villa itself is a work of art, featuring beautiful old furniture, including two classical pianos. The garden surrounding it only adds to its beauty.
Address: Av. Millan 4015, Montevideo 11714, Uruguay
Website: Museo Blanes
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 12pm - 6pm (closed on Mon)
13. Wander around Gorriti Island
Gorriti Island is a good option to include in your itinerary, whether you’re an enthusiast of history, animals, beaches, or the great outdoors. Declared as a National Heritage Site, it draws tourists who wish to explore the abandoned cannons of the Portuguese, marvel at the local wildlife, which include whales, elephant seals, sea lions, fur seals, and orcas, or simply just have fun on their beaches. Ferries travel to and from here almost every hour so you should not have any problems getting in and out of the island.
Address: Rio de la Plata, Bahia Maldonado, Maldonado 20000, Uruguay
14. Have your photo taken at the Montevideo sign
As the saying goes, “pics or it didn’t happen.” What better way to show proof that you’ve visited the capital of Uruguay than by taking a photo of yourself by the Montevideo sign? Have your photo taken here with the skyline and the La Plata River as your background. Be warned though, since this is a popular spot for picture taking, you may have to wait your turn before you can have your photo with the famous Montevideo sign. If you want to avoid the crowds, be sure to head here early morning or at dusk.
Address: Rambla Republica del Peru, Montevideo, Uruguay
15. Visit the Portuguese Fortress of Santa Teresa
The Fortress of Santa Teresa once served as a fort of the Portuguese in the 18th century. Restored in the 20th century, it now doubles as a museum that houses a number of artifacts and documents in its many rooms. As a bonus, visitors can also enjoy fantastic views of the surrounding area when the weather is good. The fort is located in a park where you can also enjoy other activities such as picnicking, camping, and biking.
Fortress of Santa Teresa
Address: Ruta 9 Km 302, Rocha 27000, Uruguay
Website: Fortress of Santa Teresa
Opening hours: 9am - 7pm (daily)
16. Explore the quaint Castle of Piria
A look at this castle will make you resemble those that you’ve drawn when you were a child, with sizable pillars on either side of the structure. Built by Francisco Piria, who also happened to establish the city of Piriápolis, this structure, which combines medieval and Renaissance styles of architecture, was constructed with Italian villas in mind. You can find a small but interesting collection of furniture, weapons, and art inside.
Castle of Piria
Address: Ruta 37, km 7, Piriapolis 20200, Uruguay
Website: Castle of Piria
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
17. Take a breather at Constitution Square
Also known as Plaza Matriz and Plaza Constitución, Constitution Square is the oldest plaza in Montevideo. You will feel almost as though you’ve traveled back in time when you visit here, as the space is flanked by old buildings. Old photos are also on display here. Cool down by enjoying ice cream while you’re kicking back and relaxing here. There are restaurants and a mini-market in the area if you wish to spend a few leisurely hours exploring the surrounding area.
Address: Montevideo 11000, Uruguay
18. Make a splash at Acuamanía Water Park
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
Acuamanía Water Park is the first hot spring aquatic park across the entire South America. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll have a blast going down the water slides or simply floating in a tube along the lazy river. If you came here to de-stress, immerse yourself in one of the hot spring pools here, or even try the hydro massage pools here.
Acuamanía Water Park
Address: Termas del Dayman, Salto 50000, Uruguay
Website: Acuamanía Water Park
Opening hours: Thu - Tue: 10:30am - 6:30pm (closed on Wed)
Price: 24 USD
19. Admire the views from Fortress General Artigas
If you want to enjoy great views and have a little history lesson on the side, make sure to include Fortaleza General Artigas, otherwise known as Fortaleza del Cerro, on your itinerary. Recognized as a National Heritage Site, this structure, which is perched on top of a hill, will allow you to enjoy fantastic views of Montevideo Bay. The fort itself is open to the public. Entrance here is free, although you will need to pay a certain amount to enter the museum, which features memorabilia that will give you a glimpse into the local military history.
