First 24 hours in Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo may be less glam than Buenos Aires but it has some advantages over its rival. For one thing, its centre is small, walkable and encircled by the River Plate – sea breezes keep the city airy, and you can walk to La Rambla promenade in a matter of minutes.

Founded in 1726, the Uruguayan capital honours national hero, José Artigas, on the expansive Plaza Independencia. The history of this small country, has largely been about constructing its own identity. Uruguay remains a largely agricultural country and Montevideo is its only major city, home to more than a third of the population. The best galleries, museums, theatres and music scene – including a lively tango circuit – are all here.

Liberal laws and a mini-construction boom have generated headlines, but Montevideo stands out for not changing very much at all: retaining its convivial pace and that oh-so-easy atmosphere.

First day’s tour

Tango Museum, Montevideo, Uruguay (Shutterstock)

An easy walk along Avenida 18 de Julio and calle Sarandí, through three plazas, opens up a lot that the city has to offer. Start with a coffee and medialunas (sweet croissants) at lively Bar Facal (Ave 18 de Julio 1249). Outside is a bronze of tango legend Carlos Gardel seated and smiling toothily. If tango’s your thing, six blocks south there’s street art dedicated to Gardel on pedestrianised Curuguaty – also known as the ‘Candombe street’ in reference to Montevideo’s African musical heritage.

Further along the avenue, inside an ornate 19th century building, is the Museo del Gaucho (Ave 18 de Julio 998; free), dedicated to the historical role and daily life and labours of the South American cowboy. The national numismatic collection is also here.

At the centre of the Plaza Independencia is the equestrian statue, and tomb, of Artigas. In the south-east corner is the Palacio Salvo, built in 1928 in a mixture of Art Deco and New York Gothic. At street-level is the privately run Museo del Tango – La Cumparsita (See Facebook, entrance fee includes a glass of wine), dedicated to the memory of the first performance, at this spot, of ‘La Cumparsita’ in 1917. The country’s main theatre, the Teatro Solís, is just off the plaza.

Continue along calle Sarandi into the heart of the old town. The Museo Torres García (Sarandí 683) houses a collection of works by Uruguay’s best known artist, Joaquín Torres-García, the father of Latin American Constructivism. Passing the Cabildo (Town Hall) on your right you’ll come to another square, the tree-shaded Plaza Constitución, where the cathedral stands. Continue to the Plaza Zabala, formerly the site of the city fort; turn right down calle Pérez Castellanos to end your walk at the Mercado del Puerto. Opened in 1868, it’s now full of traditional restaurants and bars, and a fine way to finish your day.

Stay or go

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay (Shutterstock)

Unless you’re only here to dance, then explore beyond Montevideo. Around 180km west lies Unesco-listed Colonia del Sacramento, founded in 1680; though small, it played a key role in skirmishes between the two conquering Iberian nations. An hour’s drive north of Colonia is Carmelo, a riverside town close to one of Uruguay’s main wine-growing areas.

East of Montevideo the accent is on beaches. It’s a two-hour drive or bus-ride to Casapueblo, the remarkable Gaudí-esque former summerhouse and workshop of the late artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Today it’s a hotel but there’s also a restaurant and it’s well worth a pitstop.

Beyond are the beach resorts of Punta del Este, La Barra and José Ignacio. Great for a swim and fine dining, they are not as alluring as what lies further up the Atlantic Coast. La Paloma and La Pedrera are smaller, more sedate seaside spots. Inland, at Garzón, you can indulge in great food and wine in a classic Pampas landscape, go birding or hire a horse.

Where to stay

Independance Square, Montevideo, Uruguay (Shutterstock)

Top end:Sofitel Montevideo is a luxurious hotel, casino and spa occupying a grand edifice, completed in 1921; it’s located in Carrasco, a beach resort east of the city centre (close to the airport). The French cuisine at the 1921 Restaurant, opulent setting and river views are the draws.

