1 Week in Uruguay Itinerary: Take This Awesome Coastal Road Trip in 2024

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Planning a quick visit to Uruguay? This one week in Uruguay itinerary has you covered. Come discover one of South America’s most underrated destinations!

A tiny country of just 3.5 million people, Uruguay is often overlooked by travellers. But if you’re not adding an Uruguay itinerary to your South American adventure, you’re missing out.

Squeezed between Argentina and Brazil, its 660-kilometre-long Uruguay coast stretches alongside the Atlantic Ocean. It’s considered safe and has quite the progressive government.

It has all the energy and passion of Buenos Aires – just packed into a country far smaller than Argentina. It’s also an easy country to travel, and the best way to visit Uruguay is on a week-long coastal road trip.

Read on for the highlights of an Uruguay road trip that will take you from historical sites to heaving party cities to relaxed beach towns – all within a week.

This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

Uruguay road trip itinerary

You’ll need at least one week in Uruguay to experience the highlights of the country and get the most out of this coastal road trip. How many days in Uruguay comes down to how much time you have – but a week is the minimum, I think.

Of course, more time to travel Uruguay means more time chilling out on the beaches and exploring the small towns and big cities, so you can extend the itinerary I’m outlining in this article.

If you do only have one week, a suggested Uruguay travel itinerary is:

  • Days 1 & 2: Depart Buenos Aires, explore Colonia del Sacramento, overnight in Carmelo and then enjoy the Carmelo wineries
  • Day 3: Drive to Montevideo and explore the city
  • Days 4 & 5: Drive to Punta del Este, relax on the beaches
  • Days 6 & 7: Drive to Punta del Diablo and chill out
  • Day 8: Return to Colonia del Sacramento to get the ferry back to Buenos Aires

The Uruguay map below shows the route for this road trip.

How to get to Uruguay

This article assumes that you’re in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and looking to visit Uruguay from there.

If that’s the case, then the easiest way to get to Uruguay is by ferry from Buenos Aires. The daily ferries travel to Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo and Punta del Este. It’s a short, comfortable trip and the ferries have food and drinks on board. The main ferry companies are Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express. Check each out to compare prices and schedules.

Some airlines do fly internationally into Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, but most flights to Uruguay connect through Buenos Aires or São Paulo. Search for and compare flights to Uruguay.

Alternatively, you can cross into Uruguay by land from Argentina and Brazil at one of the many border crossings.

How to hire a car in Uruguay

The best way to do this Uruguay itinerary is to take a road trip. All the major car companies have offices in Montevideo or are a short walk from the ferry terminal in Colonia del Sacramento. Having your own car means you can see all the best places to visit in Uruguay at your own pace.


Most cars for rent will be manual (stick), but you can search around for an automatic.

Keep in mind that when driving in Uruguay, you need to drive with your headlights on at all times. Uruguayans drive on the right-hand side and of course seatbelts are mandatory at all times.

If you don’t want to drive, you can still follow this Uruguay itinerary on public transport. Bus travel in Uruguay is easy, with regular services between the major towns and cities.

When to visit Uruguay

The best time to visit Uruguay is between October and March, when the weather is warmer. However, summer brings throngs of tourists from Argentina, who mostly head directly to Punta del Este. The beaches are usually quieter between October and December (although of course that means the water is likely still chilly!).

We visited Uruguay over Christmas and the temperature was perfect – although we did have a couple of days of light rain.

Now that we’ve got a few of the logistics to plan your trip to Uruguay out of the way, let’s get stuck into the road trip itinerary!

Stop 1: Colonia del Sacramento

Only 50 kilometres from Buenos Aires by ferry, Colonia del Sacramento is a popular day trip destination from Argentina. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the historical district is a lovely place to explore for an afternoon. On a clear day, you can see Buenos Aires’ skyline across the Río de la Plata.

Pick up your rental car here in Colonia. You’ll only need a small car as there’s no off-roading on this itinerary.

Things to do in Colonia del Sacramento

  • Wander the Barrio Histórico’s cobblestoned streets and you’ll come across beautiful homes and colourful trees. You can see the gate and walls that were built in 1745, all still well preserved.
  • Listen hard in Calle de los Suspiros, “the street of sighs” and learn about the many legends about how this street got its name.
  • Climb El Faro, the lighthouse, for views over the city.
A cobblestone street flanked by lush trees and vibrant bougainvillea flowers in shades of purple and red. A woman walks by a white wall covered in greenery. These are the pretty cobblestoned streets of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.
Colonia del Sacramento is a quick ferry ride across river from Buenos Aires, making it one of the easiest and prettiest places to visit in Uruguay
A white lighthouse stands atop a rugged cliff. People gather around the balcony at the top, overlooking the area. This is El Faro, the lighthouse, in Colonia del Sacramento, which should be your first stop on a coastal Uruguay road trip.
The lighthouse in Colonia del Sacramento

Where to stay in Colonia del Sacramento

I recommend spending a few hours in Colonia del Sacramento and then starting your road trip, but if you do want to stay the night, there are plenty of hotels in Colonia del Sacramento.

