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Driving Along Uruguay’s Coast

This South American country is small, beautiful and wedged in between Argentina and Brazil, and its coastline makes for an ideal road-trip vacation. Here are a few must-stop spots, all within a couple hours’ drive of each other.

Stretch of beach with skyscrapers in background

Hop on the Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires and you’ll arrive in Colonia del Sacramento in about an hour. Wander the easy-breezy Historic Quarter of Colonia—now a UNESCO World Heritage site—by foot or rent a scooter or golf cart for the day. Its cobblestoned streets and Spanish feel are worth taking the day to explore. It’s also the perfect starting point to pick up a rental and begin your road trip.

Roll down the windows and head east to Montevideo—Uruguay’s bustling capital and largest city. You can explore the eclectic streets lined with a mix of neoclassical and art deco architecture; find old theatres, museums, markets and cozy cafés. Catch a tango show—the candombe is a traditional Uruguayan dance—order asado, a feast of grilled meats, and then head to the beachfront clubs to dance the night away.

Next stop is upscale Punta del Este. Consider it the Hamptons of South America. On a peninsula lined with sandy beaches, this tourist magnet is brimming with boutiques and high-end hotels. Plan to stop here, even if you’re not willing to splurge on a room (though there are hostels and mid-range hotels), to visit the busy beaches, people-watch and enjoy some incredible seafood.

For a change of scenery, drive to Jose Ignacio, a small artsy beach town. You’ll find colourful seafood shacks and art stores, friendly restaurants and a cool bohemian vibe, not to mention more incredible beaches.

Set out next for Cabo Polonio, a breathtaking national park that’s not accessible by car. You’ll have to park your vehicle in the lot off of the highway where 4x4s pick up visitors and drive them through forest, past sand dunes and to the coastline. There you can see one of the largest sea lion colonies on the continent and ride horses along the shore.

When you’re back on the road, continue east to Punta del Diablo, a small beach town popular with surfers and backpackers, where you can end your adventure by swapping road-trip tales with fellow travellers around a bonfire beside the ocean.