Mid range:Alma Históricahas just 15 stylishly appointed rooms – each themed to honour an Uruguayan poet, actor or tanguero – and sits on the Plaza Zabala in the old town.

Budget:Casa Sarandí Guesthouse is a beautiful Art Deco property in the old city run by a couple, Sergio and Karen, who also runs the English-language website

Getting there and around

At the airport Carrasco International, 22km from the city centre, has limited connections to Europe; Air Europa and Iberia operate services to Madrid. In the arrivals hall are ATMs, casas de cambio and car-hire firms.

Getting into town The airport offers shuttles to the centre. Regulated taxis are also available.

Other ways to arrive Buquebus operates ferries from Buenos Aires. At least one operates in each direction daily (2hrs 15mins). It’s possible to cross a narrower section of the river, between Buenos Aires and Colonía de Sacramento, completing the journey to Montevideo by bus (4hrs). Buquebus and Colonia Express offer this service.

Read more about South America:

9 fantastic destinations where your pound will go further in 2020

Even after this week’s general election, exchange rate instability is likely to continue, especially as decisions over Brexit are made. But the good news is that there are destinations outside of the Eurozone where the pound is performing strongly. Indeed, those using GBP who look further afield for their holidays in 2020 could find they are able to get significantly more currency to spend.

For example, South America offers great value compared to just two years ago, with Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil amongst the top five destinations where the pound has improved the most since December 2017. Similarly, the pound is performing well against African currencies, and even closer to home in places like Iceland and Turkey.

Here are the 9 countries where your pound will go further. In some cases, much further

1. Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina (Shutterstock)

The pound is up a staggering 241% against the Argentina peso since 2017, representing an extra £353 per £500 exchanged. The trend looks to continue into 2020, meaning that you’ll get a lot more for your money on your next Argentinian adventure.

Treat yourself to a steak dinner or an extra bottle of Malbec, or maybe invest in tango lessons in Buenos Aires.

2. Iceland

The Northern lights over Goðafoss (Shutterstock)

British visitors to the otherworldly shores of Iceland can expect an extra £61 for every £500 exchanged in 2020, with the Icelandic krona 14% weaker against the pound since 2017.

The bar bill from a round of beers will still sting, but in this relatively expensive destination, every little bit helps.

3. Sri Lanka

Fishermen at the sunset near Galle (Shutterstock)

With its ancient temples, brilliant wildlife and relaxing beaches, Sri Lanka has long been a favourite with Wanderlust readers. That’s set to continue in 2020, with the pound 16% stronger against the Sri Lankan rupee.

How will you spend the extra £70 per £500 exchanged? A leopard safari in Yala National Park? A Sri Lankan feast in one of Colombo’s finest restaurants? Or simply an extra week lazing in the sun on Wijaya Beach?

4. Colombia

Traditional fruit sellers in Cartagena (Shutterstock)

With its colourful colonial cities, fabulous cuisine, untouched nature and vibrant culture, Colombia is well and truly back on the travel map. And with the pound buying an extra £52 per £500 exchanged, it represents great value as well.

That 12% increase since 2017 represents a few extra days in country or a stash of the country’s famous coffee beans to share with friends back home.

5. Turkey

Hot air balloons over Cappadocia (Shutterstock)

Away from the fly-and-flop resorts of the coast, Turkey is already an affordable and intriguing destination. But with an extra £164 in your pocket for every £500 exchanged, a whole world of options arise.

The pound is 49% stronger against the pound since 2017, meaning that hot air balloon flight over the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia looks like pretty good value after all.

6. Zambia

Elephants in South Luangwa National Park (Shutterstock)

As African destinations go, Zambia has it all. The awe-inspiring Vic Falls sit on its southern border. And its underrated national parks, like North and South Luangwa, Kasananka and Liuwa Plain, offer unparalleled wildlife viewing but without the crowds of its more famous neighbours.

