While eco-tourism as a concept is still not fully realised in Uruguay the nature of the country and its history make it a great candidate for developing this area of travel. The landscape is wonderful, flat, grassland, full of animals, plant life and opportunities for outdoor exploration. Their rail network is dilapidated and only one line still functions; it does however have an extensive coach and bus service. You can book journeys on luxury coaches or take your chances on cheap, cramped local buses.
Estancia tourism is one of the gradual growth areas of Uruguay and incorporates traditional historic ingredients from the countries halcyon days when it was a thriving cattle and leather producer. Many of the old colonial houses have been renovated into Estancia tourism hotels and visitors get the opportunity to experience the traditional Uruguayan ranches.
Uruguay is an amazing bird watchers paradise, home to many rare and colourful species and destinations like Rocha and Laguna de Castillos close to the seashore are well equipped for observing and photographing the local wild life. There are miles of unspoilt beaches at Punto Diablo, Cabo Polonio and Fortaleza de Santa Teresa, with the crashing waves and surfing on the Atlantic Ocean.
Over a century ago Uruguay's economy was built on cattle farming, beef production and pie manufacture, Fray Bentos pies originated in Uruguay, and there was also a vast business dedicated to leather goods. Belts, bags and military strapping were a popular export. With the change in technology, eating habits and new materials Uruguay was hit hard during the 1950's as many customers went elsewhere. This led to a great culture of recycling, new cars were difficult to import and so people kept their original vehicles running. Visitors are still able to see lots of vintage 1950's and 60's vehicles in mint condition and running like new.
Many of the inhabitants of Uruguay can trace their ancestry back to Portuguese and Spanish settlers and many Italian migrants during the 19th century. This has in turn influenced its cuisine with many typical Uruguayan dishes having a Mediterranean feel to them, while spicy German type sausages are also a popular meal.
There are a number of hostels and backpacking resorts for travellers to stay, the most famous being at Del la Barra on Punta del Este. Here you will find a subtropical peninsula and palm lined main streets overflowing with Spanish architecture.
Uruguay is a safe and settled land full of strange familiarity and Latin passion, it is one of the more stable locations in South America to visit but one that is not widely considered on the tourist trail. Uruguay promises to be a wonderful secret and friendly destination where you will find yourself exploring its wide-open spaces of the grasslands and endless beaches.
From the excitement and vitality of the capital Montevideo where you can discover the old city, the wild river and its crazy festivals. The cities of Fray Bentos, with its beautiful bathing, or the tranquillity of Carmelo, Uruguay is a stop worth discovering.
Main Photo Thanks toVince Alongi on Flickr