Punta del Este Stories and Tips

Central Uruguay (Montevideo, Durazno and More)

The city of Montevideo: Montevideo is a beautiful city and probably the safest capital in all Latin America. It has about one million inhabitants, while the whole country has a population of 4 million. Uruguay was originally a part of Argentina, but became independent on August 25 of 1825 with the help of Great Britain, that was interested in having a neutral country between Brazil and Argentina. Relations between both countries have always been friendly, although presently there is a dispute regarding the potential contamination of the Uruguay river, that divides both countries, due to the installation of a paper mill in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, that is already 80% complete. Roads from Argentina to Uruguay are frequently blocked by protesters at the 3 international bridges (Gualeguaychú-Fray Bentos, Colón-Paysandu and Salto Grande, Concordia-Salto), and the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice of The Hague that these blockings do not constitute a permanent damage to Uruguay might extend these blockings in time, unless the mediation of the King of Spain attains some compromise between both countries, something that seems improbable at this time. If for any reason all 3 international bridges are blocked, the best way to cross, is to continue to Paso de los Libres, cross over to Uruguayana (Brazil) that is very near Artigas (Uruguay) and continue your travel from there to Montevideo.

I have already explained in the Overview how to get the Uruguay (ship, bus, and airplane alternatives and the names of the companies) and in Where to Stay in Uruguay you will find information on hotels. Please refer to these sections. The beaches Montevideo has on the River Plate in the area known as Pocitos and Carrasco are really beautiful. All the area from the port towards the east, including the beaches and marinas, really deserves a visit. I really enjoyed walking along all this area, although I must recognize that the Punta del Este area, especially from Solanas towards the East, is far more beautiful. Unlike Buenos Aires, where large extensions of land were gained to the river and all natural beaches disappeared, leaving mud instead of sand, Montevideo has very nice beaches, with clear water. This is because the water of the Uruguay river, that runs into the River Plate near here, settles down at the Salto Grande dam (Concordia/Salto) and downstream of the dam water is pretty clear. Of course, it all depends on whether there has been some flood in the Uruguay or Parana rivers recently (both rivers form the River Plate).

Although Pocitos and the coastal avenue are the nicest spots in Montevideo, there are many other places worthwhile visiting, like its parks and its monuments. There are a number of museums in the city. The José Battle park, with a beautiful pink marble entrance, and both zoological gardens (Dolores and Lecocq) are three other places you will want to visit. There are also historical and panoramic places you will want to visit, like the Fortaleza del Cerro fortress, park Rodó, the Citadel gate (Puerta de la Ciudadela) and the Main Square. The city of Montevideo has well over one million inhabitants, but is pretty safe, so you can enjoy walking it.

Hotels in Montevideo are not expensive (unlike Punta del Este, where they cost a lot) and there are regular bus services to Punta del Este (one hour and a half travel) and organized tours to Piriápolis and Punta del Este that are not expensive. In Montevideo I would recommend the Hotel Presidente in the downtown, a nice 3-star hotel. If you want something better, try the Posta Carretas hotel. Days Inn hotels in Uruguay are not expensive.

Durazno and Rincon del Bonete: Durazno is a small city (30,000 inhabitants) in central Uruguay, probably some 2 to 3 hours north of the city of Montevideo. It is on the Negro river, the most important river in the country, a tributary of the Uruguay river, and has the most important hydroelectric project in the country, Rincón del Bonete. The dam (240 feet high) forms an artificial lake, and dorado fishing is popular in this river, although the size of the fish is not as large as those fished at Concondia (Argentina) nor as those of the Parana river. It is a pleasant area, nice for camping, with a mild climate. There is a nearer (and smaller) dam called Paso de los Toros. El Sauzal is a nice bathing resort in this area, and it has a nice campground, called Treinta y Tres Orientales.

The Durazno – Tacuarembó – Rivera area is dedicated mostly to cattle raising (Uruguayan meat is excellent) and agriculture. The Rincón del Bonete dam and some other smaller reservoirs in the area have optimized agricultural possibilities in their area of influence. Travelling to the north you will find an important city (Rivera) that together with Santana do Livramento (Brazil) form really one sole city. It is a pleasant rolling area, and to get there you go through the agricultural area of Tacuarembo. There are smaller populations to the Northwest, like Artigas, just in front of Coarao, and quite near to Uruguayana, Brazil, that is an important city. Don't expect much more than that, because there are no high mountains in Uruguay, the highest hills are probably 1,300 feet high. Durazno is located in the center of Uruguay and is near any destination in the country. However, it is nearer the Uruguay river than the Atlantic Ocean, and very near the cities of Fray Bentos, and Paysandu (the second most important city in Uruguay). Both these cities have international bridges over the Uruguay river that connect respectively with Gualeguaychu and Colon, both in Argentina.

Paysandú is the second city of Uruguay, and is on the Uruguay river. The environment of the whole area is very pleasant. You can cross from here to the Argentine city of Colon, very near the El Palmar National Park in Argentina. Salto is the third city, and is just in front of the city of Concordia. There are regular suburban buses from Salto to Concordia, and you can also cross the river on motorboats. Buses pass on top of the Salto Grande dam, an excellent area for dorado fishing. There are regular bus services from Montevideo to both these cities, and travel takes some 5 hours to Paysandu and 6 hours to Salto. On the Argentine side, at Colón, you have one of the best 5-star Health and SPA Resorts of Argentina, the hotel Quirinale. And from Concordia (just in front of Salto) you have direct bus services to the Iguazú Falls (12 hours travel, Expreso Tigre-Iguazu). Enjoy your visit to Uruguay.

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