Sunday, 7 December 2014

Travelling in Uruguay

The Inner Regions of Uruguay
Uruguay’s a small South American country with a population of just 3.4 million people. Bordered by Brazil and Argentina the main language spoken today is Spanish. Uruguay remains a true wonder of South America. With over 90% of the country being used for farming and livestock the country remains rich in arable pasture with no less than one third of the black earth and prairie soils having rich crop potential Uruguay is a rich land. Yet the country features a host of interesting areas each with its own point of unique interest.

The Interior of Uruguay remains homeland to the gauchos (La Cultura Gauchesca). A gaucho refers to the horsemen of Uruguay akin to the Native Americans of the US. Traditionally nomadic, the gauchos having grown up on estancias (large cattle) ranches learn the skills necessary for survival through their fathers in a similar fashion to the modern US cowboy.

Today in modern Uruguay the gauchos still run the estancias, raising cattle and sheep as their mainstay income and food source. Gauchos remain strong, bound by no rules, rebellious in terms of their psyche yet friendly and warming to adventurers and tourists alike. Typical clothing worn by the gauchos includes bombachas (lightweight cotton trousers with wide upper legs), wide-brimmed hats and wool ponchos. The gauchos usually carry a facon (a long knife linked to Argentina) and a rebenque (leather whip).

The fine drink of the Yerba
Nationalistic drinks revolve around Mate a drink made from dried Yerba Mate leaves combined with sugar and hot water. Mate’s an incredibly strong caffeine drink usually taken from a hollowed out gourd and drank throughout the day.

The most authentic experience within the Interior involves staying at an estancia. An estancia’s a family run working cattle ranch. The estancia has guestrooms where you can meet traditional gauchos even partaking in some daily tasks within the estancia if you wish. A typical estancia produces beef and hides over a vast 1,000 hectare area as an average. Historically ranching required very little abourso typically only a few gauchos worked each estancia.

Within the Littoral the vibrant yet magnificent city of Colonia reveals a picturesque notion of Uruguay; Typical street views include ancient cobbled streets and typical Uruguayan whitewashed buildings. The area of Colonia’s famous for its production of milk, cheese, and butter largely due to the influx of Swiss settlers. Colonia’s the perfect place to try dulce-de-leche (a dessert dish made from concentrated milk and sugar) as well as the numerous delicious dairy delights. The Littoral area lies to the West of the capital Montevideo.

The continual architectural restoration of Colonia (which was originally built by the Portuguese) reflects the original colonial style of buildings. In 2010 the city of Colonia has became one of Uruguay's most historic tourist attractions through its history as well as its amazing dairy food products.

Just a short distance from Colonia the Mercedes beach offers the traveller plenty of water sport action including swimming, boating, and adventure tours. The beach makes a perfect stop to experience the delights of Uruguay’s coasts.

The City of Montevideo was originally founded in 1726 as Spain sought to stem the influence of the Portuguese city of Colonia. Montevideo was originally founded on a headland beside a large inlet that forms a natural protective harbour. By the early 21st Century Greater Montevideo became the leading region of Uruguay in terms of economics and culture.

Amongst the tallest buildings in Montevideo the Neo-gothic Palacio Salvo holds a distinct place in Uruguayan architecture. The 26 storey gray limestone structure remains bizarrely futuristic in its design.

A national Uruguayan hero holds the central attraction on the Plaza Independencia. The equestrian mounted statue of General Jose Artigas holds a dominant location clearly visible as a national landmark. Jose Artigas was the leader of the Uruguayan independence from Spain. His ashes are kept in an underground vault below the prominent statue.

A visit to the Port Market (Mercado Del Puerta) reveals a true cosmopolitan experience. Passing through the doors into the hustling market a splendid sight of traditional Uruguayan eateries meets the traveller. Excellent quality and reasonably priced the plethora of gaucho-style barbeques called “parilladas” assaults the senses.

The wondrous Coast of Uruguay
The Coast area of Uruguay, and in particular Punta del Este, makes an elaborate playground more for the rich than for average Uruguayans. With its numerous five-star hotels, fashionable restaurants, casinos, and vibrant nightclubs, Punta del Este remains a major tourist attraction dominating Uruguay's tourism industry.

Punta del Este includes many sporting interests for the actively-inclined including golf, fishing, horseback riding, and yachting. The famous Montoya and eventful Bikini Beach feature amongst the 20 miles of pristine beaches. Further along the coast a string of small seaside towns (Balnearios) make ideal breaks away from the hustle of the Punta and Greater Montevideo.

Just off the main coast the Isla de Lobos (8 km from land) includes one of the world's largest sea-lion colonies. Boat services with guided tours are optional.

Uruguay embraces so many diverse unique places yet its compact size (176,220 sq km smaller than the state of Washington) makes travelling easy. Immerse yourself in the gaucho lifestyle, cosmopolitan Montevideo, historical Littoral, or the Coastal resorts around Punta del Este. Whatever you choose Uruguay holds a delight of cultural and culinary experiences to suit your preferences.