Things You Didn’t Know About Uruguay

Quick, name 3 things about Uruguay. Name even one thing about Uruguay. If you’re like most people, including myself up to a couple weeks ago, I doubt you can. Before I came down to South America I’m not even sure I could find this tiny country on a map, let alone tell you the difference between it and Paraguay.

Now, after a week exploring this wonderful little country, I have a lot to say. I have the knowledge now and I can tell you that you are missing out. If you come to South America and ignore Uruguay for it’s flashier neighbors Brazil and Argentina, you are missing out.

Here are some things you probably didn’t know about Uruguay:

It’s the Most European Country in South America

This title usually goes to Argentina, and it’s true that Buenos Aires does have an elegant old world feel. Uruguay is similar to Argentina linguistically and culturally, with a large percentage of the citizens having emigrated from Europe in the past couple of centuries. You can see it in the cuisine, in the plentiful bakeries and the architecture.

Uruguay however has that more modern, socialized Europe vibe going on. It’s super clean, it’s super organized and it feels super safe. Drugs are decriminalized and church and state are kept apart. The people are friendly.When you cross the street, cars actually stop and let you by. Without honking! In South America this is nothing short of a miracle. Basically Uruguay is the Canada to Argentina’s USA.

They Eat Ridiculous Amounts of Meat

Again, I didn’t think anywhere would top Argentina for this, but Uruguay did it. They are one of the highest consumers of red meat per capita in the world and it shows. The country’s national dish is asado, or barbequed meat and it’s not abnormal to just order up a big plate of assorted cow parts.

Even though by the end of the week I was desperately craving a salad, I must say that the meat in Uruguay is probably the best I’ve ever had, anywhere, in my entire life. Yum.

 There are Some Amazing Sunsets

I don’t really understand the science behind this, but despite Uruguay’s coast facing west, I captured some brilliant sunsets over the ocean.

  There are a Lot of Hippies

Maybe it’s some sort of cultural movement, maybe it has to do with the decriminalized marijuana (which you’d often catch a waft of walking down the street), but Uruguay is full of young, twenty-something hippies. The further up the coast of Uruguay you go the truer this gets, with seaside towns like Punta del Diable and Cabo Polonio as laid back hippy havens.

I thought I’d encountered a lot of white guys with dreadlocks in Montanita, but Uruguay introduced my to a new hairstyle I’d never even thought to dream of: The white guy, dreadlocked mullet. I didn’t get any pictures but I swear this is a real thing. A disturbingly popular thing.

They are the Mate Kings

I wrote about mate’s cultural ubiquitousness (link) and it’s even more true in Uruguay. People carry thermoses of hot water and their stylish mate cups everywhere. You could see them on the bus, behind the counter at work, even school kids on their lunch break sitting on the stoop sharing a mate. I honestly can’t think of any equivalent in US culture to the obsessive nature of mate drinking (on the flip side barely anyone smokes, so I guess it’s a good trade off).

So there are five things about Uruguay that make it great. There’s more, which I’ll be elaborating on in later posts, but the point is that this is a special country, unique in South America, and it should not be overlooked.



30 Responses to Things You Didn’t Know About Uruguay

  1. John March 18, 2012 at 9:41 AM #

    Uruguay is a beautiful little country – a perfect place to hangout and getaway from the sometimes-hectic Buenos Aires.

  2. Marina March 18, 2012 at 12:47 PM #

    I don’t know a if you’re into (association) football, but recently the EPL teams started showing these behind the scene videos and this Uruguayan player is always carrying a thermos with him. Now I know what’s in it!

    • Eddy May 21, 2012 at 6:21 AM #

      Hi Marina, I am from Uruguay and I live in England. Answering your question I need to tell you that the thermos is to carry hot water and is to serve the ‘MATE’ our tipical beverage. You can found a better explanation about in the wikipedia page under the word MATE. I hope you can try. Is a wonderful natural drink nice to the kidneys, efects in cholesterol levels, antioxidant and anticarcinogens.
      Kind regars, Eddy from Bedford.

  3. Nicole ( March 18, 2012 at 3:21 PM #

    Thanks for this post! Now I totally want to visit Uruguay.

  4. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures March 18, 2012 at 6:52 PM #

    Uruguay is one of the most underrated destinations in the world! Great post!!!

  5. Cori March 19, 2012 at 8:45 AM #

    Barely anyone smokes, hippies, mate, meat, and beautiful skies…I think Uruguay has just been bumped up to the top of my list of places to travel to soon. Thank you!

