Best Day Trips From Montevideo
By Viator, October 2013
Two hours west of the city towards the mouth of the Rio de Plata, Colonia de Sacramento is a laidback outpost which is different than anywhere in the country. Established by the Portuguese in 1680, cobbled streets and leafy boulevards weave their way through the colonial Old Town. Across the river, the distant skyline of Buenos Aires hovers like a floating city. This is a charming spot to enjoy a bottle of wine on the patio of an outdoor café, or climb the stairs of the historic faro (lighthouse) which gazes out over the Old Town. While most tourists who spend the day here are visiting from Buenos Aires, it’s also accessible as an easy day trip from Montevideo.
Two hours east of the city, the famous beaches of Punta del Este draw visitors from around the world. For surfers who live in Montevideo, this is the closest place to the capital city for riding Uruguay’s waves. It’s also the place where the Rio de Plata ends and the Atlantic coastline begins. For regular beachgoers, Playa Mansa offers calmer conditions which are better for sunbathing and swimming. On the other side of the peninsula, Playa Brava offers a windswept coastline with golden sands, a collection of watersports, and the famous La Mano sculpture of a hand reaching upwards from the sand. In the city itself, travelers who want an early-dinner and a bit of entertainment can spend the evening at restaurants and casinos which are considered the best in the country.
If Punta del Este is too far from the city and is a little too much of a scene, many locals from Montevideo instead head to Piriapolis. This small resort town is 90 minutes from the capital, and is far more laidback than thumping Punta del Este. While here, stroll the length of the boardwalk and beach, and mingle with vacationing locals. Take a side trip to Punta Ballena to see the eccentric Casapueblo hotel, or ride the chairlift atop Cerro San Antonio for a view stretching out over Uruguay’s coast.
Whereas Punta del Este and Piriapolis both see their fair amount of crowds, those looking for a remote escape can head all the way to Cabo Polonio. This coastal sand dune is 3.5 hours east of the city and doesn’t have any roads, so access to the small town is via Jeeps and off-road vehicles which shuttle visitors across the sand. Despite its distance from the capital, however, Cabo Polonio is a quirky outpost where you can truly escape to the wilds of Uruguay.
Finally, even though it’s a completely other country, a popular—albeit long—day trips from Montevideo is riding the ferry to Buenos Aires. Buquebus ferries run between the two capitals, although in order to maximize time in Buenos Aires it’s best to take a ferry which departs from Colonia de Sacramento. Those without their own transportation can book a bus and ferry combo, and then ride the direct ferry back to Montevideo on the return journey that evening.