Paraguay and Uruguay, two exciting South American nations are often overshadowed by their sprawling northern and southern neighbours. Both offer a host of sightseeing opportunities in vibrant and eclectic cities and quaint UNESCO listed colonial towns. Below we've listed our favourites - four of the best places to visit on any holiday to Paraguay and Uruguay.
Paraguay’s capital is a sophisticated city with a beautiful sprinkling of original colonial buildings and shady plazas. Ritzy shopping malls, smart nightclubs and endless suburbs highlight Asuncion’s more modern demeanour alongside international cuisine and a huge duty free zone. The city has several venues for live music and theatre with the major season running from March to October whilst impressive museums display everything from international art to pre-Columbian crafts. The Panteon de los Heroes, protected by military guards in typical frozen fashion, houses the remains of key figures in Paraguay’s catastrophic wars and the changing of the guard takes place every other day. Further out of the city’s centre is the peaceful Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden) though for a capital city, visitors will not find its centre too overwhelming – part of Asuncion’s charm is in its laidback attitude and when businesses close on a Sunday, you may just have parts of the city all to yourself.
Stretching nearly 20km from east to west, Uruguay’s capital is a city of many faces. Art Deco 1930s architecture jostles for space alongside towering skyscrapers in the historic downtown business district, while across town the shopping malls and modern high-rises of Montevideo’s beach communities bear more resemblance to Miami or Copacabana. Add to this a thriving industrial port area and the headquarters of South America’s leading trading bloc and you have yourself a city of international flavour. It’s a vibrant and eclectic city with an active urban culture - old buildings in the heart of the historic centre are being restored to house cafes, galleries and hostels whilst elegant older theatres, cosy little tango bars and modern beachfront discos continue to see Montevideo’s music, theatre, art and club scenes flourish. Colourful outdoor markets, interesting museums and brilliant steak and seafood restaurants add to its status as one of South America’s most fascinating capitals.
With winding cobbled streets, an intriguing past and an enviable position overlooking the Rio de la Plata, Uruguay’s Colonia de Sacramento is deservedly a major tourist attraction. Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, the city was later taken by the Spanish and used as part of a smuggling route. Unsurprisingly, the city has a rich colonial heritage and the atmospheric barrio historico, or old city, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth exploring. Many old churches and colonial houses dot the city with a number of interesting museums housed in delightful period buildings. The restored 19th century faro (lighthouse) off the southwest corner of the main plaza offers excellent views of the old town, perfectly explored on foot whilst the city’s many bars, clubs and restaurants will keep you busy both day and night.
Set on the left bank of the Uruguay River some 300km north of Montevideo lies the beautiful city of Salto, the second largest city in the country. At the heart of the produce industry Salto is surrounded by citrus farms, and the bustling city centre has plenty of well-kept parks and plazas – ideal for lounging in the sunshine – and a waterfront and busy seaport. But what attracts travellers every year are the therapeutic mineral rich waters of the Dayman Hot Spring Resort, just 6km south of the city. With an average water temperature of 39 °C, hydro jets, saunas, and an ozone pool the resort offers a great way to unwind and relax. Another attraction is Acuamania Water Park, and with pools, slides and a thermal spa it is the perfect location for a day out with the entire family.