Throw in the fact that the pound is 47% stronger against the Zambian zwacha (netting you an extra £161 per £500 exchanged, by the way) and the country should be top of your African safari wish list.

7. Brazil

Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro (Shutterstock)

With the Brazilian real 24% weaker against the pound, 2020 could be the year to dust off your travel bucket list and head up the Amazon.

That extra £96 you’ll get for every £500 exchanged means you can upgrade to your own cabin on an Amazonian cruise boat. Or have an extra cocktail or two as you watch the sunset set over Copacabana Beach in Rio.

8. Sweden

The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden (Shutterstock)

Sweden is not a cheap destination by any stretch of the imagination, but with an extra £49 per £500 exchanged available to you, it’s not as prohibitive as it once was.

That extra 11% the pound has appreciated since 2017 means that you can consider a night in the Ice Hotel in Kiruna or a Northern Lights expedition in Abisko. Or even a second cup of coffee in one of Stockholm’s hipster cafes.

9. Uruguay

Gauchos in Minas, Uruguay (Shutterstock)

Often overshadowed by its better known neighbours, Uruguay has long been a favourite with those in the know. Now, with the pound 28% stronger against the Uruguayan peso, the secret is out.

If its beaches, gaucho culture and buzzing cities you’re after, this Latin American gem is for you. What will you spend the extra £109 you’ll get per £500 exchanged?

Thanks to Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of international money specialist, Equals, formerly known as FairFX. All figures supplied by Equals and correct as of December 2019

More ways to make your travel budget go further:

The best trips to take post-Brexit (to make the most of the pound)

1. Go wild in Argentina

Iguazu Falls seen from the Argentinian National Park (Shutterstock)

Tango the night away in Buenos Aires, tuck into an enormous steak and encounter rare wildlife in Argentina’s little-visited north-east, on this South American adventure with Wildlife Worldwide.

After a whistle-stop tour of Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, you’ll travel to the beautiful open spaces of the vast Iberá wetland to explore the wetlands and savannah by boat and on foot (or on horseback, should you wish).

You’ll visit the thundering waters of Iguazu Falls before continuing to the dense, pristine rainforest of Yacutinga, where guided nature walks and boat trips will show you some of the area’s resident wildlife which includes the rarely seen jaguar and ocelot.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Mar to Apr & Sep to Dec

How long: 12 days

How much: From £3,045 (exc. flights)

2. Trek the High Caucasus in Georgia

The trek from Omalo to Shatili through the Atsunta Pass (Shutterstock)

Venture deep into the heart of Georgia on this classic trek through the mountains and villages of the remote Caucasus Mountains, with KE Adventure Travels.

From the capital Tbilisi, you’ll head north to Mount Kazbek, the starting pointfor a trek that will see you walk across the Abudelauri, Tsubrovana and Borbalo passes and deep into the remote Khevsureti range. Crossing open ridges, with far-reaching views, you’ll descend through flower-filled mountain pastures into steep-sided and forested valleys, to the fortified medieval villages Mutso and Shatili.

This is Georgia’s most traditional region, so expect animist shrines, friendly villages, hidden churches and impressive stone-built defensive towers. You’ll quickly see why Georgia is one of the most exciting trekking destinations in Europe.

Type: Small group

When: Jul & Aug

How long: Nine days

How much: £1,175 (exc. flights)

3. Walk amongst the wildlife in South Luangwa

Walking with elephants in South Luangwa (Exodus)

Stay in exclusive luxury bush camps and encounter Africa’s wild life at eye level, on this extraordinary walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park with Exodus.

South Luangwaboasts over 9,000 sq km of untouched wilderness, oxbow lagoons and riverine vegetation. Led by expert guides, you’ll enjoy a variety of walking safaris, encountering elephants, buffalos, hippos, zebras and giraffes, as well as lion and hyena.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot the park’s most famous resident: the leopard. And because your money goes further in Zambia, you’ll spend each evening relaxing in some of the most luxurious bush camps in Africa.

