Uruguay is little often visited by backpackers on their trips around South America and that’s a shame. Perhaps it’s because Uruguay is a little bit overlooked sitting in between the gigantic countries of Argentina and Brazil, or perhaps people fear there’s a hungry Suarez on the loose.
Although its South America’s smallest country, Uruguay has a lot to offer and it’s absolutely full of opportunities for those of us who want to get off the beaten path.
If you are short on time and want to get a feel for Uruguay in a few days then visit its capital, Montevideo, or the luxurious Punta del Este; both of which are along the country’s beautiful coastline. To really get under Uruguay’s skin you should connect with its people and learn how they live traditionally. To do this you need to head into the country side and live with a traditional Gaucho family in their estancia.
What is a Gaucho?
A Gaucho is the South American equivalent of the North American cowboy. In the 19th Century Gauchos made up the majority of the rural population. They tend to the land; herding cows, hunting and producing cheese and milk from their livestock. The Gaucho is the nationalistic symbol of Uruguay and Argentina.
Making It Happen
Where to stay
There are many options available and they all vary greatly in price and authenticity. You can stay in a luxurious ranch that’s more like your standard hotel with wifi, electricity and constant hot water if you like to have little luxuries whilst travelling. Or, if you really want to experience Gaucho living you can stay in a family’s home with no wifi, limited electricity and hot water heated by a fire on request.
We chose the latter and it was fantastic!
Our stay was at Estancia Yvytu Itaty with husband and wife Pedro and Nahir, our fantastic hosts, and their Grandson Bautista. Their ranch is about an hour away from the small town of Tacuarembó.
How to get there
Our journey was a little more complicated as we entered Uruguay from the Argentinan side of Iguacu Falls. This route involves a lot of bus travel (about 26 hours!) and isn’t for those who like speedy journeys. The last leg of the journey, around 17km, won’t see anything apart from fields and livestock!
From Iguazu by bus: Iguaçu to Concordia. Concordia to Salto. Salto to Paysandu. Paysandu to Tacurembó.
From Montevideo: Direct bus from the bus station to Tacurembó
From Tacurembó: There are no buses, so if you don’t have a car you’ll have to pay the transfer fee, 1300 pesos (£34) both ways and Pedro will pick you up
What to Expect
In short: a relaxing stay with fantastic food and a real insight into rural Uruguay.
Nahir does all the cooking for you, providing four meals a day. Pedro, her husband, tends to the fields and the numerous animals on the ranch. He taught us how to ride horses and took us through some of his extensive land. We trotted up hills and through streams taking in all the beautiful countryside around us.
We held armadillos and spotted skunks. Played with puppies and petted the ponies. The weather wasn’t kind to us and poured down for the entire duration of our second day at the ranch. This gave us the perfect opportunity to relax after two months of moving from place to place. We sat by the fire reading books and taking afternoon naps.
Nahir makes almost everything from scratch with what she can get hold of from her ranch. She makes the cheese from her cow’s milk and told us she’d make the bread too if she wasn’t so busy. She also makes an incredible hot chocolate; so creamy and comforting, it goes perfectly with her homemade cakes. One thing’s for sure – you won’t go hungry at Pedro and Nahir’s!
Cost & Other Things to Note
A stay at the ranch, including four meals, activities and accommodation costs 1800 Uruguyan pesos per person per day (around £45.50)
The transfer from Tacurembó to the ranch and back costs an extra 1300 pesos (£34).
We stayed in the ‘matrimonial room’ which has an ensuite (and the comfiest bed ever).
Book your stay by emailing Nahir at: