You may have heard this statement once or twice given you have a few friends who are avid travelers: “Once you go to South America, the culture and people will most certainly draw you back”. I had heard variations of this statement prior to my first adventure to Peru but was still a bit hesitant. Therefore, I went south of the equator to Peru in 2015 to uncover the claim for myself. It was true. All of it…(pardon the Han Solo reference!). Furthermore, the claim held ever so true on my recent trek to Argentina and Uruguay.
Since my life changing road trip across Peru, I’ve explored Colombia, Argentina, and Uruguay (and other Spanish speaking countries such as Cuba and Spain). In this article, I will discuss my adventure-packed journey to the latter two.
So you’ve heard Argentina is amazing but wait…you’ve also heard the beaches in Uruguay have a captivating draw to them. Here’s a scenario: You have a little over a week of time off but you’re not sure you can make it to Patagonia, Mendoza, Salta, and have time to explore Buenos Aires and Uruguay as well, not to mention Iguazu Falls. Wow, that’s a handful of places and don’t forget, Argentina is a massive country where flights are often necessary from place to place.
Planning the Itinerary
It dawned on my friend and I that covering all of these amazing destinations was not going to be possible with our allotted time. We definitely wanted to fit Uruguay in since it was February in New York and far warmer on the beaches of Uruguay. So we devised our 10-day plan to include the following locations knowing that at some point, both of us would likely come back to knock off the other destinations in Argentina such as Patagonia, Ushuaia and Mendoza.
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (3 days)
- Iguazu Falls, Argentina (2 days)
- Montevideo, Uruguay (3 days)
- Punta del Este, Uruguay (2 days)
To gain a better sense of the itinerary, see the mock up below that we put together in the months leading up to the trip.
Arriving in Buenos Aires
After our red-eye flight into Buenos Aires at 6 am, we taxied to our hotel in Palermo Soho. As the stereotype goes, Argentinians were still partying in the streets in various parts of the city while sun was rising, proving the party spirit stigma. Palermo in general is one of the nicer, more laid back neighborhoods outside of the downtown area. There are many neighborhoods within Palermo but I would venture to say the best parts of Palermo in terms of activities, restaurants, and nightlife are Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho. Palermo Viejo also preserves some of the classic and traditional ambiances of the area as well.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
While in Buenos Aires we enjoyed walking through the Sunday Market in San Telmo to observe many of the cultural aspects of the neighborhood. The Sunday Market is similar to a street fair where patrons will find several different Argentinian specialties including traditional foods, clothing, and crafts including Mate (also known as chimarrão or cimarrón) mugs (aka gourds). Following the market, we toured the rest of the city and walked through the famous La Recoleta Cemetery and El Ateneo Grand Splendid, which is an architectural marvel formerly serving as a theater and now functioning as a massive, beautiful book shop. For nightlife, Kika and Rosebar will keep you going until 5 am if you’re seeking a late night dance atmosphere. The bars around Plaza Serrano are superb for bar hopping and to enjoy nice outdoor summer drinks.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Following our stop in Buenos Aires, we took a short flight to Puerto Iguazú where we ventured through the trails of the Argentinian jungle to explore Iguazú Falls. The falls are located on the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This dazzling array of waterfalls combines to make up the largest waterfall system in the world and is one of the greatest tourist attractions in South America. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed the nature and beauty of the falls. The jungle trails were full of color and life but provided a jolt of adrenaline when we stumbled upon caution signs for predators such as Jaguars and Pumas! But fear not, we did not see any and I can’t attest to their abundance. Still slightly jarring to say the least.
After the Argentinian part of the vacation, Mike and I flew to Uruguay and landed in the capital city of Montevideo. Montevideo is known for Spanish-influenced architecture and beautiful beaches which combine to make a magnificent coastline since the city is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean. The main beach is perched on the city’s doorstep and gives visitors a Barcelona-feel in a way.
One of the highlights of Montevideo was the dining culture. My favorite meal was “Asado” also known as “Parrilla” which translates to barbecue. Uruguayans are known for famous Parrilla and one of the best can be found in the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. This feast is a mix of several different juicy meats including beef, pork, blood sausage and intestines (must try them all). We thoroughly enjoyed the aspect of the dining culture to eat late at night. It was common to see families with young children out on the town past 10:30 and 11 pm.
Additionally, the barrio of Pocitos, where we stayed, is among the most peaceful, beautiful, beach-accessible and centrally located parts of Montevideo. I highly recommend it. For kicking off the nightlife, head to Montevideo Beer Company (MBC) to start the night and finish off the evening at the bars and clubs in Parque Rodo.
Punta del Este, Uruguay
The final stop on the trip was the beach town of Punta del Este, located on Uruguay’s southeast peninsula. We ventured to the magnificent beaches Uruguay offered and made a point to experience the nightlife the town is well known for. One bar that stood out above the rest with great DJ’ing and live music was Moby Dick Pub, definitely swing by this lively spot given the chance.
We also had the chance to watch a Carnival parade. It is important to note that Carnival is celebrated across Uruguay throughout the entire month of February. Not to mention, the seafood options and food culture in Punta del Este will not disappoint the weary, hunger-driven traveler. Following the stop in Punta del Este, we traveled on a comfortable ferry ride (that was fairly priced) back to Buenos Aires where we continued our adventure for one more evening enjoying the nightlight Palermo has to offer.
It’s a Wrap
In a nutshell, this South American adventure was everything I anticipated and more. Whether it was the fine Malbec and steak in Argentina to the beaches I heard such amazing things about in Uruguay. The hospitality and generosity of the Uruguayan people is surreal and will certainly leave you with a more tender heart. Argentinians did not disappoint with their fiery party attitude and passion for good food. If you have a South American destination or adventure on your bucket list, this one is up there in terms of adventure, food, culture, beauty and nightlife!
For more on beaches of Uruguay, please see Conde Naste’s article!