Fortress General Artigas
Address: Jose Batlle y Ordonez, s/n, Montevideo 12802, Uruguay
Website: Fortress General Artigas
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
20. Delve into the crevaces of Palace Cave
Much like Uruguay itself, Palace Cave may be small, but take a peek inside and you’ll see something more precious than actual treasures. The cave, which some say dates back to the late Cretaceous era, can easily be identified by its numerous pillars, which makes it resemble the palaces of old. You can only explore the inside of the Palace Cave via a guided tour so make sure to make the necessary arrangements if you want to see what secrets are inside it.
Address: Departamento de Flores, Rincon del Palacio, Cuchilla de Marincho, Gruta del Palacio, Uruguay
Website: Palace Cave
Opening hours: Wed - Sun: 9am - 5pm (closed on Mon & Tue)
21. Pay a visit to Museo del Mar
Museo del Mar, or the Museum of the Sea, is just as vast as its namesake, as it’s actually designed to be four museums rolled into one. The actual Museum of the Sea features different kinds of aquatic life, including skeletons of whales and even a pirate section. The Insectarium, meanwhile, showcases over 30,000 specimens of creepy-crawlies. The Beach Resort Museum provides more information about the popular holiday resorts in the area, as well as the tourist destinations in Uruguay. Lastly, the Nostalgia Museum, features artifacts and photographs of days gone past, including vintage beach items such as beach umbrellas.
Museo del Mar
Address: La Barra de Maldonado, Punta del Este 20100, Uruguay
Website: Museo del Mar
Opening hours: 10am - 5:30pm (daily)
22. Drink in scenic views of the water at Laguna del Sauce
Laguna del Sauce, which means Lagoon of the Willow, is the largest body of water in the Maldonado Department of Uruguay, but its size is not its only claim to fame. The calm, peaceful views of the water are a boon for travelers who want to de-stress during their holiday. If you want to enjoy views of the lagoon from a higher vantage point, trek to Las Cumbres de la Ballena, or the Whale’s Summit. If you want to do something more adventurous while here, you can rent a kayak or a sail boat, or else try out windsurfing. Arts and architecture lovers may want to head over to Chapel Virgen de los Treinta y Tres on their way to or from the lagoon.
23. Unwind in the shade of a tree at Plaza Fabini
Looking for a place where you can take a breather while enjoying beautiful views? Look no further than Plaza Fabini, which is also known as Plaza Ingeniero Juan Pedro Fabini and Plaza del Entrevero. The highlight of the park would definitely be the gorgeous fountain at its center. There are plenty of trees here to give visitors shade so you can simply plop down under one of these or on one of the benches and do a little bit of people-watching if you please. There are restaurants and cafes nearby in case you want to grab something to eat.
Address: Av. 18 de Julio, Montevideo, Uruguay
Website: Plaza Fabini
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
24. Visit the historic Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse
It may seem strange to find a lighthouse by a river but not if you know that the Río de la Plata can be anything but calm, especially when the winds enter the picture. In fact, several shipwrecks have occurred in the area prior to the construction of the lighthouse, which was built in 1855, although it only became lit in 1957. For a small fee, you can make your way to the small room at the top of the building to enjoy views overlooking the river. Do note, however, that the staircase is somewhat narrow and steep so it might be difficult to climb for children, the elderly, and those who have mobility issues.
Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse
Address: de San Francisco, Colonia del Sacramento 70000, Uruguay
Openong hours: 10am - 12:30pm, 2:30pm - 6:30pm (daily)
25. Swim by the waterfalls at Salto del Penitente
Salto del Penitente may not be the biggest waterfalls out there - it becomes a little more than a trickle if there’s little rainfall - but a visit here is still worth it given that you can have fun swimming in the relaxing waters or just simply commune with nature and take in the beauty around you. If you want to get your adrenaline pumping, there’s a zip line set up here that allows you to enjoy views of the waterfall and the water from up in the air. You can get snacks here so you don’t have to worry about packing a picnic basket.
