Uruguay Bucket List: Top 20 Must-see Destinations

When people think of South America, the stunning beaches of Brazil or the vibrant culture of Argentina often come to mind. However, nestled between these giants lies an underrated gem: Uruguay. Did you know that Uruguay is ranked as the most peaceful country in South America according to the Global Peace Index (GPI)? It even stands out as the only South American nation among the top 50 most peaceful countries worldwide, making it the safest destination in the region for tourists and expats. This small yet mighty nation packs a punch with its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, Uruguay is the place to be. Let’s embark on a journey from west to east as we explore the top 20 must-see destinations that form the ultimate Uruguay bucket list.

1. Colonia del Sacramento: Step Back in Time

Photograph of a cobblestone street in the historic old city of Colonia del Sacramento.

Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the westernmost attraction in Uruguay, provides visitors with a unique glimpse into the country’s colonial past and is often the starting point for many travelers. This charming town, with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings, feels like stepping back in time.

Visit the iconic lighthouse for a panoramic view of the town and the Río de la Plata. Wander through the Barrio Histórico to see Portuguese and Spanish colonial architecture blending seamlessly. For an added dose of history, stop by the various museums scattered throughout the town.

2. Montevideo: A Blend of Old and New

Pocitos Beach is a popular spot for tourists to walk, enjoy the beach and take souvenir photos. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

The capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo, is a melting pot of cultural influences. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a beach lover, Montevideo has something for everyone.

Start your day at Plaza Independencia, where you can explore the iconic statue of General Artigas, visit the mausoleum beneath it, and admire the Solis Theatre and the Palacio Salvo. Then, take a leisurely stroll down the Rambla de Montevideo, a coastal promenade that stretches for miles. From jogging to cycling, the Rambla is a hub of activity and a perfect spot to take in the sea breeze.

3. Plaza Independencia: Historical Heartbeat

Monument to José Artigas at Plaza Independencia. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

No trip to Montevideo is complete without a visit to Plaza Independencia. This historical square serves as the city’s focal point, linking the old city (Ciudad Vieja) with the new.

Here you can visit the Solis Theatre and the Palacio Salvo, once the tallest building in South America. Don’t forget to take a moment to honor José Gervasio Artigas, the father of Uruguayan independence, at his mausoleum located right beneath the plaza.

4. Teatro Solis: A Cultural Extravaganza

Front facade of the Solis Theatre at dusk. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Located in Montevideo, Teatro Solis isn’t just a theater; it’s a cultural institution. Opened in 1856, it stands as one of the oldest theaters in South America and remains a cornerstone of Uruguayan arts.

Teatro Solis offers an array of performances, from opera and ballet to contemporary plays. Even if you’re not a theater enthusiast, the architecture alone is worth the visit. Opt for a guided tour to uncover the history and secrets of this iconic venue. You’ll be amazed by the grandeur and elegance that characterize every corner of Teatro Solis.

5. Palacio Salvo: A Symbol of Grandeur

The stunning Palacio Salvo in the historic city center, a famous tourist attraction. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Located at the intersection of Plaza Independencia and 18 de Julio Avenue, Palacio Salvo is one of Montevideo’s most iconic landmarks. Designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti and completed in 1928, the building originally served as a hotel but now houses offices and private residences.

Standing 100 meters tall, Palacio Salvo was once the tallest building in South America. Its eclectic style and towering presence make it a must-visit. Take a guided tour to explore its intricate architecture and learn about its fascinating history. Don’t forget to capture a photo of this monumental structure that has become a symbol of Montevideo’s architectural elegance.

6. Rambla de Montevideo: A Coastal Escape

Three young ladies enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Rambla at Pocitos Beach. Photo by German Suarez / Shutterstock.

Stretching 13.5 miles along the coast, the Rambla de Montevideo offers an unparalleled way to experience the city’s coastal charm. It’s a place where you’ll find locals running, cycling, and enjoying leisurely walks any time of the day.

Pack a picnic and settle in at one of the many parks along the promenade. Be sure to catch the sunset, which transforms the sky into a canvas of colors, making it a perfect backdrop for some memorable photos.

7. Ciudad Vieja: Montevideo’s Vintage Charm

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Historic buildings in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Ciudad Vieja, or Old Town, is Montevideo’s historic heart, where you can explore the city’s colonial past. Wander through its narrow streets, lined with centuries-old buildings, and immerse yourself in its cultural heritage.

