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How to Explore Uruguay and Argentina in A Week

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Uruguay is South America’s hidden gem. A place where you can sip delicious wine, ride with gauchos and stay in luxury estancias. If you’re short on time, spend a few days enveloping yourself in the divine nature of Uruguay before jumping on the ferry to Buenos Aires just over an hour away! By day you can shop, sightsee and visit museums and by night, dance to sultry tango rhythms in La Boca! If you fancy visiting two countries in one trip, here is our guide of unmissable things to see in Uruguay and Argentina in one week.

Stay in a Luxury Estancia in Uruguay

Estancias in Uruguay aren’t what they used to be. Up until recently, if you were describing an ‘estancia’ as a place to stay in Uruguay, it would conjure images of a simple ranch with cattle and horses – a place where people live and work on the land. But things have changed. Today’s Uruguayan estancias are modern and luxurious. Many have been immaculately designed by the country’s renowned architects, interior designers and artists. Food is locally sourced, innovative and freshly prepared by accomplished chefs and wine cellars are stocked with bottles from regional vineyards or the estancia’s own. Guest rooms are en-suite and comfortable, punctuated with hand-crafted furnishings and artwork to add splashes of colour. Activities include horseback riding with gauchos, wildlife tours, hiking, swimming and wine tasting, so you don’t have to travel far to experience everything Uruguay has to offer. There are several upscale establishments which fit these criteria, so if you are staying in Uruguay for a few days, check out Estancia Vik José Ignacio for a contemporary vibe and El Charabón Estancia in Rocha if you fancy staying somewhere traditional and rustic.

Sip Wine at a Vineyard

When discussing the merits of fine wine, Uruguay doesn’t automatically spring to mind, but this country should be on your radar. The secret to Uruguay’s wine is in its distinctive terroir and climate which gives it a significantly different flavour to wines from Argentina or Chile. Most blends are produced in the Canelones region close to Montevideo, so you can take a short trip and sample a glass or three for yourself. One of the closest vineyards is Bodega Bouza, 25 minutes outside Montevideo. This fabulous winery specialises in quality Tannat, Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes. You can sample them all in a modern tasting room accompanied by delicious tapas or dine on barbequed meats and vegetables which accompany the blends perfectly. Alternatively, if you wish to support women in the wine industry, Artesana Winery doesn’t just craft the only Zinfandel in Uruguay, it’s also owned by three passionate female winemakers. You can spend time tasting the wines with tapas or enjoy a six-course luncheon prepared by their private chef with five different accompanying wines.

Discover charming Colonia del Sacramento

Just 2 hours by car from Montevideo is the charming historic town of Colonia del Sacramento. Settled by both the Portuguese and Spanish in its lifetime, it boasts a rich history which can be seen in its architecture, museums and harbour. You can learn more about the city at Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento, the Portuguese Museum and the Municipal Museum, or simply soak up the atmosphere at a quaint roadside restaurant draped with bougainvillea. By the old harbour, the 19th century lighthouse remains a major landmark and you’ll catch the fast one-hour catamaran to Buenos Aires nearby. If you plan to stay overnight prior to extending your adventure in Argentina, consider 5-star Las Liebres. The luxurious country house sits just a few minutes from Colonia’s centre and boasts the region’s top restaurant. 

Visit Eva Perón’s Tomb in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the antithesis of Colonia del Sacramento. From quiet cobbled streets of the sleepy Uruguayan town, you’re instantly enveloped in a buzzing, unforgiving metropolis where you’ll need an espresso before you even begin your exploration! The bustling Argentine capital is known for its steamy tango moves, colourful markets, revolutions and of course, Evita. Eva Perón is probably one of the best-known Argentinians and locals visit her tomb regularly in La Recoleta Cemetery. It may sound morbid to most, but this cemetery is listed as one of the most beautiful in the world by the BBC and CNN, and it’s easy to see why. La Recoleta is jam-packed with elaborate marble mausoleums in a range of architectural styles including Art Nouveau, Baroque and Neo-Gothic. Many of the nation’s presidents lie here, but even if you have no interest in Argentina’s political history it’s worth spending an hour or two walking around and admiring the intricate arrangement of this magnificent resting place in the city.

Browse San Telmo Market

The most famous market in Buenos Aires, San Telmo opens each Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm near Plaza Dorrego. People from all over the city and suburbs travel here to find rare books, antiques and handicrafts. The market, which dates to 1897, was once a produce market for locals. It was the first of its kind in the city and cemented the San Telmo district as a fashionable enclave for the upwardly mobile to live in or visit. As you browse eclectic stalls, you’ll discover everything from vintage leather goods to old vinyl records you’d forgotten even existed, but the best bits about San Telmo Market are the foodie options. With stalls serving free-trade coffee and scrumptious street food ranging from candied almonds to empanadas and choripan (rustic chorizo sandwiches), you can feast your way through the streets without even noticing. At some point in the afternoon, head for Plaza Dorrego to listen to live tango music and even catch a glimpse of performers showcasing their carefully crafted moves.

Learn to Dance the Tango

There’s nothing sexier and more attractive than watching someone dance a good Argentine tango and if you want to learn the moves for yourself, there’s no better place than in Buenos Aires. La Catedral, located in an old flour mill in Almagro district is famed for its location as well as its teachings. Daily classes are available in tango and milonga and if you stick around you can try out your moves to live music after 10.30 pm. If you truly want to immerse yourself in the tango experience, head for Escuela Mariposita in San Telmo. The building doubles as a boutique hotel and cultural centre and after a few days here, you’ll be able to impress your peers with flawless tango dancing.

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