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Uruguay: a beginner's guide

Known in Argentina simply as the provincia – Uruguay has the history of an oft-bullied little brother.

In the struggle against colonial rule, from 1811 onwards, it had to rely on Buenos Aires for military support; in 1816, to complicate matters, it was invaded by Brazil. Independence was declared on August 25 1825.

Top five attractions

The Unesco-listed Colonia de Sacramento, founded by Portuguese settlers in 1680
The north coast and beaches around Cabo Polonio
Carmelo and its beautiful hotel on the River Plate
Glitzy Punta del Este (the "Marbella of South America")
The agricultural interior – in particular, Fray Bentos and the El Anglo meat extract plant

Best city

Montevideo is laid-back, largely tourist-free, and culturally fascinating, having a claim to be the cradle of tango (just don't tell the Argentineans) and a powerful African musical culture in the candombe street-drumming scene.

Souvenir to buy

A mate and bombilla – this small gourd and metal straw for sipping the popular yerba mate green tea is a must-have accessory for would-be gauchos.

Quirky Uruguay

The first World Cup was staged in 1930 by Montevideo: 10 countries took part and Uruguay won, beating Argentina 4-2 in the final.


The Purple Land, a novel by William Henry Hudson, first published in 1885 under the title The Purple Land that England Lost. Set in 19th-century Uruguay, it's the story of a young Englishman who marries a teenage Argentinean girl without asking her father's permission – then everything goes wrong.


By Chris Moss, writer for the Telegraph

Last updated: 6 Jun 2017

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