After a week in Argentina, we traveled for 5 days through Uruguay which required almost as much travel time as actual down time since we ferried from Buenos Aires to the historical town of Colonia del Sacramento, bussed to Montevideo, and then finally onto Punta del este on the South East corner or Uruguay where the beach actually opens to a mixture of river and the Atlantic Ocean before coming all the way back to Buenos Aires in only 5 days.
Colonia was a beautiful small town, with cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, old vintage cars and a sleepy feel which was slightly disrupted by the really windy day we had there. It is only a 1 hr ferry from Buenos Aires to get there, and many tourists from Buenos Aires make it there just for a day trip to say they set foot on Uruguaian soil.
The entire downtown core is walkable in 5 mins accross in either direction, so after one night and a day there, we carried on to Punta del Este, a much larger, metropolitan and modern tourist destination that lies on a peninsula of land surrounded almost 360 degrees by water. The beach on the west side technically sits on the Rio de la Plata, and the beach half a kilometer away on the east side is the Atlantic side, with big waves, great surf, and a bluer tinge to the water. The main strip down the centre of town almost feels like Miami beach even Vegas, or some smiliar, busy, bright-light party town, with lots of shopping, nightlife, casions and tourist-infrastructure.
Prices were not cheap here, or atleast not comparable to the rest of Uruguay, and because of this, in addition to being there during the height of tourist season, we paid $25 per person for a hostel bed each, my bed being the top bunk in a set of 3 (inches from the roof) with 9 people in a small, windowless, basement room, and Steve’s bed being a mattress in the hallway beside all the storage lockers. We made the most of it by trying to cook a delicious steak dinner in their kitchen (also in a hallway) but ran into some complications when their only knife broke and we barely had enough pots, plates or utensils to prepare a meal for two.
Finally there was Montevideo, a big, sprawling city that was much more developed than I expected, with an old, historical core and then a new, more european-feeling, modern area surrounding it. We couchsurfed with a couple people who lived 3 blocks from the beach – the crowning jewel of Montevideo which makes it almost a better city to live in than Buenos Aires. The beach had perfectly soft sand, made of the tiniest grains that sparkled like pieces of gold in the sunlight, and the water would change from shades of brown to blue depending on how much river water could reach the banks after mixing with the open ocean water a few kilometers away. It was strange to see the murky river water acting tidal, small waves of the Rio de la Plata crashing on the shore.
Uruguay definitely impressed, feeling just a little warmer, cleaner, and more expensive than Buenos Aires, but perhaps it was just my bias from loving the beach time I had while in the city when Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero riverbank teased as the only waterfront area with no swimming access.