Wedged like a grape between Brazil’s gargantuan thumb and Argentina’s long forefinger, Uruguay has always been something of an underdog. Yet after two centuries living in the shadow of its neighbors, South America’s smallest country is finally getting a little well-deserved recognition. Progressive, stable, safe and culturally sophisticated, Uruguay offers visitors opportunities to experience everyday ‘not made for tourists’ moments, whether caught in a cow-and-gaucho (cowboy) traffic jam on a dirt road to nowhere or strolling with maté-toting locals along Montevideo’s beachfront.
Short-term visitors will find plenty to keep them busy in cosmopolitan Montevideo, picturesque Colonia and party-till-you-drop Punta del Este. But it pays to dig deeper. Go wildlife-watching along the Atlantic coast, hot-spring-hopping up the Río Uruguay, or horseback riding under the big sky of Uruguay’s interior, where vast fields spread out like oceans.