Who: Exodus

Type: Small group

When: Oct

How long: 10 days

How much: From £4,669 (exc. flights)

4. Enjoy the best of Turkey

Fairy chimneys near Çavuşin Town in Cappadocia (Shutterstock)

From glittery azure seas to ancient ruins and the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey is the affordable destination that offers it all. You’ll get to enjoy all the best bits of this nine-day Turkish adventure with Peregrine.

It’s an action-packed journey that will see you travel from bustling Istanbul to the clear coastal waters and ancient cities of the Bodrum Peninsula and then on to the lunar landscapes of Cappadocia.

Along the way, you’ll explore ancient Roman cities with knowledgeable guides, catch the night train from Izmir to Konya, relax aboard a traditional gulet, swim in ridiculously blue seas, try your hand at making Manti (Turkish ravioli), and learn how to play backgammon like a local.

Type: Small group

When: Apr to Jun & Aug to Nov

How long: Nine days

How much: From £975 (exc. flights)

5. Welcome to budget-friendly Iceland

Seljalandsfoss waterfall as the sun sets (Shutterstock)

Iceland is not a cheap country to visit, but with the pound actually getting stronger against the Icelandic krona, there hasn’t been a better time to visit. This affordable five-day tour with Tucan Travel will ensure you see the best bits, without breaking the bank.

After enjoying the many attractions of Reykjavik, you’ll head into Iceland’s ethereal countryside, experiencing the magic of the Blue Lagoon, marvelling at the mesmerising beauty of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and encountering the wide, wild spaces that Iceland is famous for.

Type: Group

When: Regular departures throughout the year

How long: Five days

How much: From £689 (exc. flights)

6. Discover the wonders of Uruguay

The cobbled streets of Colonia (Shutterstock)

Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, Uruguay is an undiscovered Latin American treat. And on this incredibly affordable six-day tour with Evaneos, led by a knowledgeable and passionate local guide, you’ll discover the best of its beautiful beaches, hills, farmlands and an authentic gaucho culture.

You’ll explore the charming UNESCO-listed village of Colonia, famous for both its Spanish and Portuguese architecture, discover both old and new Montevideo and kick back on the famous beaches of Punta Del Este.

Along the way you’ll encounter incredible hospitality, extraordinary food and wine and the unique landscapes of South America’s best kept – and most affordable – secret.

Who: Evaneos

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Six days

How much: From £480 (exc. flights)

7. Get to know Ghana

Sunset on a Ghanaian beach (Shutterstock)

Ghana is one of the most budget-friendly places in Africa for Brits. This eight-day tour with TravelLocal is designed to introduce you to its incredible people and culture.

Over the course of a week, you’ll get a real feel for rural village life in the coastal savannah, gain insight into the important history of the Ashanti Kingdom and learn about the thought-provoking history of the transatlantic slave trade.

You’ll visit the craft villages around Kumasi, and witnessing wood carving, the production of glass beads and a variety of cloth making, before ending your trip relaxing on a palm-fringed beach, regarded as one of the most beautiful in Africa.

Type: Tailor-made

When: Flexible departures throughout the year

How long: Eight days

How much: From £940 (exc. flights)

8. Cycle Colombia

Cocora Valley near Salento, Colombia (Shutterstock)

Having put its troubled past behind it, Colombia is emerging as one of the most exciting – and affordable – destinations in Latin America. On this cycling adventure with Intrepid, you’ll get to see the country up close and at a pace in tune with the Colombian lifestyle.

It’s a journey that will see you cycling through steamy jungle scenery, coffee plantations and colonial towns nestled in verdant hills.

You’ll have plenty of time out of the saddle, too, learning how to roast the perfect blend during a tour of a working coffee plantation, trying your hand at tejo (an explosive local pastime), and hiking through the Cocora Valley, home to hummingbirds and the world’s tallest palm trees.