Stop 2: Carmelo

While not as well-known for wine as its neighbour, Uruguay is fast becoming a hub for wine lovers looking for less-visited vineyards. Carmelo is the perfect place to taste the heady Tannat varietal that the country produces. It’s a rustic, tranquil town with plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied.

After Colonia del Sacramento, take a little detour to Carmelo and spend a night or two here. Not many tourists have Carmelo on their list of places to visit in Uruguay, but they’re missing out!

Things to do in Carmelo

  • Sample wine at a few of the local wineries. Almacen de la Capilla, Bodega Irurtia and El Legado all offer tours and tastings.
  • Have lunch in the country-style home at Finca Narbona.
  • Catch the sunset on the beach. Of course, this is a river, but the gentle waves will trick you into thinking you’re by the ocean.
  • Get outdoors and go horseback riding through the countryside, or go fishing along the Río de la Plata.
A rustic building surrounded by dense greenery and a vineyard in the foreground, basking in the golden light of sunset. This is Carmelo Resort in the wine town of Carmelo, Uruguay. It's a great stop on an Uruguay itinerary if you like wine.
We stayed at the incredible Carmelo Resort & Spa – totally worth the splurge
Inside a cozy bar with open green shutters, a bartender stands behind the counter while patrons sit at stools and a table. This is Almacen de la Capilla in Carmelo, Uruguay.
Tasting wine in Carmelo
An old green truck with 'Narbona' written on the side is parked beside a vine-covered fence with trees in the background.
We had lunch at Narbona, a gorgeous little restaurant which has kept many relics as lovely decorations

Where to stay in Carmelo

  • We stayed at Carmelo Resort & Spa. The bungalows are huge, with enormous glass windows that overlook the vineyards outside. The spa is incredible, and the whole resort is tranquil. It’s the perfect place for an Uruguay vacation for couples. Check prices and book online at Booking.com or Expedia
  • Located at the winery, the Narbona Wine Lodge, is rustic and spacious. There are sitting rooms with fireplaces and staff can arrange picnics by the river. Even if you don’t stay here, make sure to book a meal here! Check availability and book online at Booking.com or Expedia

Stop 3: Montevideo

Lying almost directly across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires in Argentina, Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, is a fun city to visit. It’s like a smaller version of Buenos Aires, with the same passion and culture.

Things to do in Montevideo

  • Explore the Ciudad Vieja (old town), especially the bustling Mercado del Puerto (Pérez Castellano), the city’s old port market building. On weekends there’s a street market and a lively atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurants and the tell-tale smell of an asado (barbecue) underway.
  • Take a tour of Montevideo with a guide who can share the history and culture of the city.
  • Make sure you have a glass (or two) of medio y medio, a mix of sparkling and red or white wines – Uruguay’s version of Prosecco (it’s delicious!).
  • Try yerba mate, a drink you’ll see everyone in Uruguay (and Argentina and Paraguay) sipping. This drink isn’t for everyone, but it’s a huge part of the cultural fabric of the country.
  • On Sundays, head to Feria de Tristán Narvaja (Tristán Narvaja and Colonia, and the streets around), a huge flea market.
  • Plaza Independencia commemorates José Artigas, Uruguay’s national hero, with a huge statue and an underground mausoleum that holds Artigas’ remains.
  • Wander along La Rambla, a fun spot on a Sunday when locals pack this coastal promenade.
  • Museo de los Andes (Rincón 619), a sombre museum about the 1972 Andean plane crash in which 29 Uruguayans died. If you’ve seen the movie Alive you’ll be familiar with this tragic story.
  • Museo del Gaucho (Avenida 18 de Julio 998) is a museum that celebrates all things gaucho (cowboys). (Updated: The museum is currently closed for renovations)
  • Learn how to make delicious alfajores – cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche.
  • Have a night out on the town with this tango show and dinner.
A bustling indoor market with various stalls and eateries. People are dining and walking under the market's high arched ceiling. This is the Mercado Puerto in MOntevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo is a must-visit on your one week in Uruguay itinerary.
Mercado del Puerto
A statue of a historical figure on horseback in front of a tall, ornate building with palm trees and modern buildings around it. This is Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Plaza Independencia
A wide promenade beside a calm blue sea, with a cityscape and clear sky in the background. This lovely spot is La Rambla, one of the best things to do in Montevideo, Uruguay.
La Rambla

Where to stay in Montevideo

Stop 4: Punta del Este

Known as the “St Tropez of Latin America”, Punta del Este is where the Argentine elite go to see and be seen.