Salto del Penitente
Address: Ruta 8 Km. 134, mas 8 kms de camino vecinal, Minas 30000, Uruguay
Website: Salto del Penitente
Opening hours: 9am - 8pm (daily)
Price: 1 USD
26. Go on a joyride around Laguna Garzon Bridge
Unlike other roads, Laguna Garzon Bridge does not take you straight to your destination. In fact, it can’t do that - except through its entry and exit points, one heading to Rocha and the other to Maldonado - as it is actually a circular bridge. Its curious shape, however, is not just for novelty’s sake. The bridge, which was designed by renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, is made that way to force drivers to slow down and give pedestrians access (and maybe take selfies of themselves on this iconic bridge). The bridge was opened in 2015.
Laguna Garzon Bridge
Address: Rambla, Departamento de Maldonado, Uruguay
27. Surround yourself with greenery at Lussich Arboretum
Antonio Lussich, a ship owner, was said to have instructed his captains to bring back seeds to his home from their voyages. These flourished in what is now known as the Lussich Arboretum, which is filled with different varieties of plants, including semi-tropical and temperate species. The paths are fairly easy to take, and some lead to view decks that allow you to enjoy the panorama. Besides the actual arboretum, the house was converted into a museum, the highlight of which is its collection of blue mosaic tiles.
Address: Camino Lussich, Ruta 38 a 300 Mts en la Ruta 93, Punta del Este 20100, Uruguay
Website: Lussich Arboretum
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
28. Hike through Quebrada de los Cuervos
If you’re an adventurer who loves the great outdoors, consider going on a hike and exploring Quebrada de los Cuervos, which translates to Crow’s Ravine. The trail, which starts at a grasslands area, takes you through a forest across a river and along a ridge. Along the way, you may be able to spot local wildlife if you’re lucky. Some spots may require a bit of climbing to get across. The entire trail takes about two hours to traverse. If you still have enough energy to burn, you can go on a side trip to get to some waterfalls.
Quebrada de los Cuervos
Address: Av. Juan Antonio Lavalleja 1414, 33000 Treinta y Tres, Departamento de Treinta y Tres, Uruguay
Website: Quebrada de los Cuervos
Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)
29. Soak your tired muscles in soothing hot springs at Termas de Almirón Inmotur
Uruguay may offer several activities for you to choose from, but going out daily even just for sightseeing can take a toll on your body. Sometimes, soaking in hot water may just be what the doctor ordered to relieve aching muscles. You can do just that at Termas de Almirón Inmotur. It features three saltwater pools (indoor and outdoor). There’s also a freshwater pool at room temperature as well.
Termas de Almirón Inmotur
Address: Ruta 90, Departamento de Paysandú, Uruguay
Website: Termas de Almirón Inmotur
Opening hours: 7am - 10:30pm (daily)
30. Catch a performance at Solís Theatre
Solís Theatre , the most renowned theater in Uruguay, was built by the Italian architect Carlo Zucchi in 1856 in the likeness of the theaters of Europe. It underwent major renovations from 1998 to 2004. Many local artists, actors and musicians alike aspire to perform on the stage of this theater which opens it doors to performances such as comedies, operas, ballet, and orchestras. It can accommodate over 1,200 visitors at a time. Even if there’s no scheduled performance, you can arrange to get a guided tour of the interiors.
Address: Calle Reconquista, Corner of Bartolome Mitre, Montevideo 11000, Uruguay
Website: Solís Theatre
Small country, huge fun
Uruguay may be one of the smallest countries in South America, but it comes loaded with a lot of attractions that would keep you busy and give you a good time during your stay here. Whatever interest you may have, there is definitely something here that would draw you in and make you fall in love with the place.
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