Uruguay’s charming capital city has plenty to offer tourists, but sometimes it’s nice to get away from the urban bustle for a day. Here are some top day trips from Montevideo, including colonial towns and the country’s largely unspoiled coastline.
Punta del Este — 81 miles (130 km) from Montevideo
Two hours east of Montevideo, the beautiful beaches of Punta del Este draw visitors from all over the world. Beachgoers flock from Uruguay’s capital to the place where the Rio de la Plata ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. You’ll find calm conditions, perfect for swimming and sunbathing, at Playa Mansa. On the other side of the peninsula, the sportier Playa Brava is known as a top place for watersports—and houses La Mano, a famous sculpture of a hand reaching upward from the sand. Punta del Este also has buzzing nightlife; its fine restaurants and casinos are considered to be the best in Uruguay.
Colonia de Sacramento — 112 miles (180 km) from Monteviedo
Located two hours west of Montevideo, the laid-back colonial outpost of Colonia de Sacramento has a decidedly different vibe than anywhere else in the country. The only place in Uruguay established by the Portuguese (in 1680), Colonia’s historic quarter is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Filled with charming cobbled streets and shady boulevards, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a bottle of wine—and the views of Buenos Aires across the river—on the patio of an outdoor café. More energetic visitors can climb the stairs of the historic lighthouse and gaze out over Ciudad Vieja, the Old Town.