During summer, the beaches of “Punta” swarm with tourists and prices go up accordingly. It’s got a great party scene and lots of high-end dining choices.

You can’t visit Uruguay without stopping here. Although, if your idea of fun is more about quieter beaches than parties, then you can skip Punta del Este.

Things to do in Punta del Este

  • Hit the beach. Punta has kilometres and kilometres of beautiful sand. Playa Brava and Playa Mansa are the two main beaches in Punta del Este, but you can check out other smaller beaches like La Barra de Maldonado.
  • Pose in front of La Mano en la Arena (“the hand in the sand”), a sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal. It stands as a warning swimmers of the dangers of the ocean.
  • Marvel at Casapueblo, a gleaming white building that looks like it belongs in Santorini. Designed by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, it’s located on the side of a cliff in Punta Ballena. It’s one of the coolest things to see in Uruguay.
  • Take a day trip to José Ignacio, a stylish beach town. Have lunch at Parador La Huella where all the beautiful people hang out. The restaurant is right on the beach and serves a lot of fresh seafood.
  • Visit the world’s second-largest southern sea lion colony on Isla de Lobos, about 10 kilometres offshore.
  • This full-day tour of Punta del Este covers the highlights of the city, including La Mano en La Arena and Casapueblo.
A sandy beach with a sculpture of five oversized fingers partially buried, reaching up to the sky, under a cloudy backdrop. This is La Mano en La Arena sculpture in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
The Hand in the Sand sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal stands as a warning of the rough waters
A unique white building with a cascade of irregular windows and terraces perched on a rocky hill, overlooking a beachfront. This building can be found in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
The incredible Casapueblo is a must-see when in Punta del Este
A large, old bell with the inscription "FARO Pta. JOSE IGNACIO USLHS 1926 LSIII" stands before a seascape with rocky outcrops. It's found in Jose Ignacio, a small town in Uruguay.
Jose Ignacio Lighthouse

Where to stay in Punta del Este

  • Minimalist and modern in design, The Grand Hotel is right on Brava Beach. Some rooms have ocean views. Check availability and book online with Booking.com or Expedia
  • We loved the nautical-themed rooms at Hotel Atlantico. This cute, boutique hotel has a wonderful pool and outdoor area perfect for sunbaking. Check availability and book online with Booking.com or Expedia

Stop 5: Punta del Diablo

Only 45 minutes from the Brazilian border, this former fishing village is now one of Uruguay’s hottest destinations. It’s not big and flashy like Punta del Este and that’s what draws people here.

Strolling along the streets in the late afternoon, sipping a beer over a plate of fresh seafood and listening to the waves crash on the beach are what makes this a heavenly coastal escape.

Things to do in Punta del Diablo

  • Hang out on the beach – you’re here to relax.
  • Take a day trip to Cabo Polonio and really get off the grid. This small town can only be reached by huge trucks that cut across the sand dunes. There are no paved roads and little electricity. If you have more than one week in Uruguay, consider adding a day or two on to your itinerary and stay here. (If you’re not doing a road trip in Uruguay, then consider this day trip to Cabo Polonio from Punta del Este.)
  • Go hiking in Santa Teresa National Park. It’s free to enter, and pathways lead through the forest and to Uruguay beaches on the coastal side of the park.
Fishing boats on a sandy shore with a backdrop of a coastal town and clear skies with wispy clouds at dusk. This is Punta del Diablo, on the coast of Uruguay, a great stop on your Uruguay itinerary.
Punta del Diablo
Twilight view of a beach with houses in the background, under a sky with shades of pink, orange, and blue. This sunset was captured in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay.
An incredible sunset over Punta del Diablo
A coastal landscape with sparse vegetation, a lighthouse in the distance, and overcast skies above. Cabo Polonio is an interesting stop to add to your itinerary if you have 1 week in Uruguay.
Rustic Cabo Polonio

Where to stay in Punta del Diablo

  • Located right on the beach, at Remanso del Diablo you can sit in your in-room private hot tub while watching the waves crash onto the beach. We stayed here on our trip and loved its casual vibe. Check availability and book online with Booking.com
  • El Diablo y El Mar is a small posada with only a few rooms, set just a few hundred metres from the beach. Check availability and book online with Booking.com or Expedia

Return to Buenos Aires

To end your Uruguay road trip, make the 6.5-hour journey back to Colonia del Sacramento inland (via Ruta 13 and then Ruta 8).

Or, arrange to drop your rental car in Montevideo (there’s usually an additional fee to do so).

From either city you can catch a return ferry back to Buenos Aires.

