One of the most unique hidden gems in South America, Montevideo is a city brimming with charm, history, and plenty of activities to keep you busy. The capital city is home to nearly half of Uruguay’s entire population, making it a diverse, unmatched destination. While Montevideo offers everything from tango classes to classic theatre productions to quality beaches, it would be a shame not to experience everything Uruguay has to offer outside of this flourishing city. Here are five day trips to take from Montevideo.
Sierra de las Ánimas
Located just under two hours from Montevideo, this privately-owned land is home to Cerro de la Animas, Uruguay’s second tallest mountain. The park itself is not very well known, which has allowed it to remain substantially untouched. With a multitude of trails and natural pools, Sierra de las Ánimas is an ideal place to get away from the city to hike, bike, or walk in nature.
Local mythology claims that at night, the glowing spirits of the indigenous people who have died can be seen here, making the attraction even more mysterious and magical.
The park is open on weekends and holidays throughout the summer for an admission fee of 50 Uruguayan pesos ($2). Camping and guided tours are also available.
Colonia del Sacramento
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic city is just over two hours west from Montevideo. Originally settled by the Portuguese in the late 1600s, present-day Colonia del Sacramento is widely known for its rich history, cobblestoned streets, and picturesque town center. It’s also home to Church Matriz, claimed to be the oldest church in Uruguay.
Situated just across the Rio de la Plata river from Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento is a popular vacation spot for Argentinians and Uruguayans alike. This is important to take note of if visiting in the busy summer months.
Colonia del Sacramento is also an ideal spot to watch the sunset. Be sure to follow suit and applaud as the sun sets below the horizon, as this is a customary thing to do in Uruguay.
Located just 45 minutes north of Montevideo, this wine producing region will make you feel a world away from the bustling city life.
Juanico Winery is part of The Wine Road, which consists of 15 wineries opening their doors for tastings and tours. Winemaking in Uruguay is particularly unique because the wine is heavily influenced by the diverse natural surroundings and by the owners’ personal style. Differing from its neighboring countries, Uruguay is home to smaller, family-owned wineries. This combination with hand-harvesting the grapes, make the boutique wineries in Uruguay a must-see.
Juanico Winery offers tours that take you through the stone buildings, into the underground cellars, and finish with a guided tasting. Be sure to try the Tannat, Uruguay’s most prominent red varietal.
Punta del Este
Known as the Pearl of Uruguay, this glamorous resort town is brimming with luxury accommodation, yacht clubs, pristine beaches, roaring nightclubs, and surfing. It’s also home to the iconic La Mana de Punta del Este, which is a very large sand sculpture in the shape of a human hand.
Head to La Gorlero or Artigas Square for high-end shopping and local artisan goods. If the life of the rich and famous isn’t quite your thing, rest assured there is plenty else to do in the thriving city. Playa Mansa offers parasailing, water skiing, and jet skiing. Don’t miss Isla de Lobos, home to the largest colony of sea lions in South America.
Nestled in the Mahoma Hills roughly two hours from Montevideo, Finca Piedra is ideal for anyone looking some peace and serenity.
Situated on nearly 2,500 acres of land, this countryside “estancia” offers not only accommodation but a myriad of fun things to do for everyone. In addition to the pool, Finca Piedra has horseback riding, carriage rides, hiking, vineyard tours, cooking classes, grape harvesting (seasonal), bird watching, golfing, zip lining, and paragliding.