Type: Small group

When: Jun to Sep & Nov to Feb

How long: Eight days

How much: From £1,350 (exc. flights)

9. Lemurs on a budget

A ring-tailed Lemur in Madagascar (Shutterstock)

Join World Expeditions on this action-and-value packed adventure through the national parks of Madagascar.

Separated from Africa millions of years ago, Madagascar has its own unique cargo of endemic plants and animals. Lemurs are probably the country’s most fabled creatures, but it’s range of spectacular chameleons are iconic, too.

You’ll take in the full diversity of Madagascar’s landscapes and animals explore a spectacular collection of the island’s national parks, including the Isalo, Andringitra and Ranomafana National Parks.

And after your daily wildlife adventures, you’ll sleep incomfortable hotels and tented accommodation, combining the best of local style and French colonial charm.

Type: Small group

When: Mar to Oct

How long: 11 days

How much: From £1,286 (exc. flights)

More budget-friendly tours:

12 unique sleeps in Latin America

1. Brazil

Floating lodges in Brazil’s jungle

Blend rainforest conservation with a stay on a floating lodge deep in Brazil’s jungle with Wildlife Worldwide’sDeep in the Amazon Forest tour. Fully solar-powered, to minimise environmental impact, the lodge is run by biodiversity-focused locals in order to protect the reserve. From there, cruise the Amazon to spot pink river dolphins and keep your eyes peeled inland for rare white uakari, black-headed squirrel monkeys and two-toed sloths.
Who:Wildlife Worldwide (01962 302086)
When: Year round
How long: 12 days
How much: From £3,595 (incl flights)

2. Argentina, Brazil & Uruguay

Having a snooze in a hammock

Get your hands dirty on a Uruguayan ranch as you track South America’s eastern coastline on Intrepid Travel’sBuenos Aires to Rio Unplugged tour. Lend a hand with the cooking, help out on the veggie patch, work with the livestock or simply relax. Sandwich your gaucho stay with visits to Buenos Aires, the Iguazu Falls and playful Rio de Janeiro.
Who:Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111)
When: Selected dates from Jun 2016-Apr 2017
How long: 17 days
How much: From £1,457 (excl flights)

3. Chile

Accommodation at Patagonia Camp

Fancy glamping in Patagonia, overlooking Lake Toro? Spend three nights of Sunvil’sChile Highlights trip at Patagonia Camp, a collection of yurts that mixes luxury with eco-friendliness and unrivalled views of Torres del Paine NP. Sandwich it with visits to coastal Viña del Mar and Valparaíso before scoping out the Atacama Desert’s otherworldly Moon Valley.
Who:Sunvil (020 8758 4774)
When: Year round
How long: 12 nights
How much: From £3,878 (incl flights)

4. Colombia

Bio Egg at the Bethel Bio Hotel

Dive into the desert on Amakuna’sLand and Sea in Colombia tour. Stay in fabric-woven Bio Eggs – a retractable roof reveals a star-filled sky – deep in Tatacoa Desert; sleep in a 16th-century Franciscan monastery, the only five-star stay in Popayán; and rest in Punta Bravo eco-lodge, a treehouse retreat fingertips from waterfalls and humpback whales.
Who:Amakuna (020 7193 7582)
When: Year-round
How long: 9 nights
How much: From £2,600 (incl flights)

5. Ecuador

Yaku Suite, Ecuador

Stay in a trio of sleeps on Journey Latin America’sHighlights of Ecuador tour. Mashpi Lodge combines eco-chic with floor-to-ceiling windows – perfect to spy on hummingbirds and orchids. Contrast that with a colonial mansion in Quito and the Galápagos’ only beach-front stay, surrounded by its iconic nature.
Who:Journey Latin America (020 8600 1881)
When: Year round
How long: 10 days
How much: From £2,889 (incl flights)

