The coast of Uruguay is where both the country's population and its tourist destinations tend to be concentrated—not to mention its many beaches.
Uruguay's population is concentrated near the coast, with the capital of Montevideo, its suburbs, and several other important cities all located near the water. The country's biggest tourist destinations are also on the coast; a typical trip might take a traveller to the historic colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento, the center of Uruguayan life in Montevideo, and the world-famous beach resort of Punta del Este.
This itinerary, which starts in Buenos Aires across the river from Uruguay and ends at the border with Brazil, will take you from one end of Uruguay's coastal area to the other, with stops at the three major destinations mentioned above as well as others. Get ready for historic sites and museums as well as beaches galore!
When to go
The Southern hemisphere summer is the tourist season in Uruguay. This is when the beaches will be warm and pleasant, so it's probably the best time for the trip. Spring is good too. The winter would be less crowded, but also too chilly to enjoy the many beaches you'll be visiting.
How to go
There are two realistic options for the trip: bus or car. Uruguay has a good intercity bus system, and buses are available for each step of the itinerary, usually multiple times a day. That being said, some of the less-trafficked beaches on the Atlantic Coast are not connected to each other very well by bus. If you decide to do the itinerary this way, you may end up skipping a couple of the less well-connected stops (like La Paloma or Cabo Polonio) or having to change buses in Rocha along the way.
If you choose to drive instead, you can take your car on a ferry from Buenos Aires (it's no problem to drive with an Argentine license plate in Uruguay), or just rent one in Colonia. Travellers from many countries (including the United States) can use their regular driver's license in Uruguay; only residents of certain countries need an International Driving Permit. You'll have to figure out what to do with the car at the end of the trip, but it's not much trouble to just drive all the way back to Colonia.
Buenos Aires is a huge and easily accessible city. Fly into Ezeiza International Airport, or drive or take the bus from elsewhere in Argentina. Before starting your trip through Uruguay, take a couple of days to enjoy Buenos Aires!
Once you're ready to set off, you'll need to get to one of the ferry terminals—which one depends on which ferry company you're using. Buquebus and Seacat Colonia leave from Dársena Norte/Puerto Madero at Av. Antártida Argentina. Colonia Express leaves from Dársena Sur at Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 330. Both are accessible by bus or taxi, or by foot depending on where you're staying and how much you like to walk.
From 1 Buenos Aires, three ferry companies offer frequent service to Colonia: Buquebus, Colonia Express, and SeaCat Colonia. It's 1-3 hours (depending on which service you book) across the Río de la Plata, and then your tour of coastal Uruguay begins.
- 2 Colonia
- 3 Montevideo
- 4 Piriápolis
- 5 Maldonado
- 6 Punta del Este
- 7 La Paloma
- 8 Cabo Polonio
- 9 Punta del Diablo
- 10 Chuy
Be cautious when walking around at night in Montevideo, but otherwise Uruguay is generally safe. In any tourist destination, especially Colonia and Punta del Este, be careful of petty theft.
- Brazil! You've made it to the border, why not keep going? Cross the border to Chuy's Brazilian counterpart of Chuí and start exploring Rio Grande do Sul.
- Uruguay is famous for its gaucho culture and beef production—feel like you haven't seen enough horses and cows on this trip? Head to Uruguay's agricultural Central Interior and you will.
Chuy is not a big city, so bus options here are limited. If you decide to head back into Uruguay by bus, your best bets are to go to Rocha and get a bus to somewhere else from there, or to backtrack to Montevideo, where you can get buses to anywhere in Uruguay. From Chuí in Brazil, you can take a four-hour bus to the moderately large city of Pelotas or a seven-hour bus to Porto Alegre, a major city with many connections available.