Many people say there are places you immediately fall in love with or simply don’t. For us Uruguay was one of the places we didn’t fall in love with. The main reason we decided to go to Uruguay was for the Llamadas carnival. Upon researching the carnival and what else to do, we found plenty of blogs talking about fantastic colonial ports and world class surfing destinations. So from Buenos Aires we set off, planning to spend at least a week exploring the coastline of Uruguay.
Colonia del Sacramento
Do a quick Google image search for Colonia and you will see a village born of a time gone by. Old cobble stone streets, red bricked bungalows and horse carts parked on the side of the streets. This was what got us excited. The truth is that yes, these images do not lie and this it what the town looks like, but it is not the full picture. The old town is a relatively small section of the current town which is almost completely a tourist town. Everywhere you go there are expensive restaurants, cafes and bars. In hindsight we should have expected it but it was a far cry from the traditional old town we expected. Everything seemed like it was redone to look old for our benefit, which was disappointing.
Read more about our time in Colonia del Sacramento
In truth we only spent 24 hours in the capital as many people had told us there wouldn’t be a lot to do. We explored almost all of the touristic spots in half a day and spent the night in the packed streets for the Llamadas. We followed our instincts and found small roads down in the old town with street art and churches, a cosy old train station transformed into several restaurants selling traditional Uruguayan parrilla BBQs called Mercado del Puerto (which we couldn’t afford), and a never ending waterfront Ramblas which has a 13km walking and cycling track as far as the eye can follow.
Read more about our time in Montevideo
With no way of booking a seat for the Llamadas, we ended up walking in for free and stoond on the ledge of windows for watch the show. Hanging on to the metal rails ver uncomfortably, we witnessed a Uruguay that we didn’t especially enjoy. The locals seemed to not be able to stay at one place. Always pushing each others and continuously walking up and down the street with their joint (weed is legal in Uruguay) and their beer or litres box wine… Creating obviously human traffic jams and not really caring for each other.
The Llamadas show was however very nice but would have been more enjoyable with more place to get those hips moving on the Cadombe’s beat !
Read about our Llamadas carnival post
Punta del Diablo
We felt like getting away from people for a few days so chilling by the beach and surfing was what brought us towards Punta del Diablo, which is the one of the most remote beach towns and has some of the best surfing in Uruguay. After bad experiences including a terrible hostel, a painful caterpillar attack and an awful sun burn we left Uruguay earlier than expected.
Read more about our time in Punta del Diablo
This may also be a good time to talk about how expensive we found Uruguay. We spent most of our money on travel and accommodation. It is not that we found the country massively expensive. It was as expensive as Ireland or France, which we really weren’t expecting. But the thing we didn’t like was the value for money. Yes it was more expensive than we imagined but what you get in return in very poor, low quality and dirty.
It all has to do with the fact that in 2002 Uruguay suffered one of the worst banking crises in its history, which affected all sectors of the country and they still seem to be recovering. It was cheaper to stay in a 3 star hotel room in Montevideo than book into a dorm room in a hostel. In Punta del Diablo it was more expensive to rent a poorly kept mountain bike than a bed in a dorm…
Unfortunately we weren’t able to go surfing or visit Cabo Polonio as we cut our time in Uruguay short which may have changed our opinions of the country.