6. Brazil

Jaguar in Brazil

Have the best seats in the house on Wildfoot’sPantanal Jaguar Extreme Expedition. Breakfast near giant otters aboard the Southwild Jaguar Flotel on the Cuiaba and hide out in the Pixaim riverbank’s Southwild Pantanal Lodge – ideal for spotting caiman and jaguars.
Who:Wildfoot (0800 195 3385)
When: Selected dates from Jun-Oct 2016
How long: 7 nights
How much: From £3,200 (excl flights)

7. Bolivia

Uyuni Salt Flats

Sleep surrounded by the Uyuni Salt Flats – quite literally – on Highlives Travel’sBolivian Odyssey tour, with the Palacio de Sal hotel made entirely from the salt. Add to that a stay in a volcanic rock-carved hotel with views over the Siloli Desert and journey through colonial Sucre and La Paz.
Who:Highlives Travel (020 8835 7034)
When: Year round (individual) or 27 October 2016 (group tour)
How long: 13 days
How much: From £2,100 (excl flights)

8. Peru

Aqua Amazon Outdoor Lounge

Ditch the dug-out canoe and climb aboard a luxury ship on The Small Cruise Ship Collection’sAqua Amazon Expedition Cruise. With wooden tones camouflaged against the rainforest and panoramic windows, it’s an ideal scouting vessel to spot river dolphins and monkeys as you track three Amazon tributaries in style.
Who:The Small Cruise Ship Collection (01432 507280)
When: Selected dates from Jun-Dec 2016
How long: 8 days
How much: From £5,672 (excl flights)

9. Peru

Skylodge Adventure Suites

Test your head for heights on Aracari’sCulture & Adventure in Peru trip. Perch 300m above the Sacred Valley floor in transparent capsules, which can be reached by via ferrata. Stay at Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin’s home and finish at an island eco-lodge on Lake Titicaca.
Who:Aracari (+511 651 2424)
When: Year round
How long: 10 days
How much: From £3,140 (excl flights)

10. Peru

Mountain lodge in Peru (Simon Chubb)

Trekking to Machu Picchu doesn’t have to be a hardship – well, not the relaxing part after a long day, anyway. Nestled high in the Vilcabamba Massif, stay in remote but luxurious mountain lodges KE Adventure Travel’sLuxury Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu trip. Blending in with their immediate surroundings, whether forest or rock, they offer soothing hot tubs and masseuses, as well as fine dining as you cross the Salkantay and Llactapata passes.
Who:KE Adventure Travel (01768 773996)
When: Selected dates in Aug & Oct-Dec 2016
How long: 10 days
How much: From £3,595 (incl flights)

11. Chile

Gigantic wine barrel in Chile

Rickshaw Travel’sTake a Break Amongst the Vineyards tour is a must for wine lovers. Sleep inside a former gigantic wine barrel in the heart of Chile’s Maipo Valley, with views across the vineyards against the mighty backdrop of the snow-capped Andes. Saddle up with a cycle through the sloping orchards before sampling some of the famous vino for yourself – it’d be rude not to.
Who:Rickshaw Travel (01273 322399)
When: Year round
How long: 3 days
How much: From £328 (incl wine barrel stay; excl flights)

12. Chile & Argentina

Lake Pehoe in Torres del Paine National Park (Shutterstock)

Camp up right on the banks of Lake Pehoe on Tucan Travel’sSouthern Patagonia trip. Sleep on its shores just outside Chile’s Torres del Paine NP, an ideal place to watch the sun set over the jagged granite peaks and spot stars. Sandwich your camping stay by observing the calving Perito Moreno glacier and spot guanacos and condors in the beech forests of Tierra del Fuego NP.
Who:Tucan Travel (0800 8048435)
When: 15 Nov 2016; 3 Jan, 21 Feb & 14 Nov 2017; 2 Jan & 20 Feb 2018
How long: 13 days
How much: From £1,039 (+ $800 local payment; excl flights)

Main Image: Bamboo Lodge In National Park Yasuni, South America (Shutterstock)