  6. Waegook Tom March 19, 2012 at 10:41 AM #

    You DIDN’T get a photo of a white guy dreadlocked mullet?! Steph, for SHAME. I DEMAND YOU GO BACK NOW. You could do an entire blog post on that alone.

    Awful hairstyles aside, Uruguay sounds amazing. Especially the meat!

    • Steph March 21, 2012 at 9:23 PM #

      I know, it’s my greatest regret…

  7. Jeff Dobbins March 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM #

    This SO makes me want to head to Uruguay. Really nice post

  8. Vicky March 19, 2012 at 1:54 PM #

    Wow, this has really made me want to go to Uruguay now. Just when I though there was a country I could possibly skip in South America you come along with your brilliant tips 🙂 One day…

  9. Lourdes March 19, 2012 at 9:23 PM #

    As an Uruguayan, I just want to tell you how grateful I am for this article. Thank you for letting the world know about us, since as you said, we are not as famous as our nighbours. I´m proud of my county and I´m happy that people like you come visit us.

    • Steph March 21, 2012 at 9:23 PM #

      Thanks! I thought Uruguayans were extremely friendly.

      • Martina July 9, 2012 at 11:31 AM #

        HI. I just came across your page and want to take the chance to thank you for your observations and posts about our little country. 🙂 One tiny other thing not many people know about Uruguay (a guarani word), its name means “river of the painted birds” because of the diversity of colourful birds seen around here in these rivers.

  10. Stephen March 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM #

    Great post, yep, you are right, most of these things were what I thought about Argentina. Makes me want to visit Uruguay.

  11. Ron | Active Planet Travels March 20, 2012 at 12:52 AM #

    Sounds like my kind of place…minus the dreadlocked mullets…lol

  12. suki March 21, 2012 at 3:57 PM #

    Love that photo of a pile of meat. :p

    • Steph March 21, 2012 at 9:20 PM #

      It tasted even BETTER than it looks

  13. Emily in Chile March 25, 2012 at 12:11 PM #

    I love Uruguay! And I agree with you about the meat…I’d always thought Argentinean meat was the best until I had a baby beef in Montevideo. Now I’m an Urugay convert.

  14. Scot March 26, 2012 at 1:03 AM #

    I’ll trade you my lamb burger for that “pile o’ meat”, Deal?

  15. Carl March 29, 2012 at 1:40 AM #

    What is mate? Alcohol?

  16. Dave Indie Traveler March 31, 2012 at 8:17 AM #

    I have a warm place for uruguay in my heart. Been there many, many times, have close friends from the States who live there and have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the country. If anyone ever gets the chance, do go. My favorite route for getting in is the ferry from BA to Colonia and the guys at the thrifty rent-a-car there speak pretty good english and can hook you up with a great car… just get behind the wheel and drive, the very best way to see the country.

    • Joy May 3, 2015 at 11:10 AM #

      Hi Dave, please give me a little information on BA, what is BA?

      • Steph May 3, 2015 at 6:00 PM #

        I’m guessing he meant Buenos Aires.

  17. Mr. Uruguayan Mate April 1, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

    The “mate” we have here in Uruguay is more prevalent, less sugary (sugarless unless you want to spoil the gourd, or you feel like a granny, cause grannies tend to add sugar), hot always( as oppossed to paraguayan) and we use a different blend of “yerba mate” than the one in Argentina. Our blend ( grown in Brazil since we do not grow it) has a much more grinded aspect as oppossed to argentinian favoured blend.

    We here have a wide variety of blends and we all have our favourite, the main difference (taste buds aside) is the percentage of “mate” leaf in the blend.
    Mate is also an addiction in the sense that you may suffer from withdrawal if you are used to have it everyday and quit cold turkey.
    Mate has aside from its estimulant properties( similar to caffeine I guess) some laxative properties too.

    Mate is also a social trait in our culture, it is so prevalent in our society that we all from upper to lower economica stratta tend to like it. That been said some people just don´t like it at all …and that is all I have to say being an “addict” to it.

    It is very much fun to read how our country is viewed from a foreigner travelers´point of view. Thanks for writing such warm reviews.

    • Steph April 6, 2012 at 3:05 PM #

      Thanks for the insight!

  18. Kristine April 29, 2012 at 11:06 PM #

    Hahaha the dreadlock mullet is also popular in Spain!! I traveled there last summer and saw it everywhere. After a while it doesn’t look that bad, I swear!

  19. Romina September 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM #

    Hi! I´m uruguayan and I´m so thankfull for the things that you wrote about Uruguay. It´s very nice to see that there are persons from diffrents part of the world that are interested in our little and unknowed country 🙂

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