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Signature Uruguay: Land of vintage charm

14 days from £3,905pp

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Signature Uruguay: Land of vintage charm:
Trip Dossier

Amiable little Uruguay, wedged between its giant neighbours Brazil and Argentina, is a fine place to unwind in both rural and coastal settings, enjoy good food and wine and the freedom to self-drive between some very inviting places to stay. Seasoned visitors to South America particularly appreciate the relaxing and authentic experiences Uruguay can offer.

On this diverse holiday we give you a few days in Argentina’s grand capital, Buenos Aires, one of Latin America’s highlights in itself, before taking you on the short sailing over the River Plate to Uruguay.  This is a Latin country which has a history of social strife but is now politically stable and the people particularly cultured and friendly. Never cutting edge contemporary neither is it pretentious: style and pace of life have a vintage appeal; mid-20th century cars line the streets, fashions are homely and parts of Montevideo are an art-deco time warp; but there’s an increasingly imaginative range of upmarket places to stay. It’s easy to get around and there is a surprisingly wide range of things to do.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the Palermo district.

Day 2

City tour with a visit to Teatro Colón.

Day 3

At leisure in Buenos Aires; night time guided culinary tour.

Day 4

By hydrofoil to Colonia, Uruguay.

Day 5

Walking tour of historic Colonia.

Day 6

By road to Montevideo; guided tour of the capital.

Day 7

A wine-tasting excursion by classic car.

Day 8

Drive to a working estancia.

Days 9-10

Activities at the countryside ranch.

Day 11

By road to Punta del Este on the coast.

Days 12-13

At leisure on the beach.

Day 14

Transfer to Montevideo airport for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the Palermo district.
 
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your boutique hotel in the Palermo district by one of our local representatives. This upmarket neighbourhood is full of Spanish colonial houses interspersed with modern apartments  and boutiques, clubs and classy restaurants.

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills. The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest.

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Buenos Aires

Day 2

City tour with a visit to Teatro Colón.
 
Your guided city tour takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón (guided tour included) which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best.

On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on 3 sides by the metropolitan cathedral, the town hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses.  You also visit the district of Recoleta, where Eva Peron is biried in the famous cemetery.

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buenos aires

Day 3

At leisure in Buenos Aires; night time guided culinary tour.
 

The daylight hours leave you at leisure to explore Buenos Aires further: you might stroll around one or two of the lovely parks, such as the delightful Japanese Gardens, and maybe have an al fresco snack or lunch in trendy Puerto Madero, the sensitively restored Buenos Aires’ docklands, which has promenades festooned with industrial architecture, bars and cafés and a pretty little marina crammed with sailing boats.

In the evening you embark on a culinary-themed private guided walking tour. Shunning smart restaurants and tourist spots, you'll dine out local-style, tasting authentic Argentine dishes in a variety of settings and experience the excitement of an authentic tango or peña venue. The evening usually takes place in the smart neighbourhood of Palermo, not far from your hotel.

After dinner, visit a milonga - a traditional tango hall - or a peña, also popular among locals but specialising in traditional music from the Andean north-west of Argentina.

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Tango

Day 4

By hydrofoil to Colonia, Uruguay.
 
Take the hydrofoil ferry across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay.  Travel along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, to this peaceful little port, and its UNESCO-protected historic centre where you can wander among cobbled streets lined with colonial houses, or have a meal or drink in the yacht club overlooking the sparkling water, where little boats gaily bob around. You might climb the lighthouse for a view over the town and estuary beyond.
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Colonia

Day 5

Walking tour of historic Colonia.
 

You'll be taken on a guided exploration on foot of the quaint, historic town and port of Colonia, which was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. 

Founded in the 17th century by the Portuguese, the fortressed town was prinicipally a centre for contraband activities for many years. It's a peaceful place now, retaining its distinctive Portuguese colonial style and with a villagey feel. Its evocative colonial grid of peaceful lanes is a photographer's delight and you can view the whole place from the top of the lighthouse.

On the tour, you'll reach Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) which is home to the charming El Buen Suspiro, a taberna built by the Portuguese in 1720. Here you'll stop for a typical Uruguayan snack of wine, bread and cheeses.

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uruguay food

Day 6

By road to Montevideo; guided tour of the capital.
 
By road to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, a journey of under three hours. In the lively waterfront city modern skyscrapers jostle with art deco façades and grand, monumental colonial buildings.

Born of the competing interests of colonial powers, the city, on the shores of a fine natural harbour on the River Plate, grew to be a prosperous port devoted to overseas trade. It attracted immigrants from all of Europe, resulting in an eclectic cultural mix which survives to this day.

You’ll have a guided walking tour in the afternoon, passing through the colonial centre, viewing some of the historic public building and monuments.

