Splendour in South America: 2×10 top attractions in Uruguay & Brazil
Kick start your New Year’s resolution in Uruguay or Brazil: these two countries in South America offer great places to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one. Pack your sun cream and bikinis, and enjoy South America’s rich tapestry of culture, nature, welcoming people and mouthwatering cuisine. We’ve selected some of the most special and extraordinary places you should visit in Uruguay and Brazil: take a look at these 20 tips and get inspiration for your getaway.
Uruguay is often overlooked by tourists travelling to South America because it is a small country, but it has plenty of attractions on offer to guarantee a vibrant holiday. The relaxed pace of life, fascinating nature with beautiful coastlines that are great for surfers and the stable economy makes it one of South America’s premier destinations that’s definitely worth highlighting.
This holiday destination is also perfect for those who love sunny weather: as the country is located in the Southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite those in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that you can actually spend Christmas in summer, getting a tan on the beach while sipping a cocktail… Sounds good as an alternative to a white, chilly or rainy Christmas, no?
1. Begin at the beginning: Montevideo
There’s no way to visit Uruguay without starting with the capital. The country’s commercial, cultural and political hub is a bustling cosmopolitan city with something for everyone. Art, culture, shops and great food: Montevideo has many sides and plenty of things for you to discover, with no tourist crowds. If you spend some time in Montevideo around the end of January then you’ll be so lucky to experience the Montevideo Carnival, a famous attraction during which Uruguay feasts at its best.
Ask many Uruguayans about their favourite beach and they’ll mention Piriápolis. Though it’s not a well-known tourist attraction, this small town boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches in the country, where locals like to spend their weekends. Tucked away in a peaceful cove, this place that reminds a bit of Nice’s coast is great for relaxing, sunbathing and swimming. To complete the idyll you might want to book one of these Uruguay Luxury Villas: offering all the comfort and luxury of your own home, these rentals will make your stay even better.
3. Sunny surfing: La Paloma
If you like water sports then you should definitely visit La Paloma: this coastal resort is rapidly growing and attracts more and more lovers of water sports, and in particular surfers, every year. You would like to try it but you don’t have much experience in surfing? Don’t worry, there are many surfing courses on offer in the area so you can learn all the tricks on-site. You like to spend time at the seaside but water sports are not exactly your cup of tea? Then you’ll still love this place: the transparent waters are also great for swimming and fishing, while the golden beach is a very inviting setting for some romance or a cosy family picnic.
4. Have a drink (or two): Uruguay wine routes
Uruguay’s mild climate and geographical position sets the ideal standard for wine production. The country has been producing grapes for treasured wines such as Merlot and Cavernet Sauvignon since a long time. It has also made great strides in improving the quality of its local wines, giving way to an increasing number of wineries. Many organizations offer interesting vineyard tours and tastings, such as The Wine Experience in Montevideo. An overview of Uruguay wine tours can be found here. If you prefer your tour to be organized for you, you can always contact Paradizo: our Concierge Team will be happy to help you out and plan your holiday in Uruguay.
5. Discover local art and history: Uruguay museums
Uruguay has an interesting array of museums for art and history. If you’re tired of beaches and parties and want to spend the day differently, then a museum is always a great idea. Montevideo boasts a range of interesting museums, such as El Museo Nactional de Artes Visuales that can give an insight into modern Uruguay art, and Biblioteca Museo Eusebio Giménez, where you’ll find great work from the famous local artist. Also The Museum Of The Industrial Revolution (El Anglo) in Fray Bentos is often named as one of the most interesting ones, certainly for those who are interested in Uruguay’s history.
6. Soak in hot springs: Salto
The department of Salto is the place to be if you’ve always wanted to experience natural thermal hot springs. Salto has several hot spring resorts with modern infrastructure, where you can bathe in the lukewarm water. One of the most popular resorts is The Termas del Arapey: this resort at about 80 kilometres from Salto city is a blissful sanctuary of wellness. Equipped with pools of different types and sizes for kids and adults, it’s ideal for a day trip with the whole family. Soothe your body and soul in the mineral-rich warm waters and enjoy: authentic spa experiences don’t get any better.
7. Soak up history: Colonia
If you need a break from the bigger places then soak up culture and history in Colonia (short for Colonia del Sacramento), the oldest town in Uruguay. The historic district of this charming seaside town is listed as World Heritage Site. Pay a visit to Iglesia Matriz, the oldest (but well-preserved) church in the country, note how colonial-Portuguese architecture blends harmoniously with colonial-Spanish buildings or rent a scooter to cruise through the small stone-paved streets.
