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Montevideo - Off the beaten track


Colonia

From either Tigre or Buenos Aires, a relaxing day excursion over the Río de la Plata to Uruguay's historical gem Colonia is truly worthwhile, and most foreigners will only need their passport to cross the border. Colonia is a gently paced, friendly place, its sycamore shaded colonial streets made even more pleasant by sumptuous sunsets and cool breezes coming in off the Río de la Plata. This remarkable town is also of great historical importance. The World Heritage-listed site of the Barrio Histórico contains treasures including the superb 17th-century Portuguese contraband port, La Colonia Portuguesa, and the fortress of Colonia. Popular with Argentines, Colonia is something of an unappreciated gem along the foreign tourist route but it is gaining an ever-greater audience. Colonia is less than an hour from Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata by hydrofoil.

Any place where the motorists stop for pedestrians must have something to recommend it. But Colonia has much more to it than simply being a friendly place. It is a remarkable town full of historical significance. Its colonial streets, shaded by sycamores from the summer heat, contain treasures such as the superb 17th-century Portuguese contraband port, La Colonia Portuguesa, and fortress of Colonia. Popular with Argentines, it is something of an unappreciated gem along the foreign tourism route but is gaining an ever-greater audience. Close enough to Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata to almost smell it (less than an hour by hydrofoil) and an easy day trip from Montevideo, Colonia is an absolute must-see.

Punta Del Este

With more golden tans than a crowded solarium, Punta del Este is where upper-class Argentines come to spend their summer breaks. The beaches are all glorious white sand along this stretch of Uruguay's Riviera coastline where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Rio de la Plata. Elegant seaside homes, a yacht harbour and expensive hotels and restaurants combine with a hyperactive nightlife to give Punta del Este a feel of exclusivity and glamour. During the summer the crowds can be as overbearing as the heat and prices. However, from early March onwards, when the holidaying hordes depart, prices drop dramatically (often more than 50%) and beach-hopping becomes a far more tranquil experience. At two hours from Montevideo, with several buses daily, it is an easy journey from the capital. For those who opt for a more leisurely beach experience, it may be necessary to go further along the coast. José Ignacio, a quiet fishing village, is a short bus trip away and is gaining popularity among those in the know with more accommodation and restaurants appearing each year.

Tacuarembó

Tacuarembó, in the departmént (region) of the same name, is an agreeable town of sycamore-lined streets and shady plazas in the Uruguayan northern interior. Since its founding in 1832, local authorities have kept sculptors busy fashioning busts, statues and monuments commemorating military figures as well as writers, clergy members and educators. The best time to visit is late March, when the three-day Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha festival draws people from near and far to eat and celebrate traditional gaucho (riding) skills, music and other activities. Tacuarembó is a 5.5-hour journey from Montevideo through the interior on the way to Brazil (less than two hours away), and makes a pleasant alternative to the more hectic coastal route.



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