I hope you have a great Uruguay road trip! Enjoy the country’s beautiful coastline.

A view from a boat showing a distant city skyline across the water, under a sky with scattered clouds. This is the view of Buenos Aires from the ferry.
View of Buenos Aires from the ferry

Uruguay itinerary: FAQs

Is Uruguay worth visiting?

Uruguay is an incredible destination worth visiting for a variety of reasons. I love Uruguay because it feels more “off-the-beaten-path” than its South American neighbours. You’ll see fewer foreigners here – apart from a lot of Argentines. There are lovely beaches, beautiful wine and lots of fresh food. It’s got a very relaxed vibe, even in the cities.

Is Uruguay expensive to visit?

Uruguay is generally considered to be an affordable destination to visit, although it is slightly more expensive than some other countries in South America, like Peru and Bolivia. Prices for food, accommodation and transportation are generally quite reasonable.

How many days do I need for Uruguay?

You can take a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires. However, I think a week in Uruguay is the minimum time you should plan for. This allows you to travel the coastline and see beaches, cities and wineries. If you don’t have that much time, then 3 days in Uruguay would allow you to see Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, or spend three days at the beach towns.

Did you find this article helpful? Consider buying me a coffee as a way to say thanks!

Do you now want to visit Uruguay? If you need any help planning your Uruguay itinerary, leave me a question in the comments below.

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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

12 thoughts on “1 Week in Uruguay Itinerary: Take This Awesome Coastal Road Trip in 2024”

  1. I am planning to rent a camper van and do your suggested itinerary for Uruguay. Cannot find a rental company for camper vans in Uruguay.
    Im thinking of renting a camper van in Bunos Aeres and cross over by ferry to Uruguay. Do you know if this is feasible or has been done before?
    Many thanks for responding

    • Hi Ramy, great idea! I’ve just done a quick search myself and also couldn’t find any campervan rental companies in Uruguay… so it may not be a thing. You might be able to rent one in Argentina BUT there are often issues crossing the border with just cars, so you’d need to talk to the campervan rental companies to see if that’s possible to cross the border into Uruguay. Good luck!

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    I am flying into Uruguay mid December and will be there for 3 weeks, starting and ending in Montevideo.
    Would love your thoughts on how to expand the itinerary?
    Trying to figure out the best place to be for Christmas and new year. I am not a big beach goer, but love the idea of wineries, hiking. Was thinking of spending g my first weekend in Montevideo, then going up to Punta del Diablo and spend Christmas there then make my way back down. Will spend at most one night in Punta del Este….and I was thinking to spend new year in Montevideo then first week of Jan doing Carmelo and Colonia del Sacramento then back to Montevideo for my flight on 5th Jan.
    But as I have 3 weeks, with both Christmas and new year wondered what suggestions you would make?
    Also I keep searching but are there things to do / still open the first week of January?
    Thanks for the help!

    • Hi Wendy! The trip sounds great – what a way to spend a few weeks 🙂 To expand on the itinerary, you could go inland – would you be willing to rent a car? I haven’t done this, but I hear great things about staying at an estancia inland, or checking out the hot springs around Salto. T

  3. Hi Rebecca! We live in Porto Alegre so we will be flying into Montevideo for a week next October. Any recommendations on shifting the itinerary to both start and end there? Thanks!

    Also, is it worth it to go up to Fray Bentos?

    • Hi Dan! You could start in Montevideo then head to Colonia and Carmelo, up to Fray Bentos – I haven’t been but I have heard cool things about it! – then drive to Punta del Este from Fray Bentos, which would bypass Montevideo a bit… not sure what there is to see on that road though. Then head to Punta del Diablo, but this does mean you’ll have to come back to Montevideo via the same route passing Punta del Este – depends on how you feel about backtracking! Alternatively, you could just focus on either east or west of Montevideo to avoid backtracking? I’d play around with putting those cities in Google Maps and then see what makes most sense from a driving perspective. Hope you enjoy your time in Uruguay!

  4. Wow! A very interesting article really.
    Ending the pandemic, I plan to travel to Punta del Este, I would like to know what you think of the places mentioned in this article and if you recommend visiting them.
    Many thanks

  5. I’m dying to do this road trip and go all the way to Cabo Polonio, I’m sad we don’t have time this year because we got a new car and what better way to estrenarlo!? Saving this post for hopefully next year!!

  6. My best friend is originally from Uruguay and I’ve heard so many great things about this country. Would love to visit Montevideo and Punta del Diablo. Old cities, great beaches, colorful markets and great seafood are right up my alley! Great guide and love the pictures!

    • I could spend a whole week in Punta del Diablo! And your best friend would be able to give you tonnes of tips and contacts! I hope you get there soon 🙂


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