8. Vibrant, chic, unique: Jose Ignacio
Jose Ignacio is without any doubt a rising star on the luxury travel scene. Chic all the way, this village on the southern coast of Uruguay has evolved from a simple fishing village into a stylish destination for luxury travellers in South America. Enjoy fabulous evenings on the beach next to the turquoise waters and discover the dozens of fashionable bars, buzzing restaurants for up-scale dining and luxury late-night parties. Jose Ignacio has another great advantage: this place has it all to become a real hit but as it’s still relatively unknown, it hasn’t lost its feel of a small seaside town yet. To make sure you can party until late at night with no worries you might consider one of these José Ignacio vacation rentals: the village boasts some amazing villa rentals where you can sleep tight.. or party into the night.
9. Don’t stop the party: Punta del Este
The most famous spot on the Uruguayan Riviera is a non-stop party scene. Especially in December this otherwise tranquil city comes alive for end of year celebrations, with plenty of night life and tons of good food and music. If you plan to spend New Year’s evening here then make sure to bring your camera: spectacular fireworks soar over the long beaches on the big evening. The view will even be better from your Punta del Este luxury rental or beach villa. Other must sees: the beach of Playa Mansa, rated one of the best beaches in the area, La Mano en la Arena – the famous artwork in the form of a giant hand sticking out of the sands of Playa Brava – and Casapueblo, the snow white architectural pearl created by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró.
10. The perfect midnight snack after a late party: chivito
Uruguay has a very varied cuisine with many influences of Italian (you’ll find many pasta dishes on the menu), Spanish, French and German cuisines. One of the national specialities is beef and it is used in many delicious dishes and snacks. Try a chivito, a Uruguayan steak sandwich loaded with lettuce, tomato, olives, cheese and often also bacon, eggs and ham: this tasty dish will tingle your taste buds.
Hot, hotter, hottest: Brazil is on top of many holiday lists. This fascinating destination is of course home to the over-photographed Cristo Redentor, dazzling beaches, spectacular rainforest and the world-famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival, but there’s more to this wonderful country. We asked some locals and insiders to complete our list of Brazil holiday ideas and they came back with first-hand travel tips that will not figure in just every tourist guide, including favourite places of the Brazilians themselves. So here they are: ten of the most fascinating, mysterious and talked about attractions in Brazil.
1. Get carried away by sweet sun and seducing beaches: Florianópolis, Santa Catarina
No top 10 of Brazil tourist attractions is complete without mentioning some of Brazil’s extraordinary beaches. If you wonder where the sun and beach loving Brazilians like to spend lazy weekends and holidays, you’ll certainly find many of them at Santa Catarina, a small but favoured state in South Brazil that attracts many tourists. Boasting a coast with more than 500 kilometres of sun kissed sand you’re certain to find a strip of beach to suit your taste. And what’s even better than spending a holiday at the beach? Right, renting a beach front villa for your stay! Paradizo has many Brazil beach villas, Brazil luxury rentals and apartments: it’s up to you to decide which kind of accommodation inspires you the most.
You can get started with Florianópolis, the state’s capital: apart from its reputation for being one of the cities with the highest life quality in Brazil this island is also blessed with some of the most jaw-dropping beaches you’ve ever seen. Praia Mole (Mole Beach) is a very popular one, but also the somewhat deserted Lagoinha do Leste beach seems to come straight out of a dream. From Florianópolis there are also several starting points and ways (by boat or rubber dinghy) to get to another dreamlike place: Ilha de Campeche or Campeche Island, which boasts no less than 10 archaeological sites, unique natural heritage and the most transparent water you’ll ever see.
2. …and more beaches: Ponta do Mel, Costa Branca
Another quintessential beach for tourists and locals alike is Ponta do Mel in Área Branca, Costa Branca. This one is not quite like any other beach you know; the idyllic coastline has a mix of desert-like dunes, high cliffs, caves, salt mines and oases. The result is a peculiar, very pretty landscape that looks different from every angle and in which lively, scenic colours add to the dramatic atmosphere. The Ponta do Mel beaches are very calm, so this is also a great place for hiking or spending a romantic day on the Brazil coast.