Start your exploration at the iconic Gateway of the Citadel, the only remaining part of the city’s old fortifications. Visit historic landmarks like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Museo Torres García, which showcases works by Uruguay’s renowned artist Joaquín Torres García. With its blend of history and culture, Ciudad Vieja is a must-visit for anyone exploring Montevideo.

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8. Palacio Legislativo: Architectural Marvel

The stunning Palacio Legislativo of Uruguay. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

An architectural masterpiece, the Palacio Legislativo in Montevideo is the seat of the Uruguayan parliament and a symbol of the country’s democratic values. Opened in 1925, this neoclassical building is adorned with marble, intricate carvings, and stunning murals.

Tours of the building offer insight into Uruguay’s political history and architectural grandeur. Don’t miss the chance to explore the library, which houses an impressive collection of historical documents. The Palacio Legislativo is a testament to Uruguay’s rich cultural and political heritage.

9. Mercado del Puerto: A Foodie’s Paradise

Entrance to the Mercado del Puerto. Photo source: mercadodelpuerto.com.

If there’s one place in Montevideo where you can truly taste Uruguay, it’s Mercado del Puerto. This bustling marketplace is a haven for food lovers, offering a plethora of traditional Uruguayan dishes.

Try the national dish, asado, a type of barbecue that’s a staple in Uruguayan cuisine. If you’re adventurous, sample some morcilla dulce, a sweet blood sausage that’s surprisingly delicious. With a cold beer in hand, enjoy live music and the lively atmosphere that makes this market a must-visit.

10. Pocitos: The Montevideo Beachfront Experience

Photograph showcasing the traditional Pocitos neighborhood in Montevideo, the capital city. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Nestled within Montevideo, Pocitos is a trendy neighborhood known for its vibrant beachfront and lively atmosphere. Pocitos Beach, with its golden sands and calm waters, is a favorite spot among locals and tourists alike.

Stroll along the Rambla de Pocitos, lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. Whether you’re looking to enjoy water sports, sunbathe, or indulge in some shopping, Pocitos has something to offer. At night, the area comes alive with a bustling nightlife scene, making it a perfect destination for those looking to experience Montevideo’s modern vibe.

11. Beaches: Sun, Sand, and Surf

Tourists reveling in the beauty of La Barra beach along the Uruguayan coast. Photo by Fotos593 / Shutterstock.

Uruguay boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in South America, each offering its own unique charm. From the vibrant shores of Punta del Este to the tranquil sands of La Paloma, there’s a beach for every type of traveler.

Head to Playa de Jose Ignacio for a more exclusive experience. This upscale beach is known for its luxury resorts and fine dining opportunities. If you’re seeking a more laid-back vibe, visit the beaches of Rocha, where you can enjoy unspoiled nature and a slower pace of life.

12. Casapueblo: A Tribute to Creativity

The enchanting Casapueblo in Punta Ballena offers a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

A love letter written in white concrete, Casapueblo is the brainchild of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this sprawling complex is part museum, part art gallery, and part hotel.

Every sunset, visitors gather to listen to a poem recited by Vilaró himself, played over loudspeakers, making it a magical experience you won’t want to miss. Wander through the labyrinthine corridors adorned with the artist’s works, and stay for a meal at the on-site restaurant for a dining experience with a view.

13. Puerto de Punta del Este: The Glamorous Getaway

Mesmerizing aerial view of the Port of Punta del Este during summer. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Picture this: golden sands, turquoise waters, and an electrifying nightlife. Puerto de Punta del Este is South America’s answer to the French Riviera. This glamorous getaway is famous for its luxurious resorts, world-class dining, and upscale shopping.

Once you arrive, head straight to Playa Brava to see the iconic sculpture La Mano (The Hand), which looks as though a giant is reaching up from the sand. Beyond the beach, the marina is a must-visit. Here, you can admire extravagant yachts and even take a boat trip to Isla de Lobos, home to one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to dive with sea creatures or someone who just wants to soak up the sun, Punta del Este is the place to be.

14. La Mano de Punta del Este: Iconic Art

Breathtaking view of the sand and The Hand of Punta del Este. Photo by Ernesto Velazquez / Shutterstock.

One of Punta del Este’s most recognizable landmarks, La Mano, or The Hand, is a sculptural masterpiece by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal. Located on Playa Brava, this giant hand emerging from the sand has become an iconic symbol of Uruguay’s coastal beauty.

