Uruguay

It may be small, but little Uruguay certainly packs a lot within its limited borders and has many of the same spectacular attributes as it’s more macho neighbours, but all within much easier reach of each other.

Buenos Aires in Argentina is an obvious gateway, as it is just a short hop over the River Plate to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia del Sacramento.

Colonia is an irresistibly picturesque town and its historic centre Barrio Histórico, unlike most Spanish or Portugese colonial cities is not in a grid, rather a jumble of narrow streets which occupy a small peninsula jutting into the river. Colonia’s charm and its proximity to Buenos Aires draw thousands of Argentine visitors.

The nation’s capital and home to nearly half of Uruguay’s population, Montevideo is a vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life. Uruguay's largest city is known for its informal markets like Mercado del Puerto, Villa Biarritz Fair and Tristan Narvaja. Montevideo lies almost directly across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires.

Just an hour north and you are in Uruguay’s very own wine region. It may not be as well-known as Mendoza in Argentina, or as big as Chile’s Central Valley, but Uruguay is actually South America’s 4th largest wine producer. Tannat is the national grape, and the charming Relais & Chateau Finca Narbona Wine Lodge provides the perfect base from which to enjoy some tastings at the local wineries.

Aside from enjoying fine wines, there are also plenty of more adventurous options to make the most of. Stay at an estancia and ride with the gauchos, trek through the Wild Fig Tree Forest or across the huge sand dunes of Valizas on the Atlantic Coast, canoe and bike your way around Rocha Lagoon or have a go at stand-up paddle board. For birdwatchers, Uruguay, which means "River of the painted birds" in the native Guarani language, is paradise, with over 400 species which are particularly active during the Austral spring.

No trip to Uruguay would be complete without a visit to its famous beaches and fashionable beach towns. Jose Ignacio, Cabo Polonia and Punta del Este are the places to see and be seen right now in South America, and with no fewer than three of the uber luxury VIK Hotels in the area you won’t want to miss it. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest is home to more un-contacted tribes than anywhere else on earth. Around 80 isolated groups are believed to live in the forest, some of which are nomadic hunter gatherers, while others are more settled, living in communal houses and planting crops and fishing to live on.

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