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Montevideo

Day 7

A wine-tasting excursion by classic car.
 

The aptly-named Bouza Winery lies just 15km from downtown Montevideo but its bucolic surroundings ensure that it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Vintage and classic cars are still spotted on the roads of this sleepy little country, and you'll be driven in a classic car that has maintained all of its original features and offers authentic nostalgic charm - possibly a 1927 Chrysler sedan, 1929 Chevrolet convertible or a 1930s Ford A sedan deluxe.

Your visit begins with a tour around the vineyard to learn about the process of wine production and moves on to the impressive collection of antique cars and train carriages. You'll also visit the wine cellar where you can savour the various varieties of wines that are putting Uruguay on the map, from Albariño to Tannat-Merlot.
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Bouza winery

Day 8

Drive to a working estancia.
 

Travel by road into the countryside to reach Estancia el Charabon (4hrs), tucked away in the countryside of Uruguay’s eastern limits.

This peaceful family-owned hideaway is 20 mins' drive inland from the coast and surrounded by the hills of Rocha. The peacock-dotted estate is blanketed with open fields, meadows, forest and streams.  Hereford cattle and Hampshire Down sheep are bred here.

The atmosphere at El Charabon is welcoming, sociable and informal. It’s especially popular with guests who enjoy horse riding but there is something here for everyone.

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Estancia Charabon

Days 9-10

Activities at the countryside ranch.
 
At leisure on the estancia. It is a great place just to relax, go riding with one of the gauchos, on countryside walks and also a base from which to explore some of Uruguay's wilder stretches of coast.

We recommend an optional excursion to Cabo Polonio, 20km away. Its village and lighthouse have a real end-of-the-earth feel, on a hauntingly windswept peninsula with glistening beaches on either side. The village’s sea lion colony outnumbers the 100 inhabitants, there are no roads and access is only by authorised 4x4 vehicles, on foot or on horseback. It is one of Uruguay’s best birding spots.

There are other trips which can be arranged out to visit forts, islands and beaches.

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Estancia Charabon

Day 11

By road to Punta del Este on the coast.
 
Drive to Punta del Este, a glamorous and sophisticated beach resort on a lovely stretch of Atlantic coast, particularly popular amongst Argentines. It dominates a narrow peninsular with a calm bay side, the rougher Atlantic waters on the other, and forests of pine and eucalyptus further up inland. Other than its excellent bathing, 'Punta' has a top class yacht marina, and offers premier fishing.

You'll be staying at L'Auberge, one of the regions top classic hotels and one of the few with a bit of nostalgic character.
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Punta del Este

Days 12-13

At leisure on the beach.
 
The upmarket resort Punta del Este is packed with classy hotels, holiday residences, casinos, boutiques, chic bars and restaurants. You have a couple of days at leisure to enjoy your attractive hotel and its grounds, explore the beaches and maybe indulge in some water sports.
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Punta del Este

Day 14

Transfer to Montevideo airport for international flight home.

Essential information

Insurance and documents

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.


Transport

1 ferry journey (1hr); 4 road journeys.

Accommodation

We invite you to stay at a variety of accommodation styles, from urban boutique to countryside ranch and traditional resort hotel. They all have beautiful settings and very good facilities. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, dinner days 3, 8; full board days 9, 10.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Buenos Aires: City tour.
• Buenos Aires: Night-time guided dining excursion and milonga visit.
• Colonia: Guided walking tour including cheese and wine tasting.
• Montevideo: Guided tour of the historic centre.
• Montevideo: Winery tour by classic car.
• Countryside ranch: Activities on and from the estancia.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Buenos Aires 3; Colonia 2; Montevideo 2; rural estancia 3; Punta del Este 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso; in Uruguay it is the Uruguayan peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

In some places US dollars may be accepted as currency.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able reasonably fit visitors, including families. If you are travelling alone or have a disability or other special requirement, please do call us. 

Climate

Buenos Aires and the pampa plains have similar weather conditions – they are hottest January-March (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). They can be cold and cloudy July-August, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn. 

Uruguay is an all-year destination, but best enjoyed in summer (November-February). Temperatures range from 10-16°C in the southern hemisphere winter, while in the high summer they can leap into the 30s°. Wet and windy conditions outside high summer are not unheard of, so we suggest avoiding May to October if you want to go to the beach. Rainfall is moderate and varies little over the year, apart from July-August when there are prolonged wet periods.

Clothing and special equipment

The southern hemisphere summer will be hot, therefore bring loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort at this time. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. Spring and autumn are milder and less predictable.

South America is in general a relaxed continent and you won’t need clothes for formal dining but you may wish to take some smart casual wear for dining at the estancias or at top of the range restaurants.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.  

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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