Take a walk on Playa Brava and snap a photo with this striking sculpture, which has captured the imagination of visitors since its installation in 1982. The sculpture serves as a reminder of the powerful forces of nature and the human connection to the land.

15. Salto del Penitente: Nature’s Masterpiece

A train station on a hill

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Hilltop property with breathtaking views in Salto del Penitente. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

For a dose of natural beauty, head to Salto del Penitente, a stunning waterfall located in the Lavalleja Department. Surrounded by lush greenery and rugged cliffs, this waterfall offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The park surrounding Salto del Penitente provides well-marked hiking trails, picnic areas, and spots for rock climbing. Take a dip in the natural pool at the base of the waterfall or simply relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. It’s a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

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16. Garzón: Culinary and Artistic Delight

A building with a large front door

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Stunning Garzon hotel and restaurant. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Garzón is a small, picturesque village that has gained international acclaim for its culinary and artistic offerings. Located inland from the coast, Garzón is home to the famous Garzón Restaurant and Hotel, created by acclaimed chef Francis Mallmann.

Indulge in a gourmet meal featuring locally sourced ingredients and paired with wines from the nearby Bodega Garzón. Don’t miss the chance to explore the village’s art galleries, showcasing works by Uruguayan and international artists. Garzón is a hidden gem that promises a blend of culinary and artistic delight.

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17. Playa de Jose Ignacio: Luxury and Relaxation

A beach bar with a sunset

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Stunning sunset view of Playa Jose Ignacio. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Once a sleepy fishing village, Playa de Jose Ignacio has transformed into a chic and exclusive beach destination. Known for its luxurious resorts and upscale beach clubs, Jose Ignacio attracts celebrities and discerning travelers seeking a high-end beach experience.

Stroll along the pristine sands, dine at world-class restaurants, and enjoy the laid-back yet sophisticated atmosphere. Don’t forget to visit the Jose Ignacio Lighthouse for panoramic views of the coastline. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or exploring the village, Jose Ignacio offers a perfect blend of luxury and relaxation.

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18. Punta del Diablo: Surf and Serenity

Playa de la viuda in punta del diablo rocha department
Beautiful Punta del Diablo. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

If you’re looking for a laid-back beach destination with a bohemian vibe, Punta del Diablo is your go-to spot. Located near the Brazilian border, this small fishing village-turned-tourist hub offers stunning beaches and a relaxed atmosphere.

Punta del Diablo is famous for its excellent surf conditions, drawing surfers from around the globe. Even if you’re not into surfing, you can spend your days lounging on the beach, exploring nearby national parks, or enjoying fresh seafood at local restaurants. The village’s colorful houses and friendly locals add to its undeniable charm.

19. Cabo Polonio: Wilderness and Wonder

Serene and tranquil Cabo Polonio at sunset. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

For those who crave adventure and natural beauty, Cabo Polonio is an absolute must-see. This remote village, accessible only by 4×4 vehicles, offers pristine beaches, towering sand dunes, and a lighthouse that provides panoramic views.

Sea lions lounging and basking in the sun at Cabo Polonio. Photo by Maps/Shutterstock.

What makes Cabo Polonio truly unique is its lack of electricity. At night, the sky lights up with stars, offering a stargazing experience like no other. Be sure to visit the sea lion colony and take in the untouched beauty that defines this extraordinary locale.

20. Fortress of Santa Teresa: Historical Stronghold

The corner of the stone watchtower at Santa Teresa Fortress in Rocha offers a view of the rural landscape, with hills and fields stretching into the distance. Photo by realestate-in-uruguay.com.

Located near the border with Brazil, the Fortress of Santa Teresa is a historical military stronghold that dates back to the 18th century. Built by the Portuguese and later taken over by the Spanish, the fortress played a crucial role in Uruguay’s colonial history.

Explore the well-preserved fortifications, including its walls, towers, and barracks. The surrounding Santa Teresa National Park offers beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and picnic areas, making it a great destination for a day trip. The fortress and its scenic surroundings provide a glimpse into Uruguay’s rich historical past.

In Short

Uruguay may be small, but it offers an abundance of experiences that make it a destination worth exploring. From the glamorous beaches of Punta del Este to the historical charm of Colonia del Sacramento, there’s something for everyone in this enchanting country.

If you’re considering making Uruguay your permanent home, there’s no better guide than Team Haverkate from Real Estate in Uruguay. As the leading real estate agent in the country, they can help you find the perfect property to make your Uruguayan dream come true. So why wait? Pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable adventure in Uruguay!

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