3. Discover unique underwater life: Fernando de Noronha, Pernambuco
This archipelago consists of one main island and 20 smaller islands, composed of volcanic rock and surrounded by splendid turquoise waters with prolific marine life, offering a one-of-a-kind setting for divers and free divers. The gentle waves are perfect for surfers too. While it was used as a state prison and penal colony in the 19th and 20th centuries it has nowadays been restored back to its natural roots, namely a delightful slice of paradise for lovers of water sports and nature. Here you’ll be surrounded by only turtles, extraordinary fish species, wild dolphins and (friendly) reef sharks. Fernando de Noronha is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is adored by many Brazilians. We can guarantee that it will be difficult to leave this place behind.
4. Head into the “desert”: Lençóis Maranhenses, Maranhão
On your quest to discover Brazilian treasures, you shouldn’t miss the national park of Lençóis Maranhenses. The wide, surrealistic landscapes of numerous lagoons with blue and green water over a background of white sand dunes of up to 40 meters in height make for a stunning visual spectacle that seems almost like a mirage, and anyone who’s lucky enough to visit it will certainly remember this “almost-desert” as one of the most beautiful natural phenomena they’ve ever seen. If you’re into adventure you could also take a look at our Brazil Luxury Tours: you’re sure to find a surfing tour, wildlife adventure or luxury guided tour that will add even more magic to your stay.
5. Party like the Brazilians: Olinda Carnival, Pernambuco
You’ll probably think that Rio’s and Salvador’s carnivals are the best because they are the most famous ones but nothing is less true: Brazil carnivals differ by state and city and there are less oppressive carnivals that are great alternatives. The Carnival of Olinda in north-east Brazil is a very popular one among Brazilians. Not as touristy as Rio’s this carnival hasn’t lost its authenticity yet and is less expensive, but it has all the party for those who want to experience Brazil’s most famous celebration. The Olinda carnival officially starts on February 12, but the city gets ready for the big party from January 6 onwards.
6. Soak up old charm: Jericoacoara, Ceará
Jericoacoara is a tranquil village in the northern part of Ceará. This old fishing village that still has old-fashioned sand streets is both simple and picturesque, calm and captivating. Officially declared an Environmental Protection Area, Jericoacoara is perfect to experience another side of Brazil and soak up its colourful, tranquil atmosphere. Jericoacoara (or short: Jeri) is also considered by many as a great spot for windsurfing and kite surfing so make sure to bring your surfboard. And not less interesting: its beach has been voted the world’s best beach by the New York Post.
7. Admire architecture, urbanism and city life: Brasília
Brazil’s capital city was literally constructed to replace Rio de Janeiro as the country’s capital and to establish a modern, comfortable city where people would gladly live and which they could take pride in. The ambitious project that started in the 1950’s has resulted in a brand new, futuristic city that can easily be considered to be one of the most fascinating architectural projects you’ve seen. Ambitious buildings and constructions, mainly built by the architect Oscar Niemeyer, pop up throughout the city, such as the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida and Palacio do Planalto, the seat of the Brazilian Government, which has a beautiful lighted pool at night.
8. Thirsty? Get a drink!
Caipirinha and cachaça are some of the most famous Brazilians drinks and what’s better than trying the original, real version in Brazil? These drinks are a national pride and you’ll find them wherever you go. Sweet and tasty, they’re sure to refresh your spirits after a hot day of sunbathing, swimming and sightseeing. No better way to get ready for another hot Brazil party!
9. Put on your dancing shoes: Morro de São Paulo
This village on the island of Tinharé has undergone quite a facelift in the last few decades: what used to be a tranquil, rather isolated village has nowadays become a very popular party resort. It boasts four separate beaches, all with an individual character but with one thing in common: the party never ends here. Have a drink and a snack in one of the many bars, mingle with the locals and enjoy some of the best beach parties you’ll ever experience: nobody knows better how to party than the Brazilians!
10. Oh, also….you’ll be back.
Brazil’s geography, culture and cuisine is so varied that it’s impossible to discover it all in once: apart from white-sand dream beaches, coastlines for water sports and sun worshippers, fascinating islands, old-charm villages and party scenes, Brazil is also home to the Amazon rainforest, the tropical Pantanal wetland system, the Sertão region with its unique fauna and flora and numerous other must-sees, not to mention the delicious food that tastes differently in every region. One thing is for sure: Brazil is a destination that you will adore and remember for a very long time, and once you’ve had a taste of it you’ll probably want to come back.
Start planning your trip now: Paradizo‘s travel experts can help you find the best vacation rentals, tours and services in Uruguay and Brazil to make sure your holiday will be the best you’ve ever had.
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