Welcome to Uruguay! If you’re about to jump on a plane to Montevideo, or crossing the Plata River on a ferry, you’re still in time to learn a thing or two about the country. Which languages are spoken there? What’s the capital city? Well, all that’s down here to help you prep your arrival. You’ll discover also a couple of things about the Uruguay landscapes, the weather, altitude and the country flag. And the coolest part: at the bottom, you’ll find all Green Mochila posts to plan your travel in Uruguay.
Jump directly to:
Why visit Uruguay
For us, the main reason to discover Uruguay was that it’s not as famous, and therefore less visited than its neighbours. It could well be your reason too.
Uruguay has no extreme landscapes; it offers hilly plains and sandy beaches to those who aren’t looking for wild adventure. Montevideo will satisfy the travellers in search of museums, nightlife, and a peaceful social life; it’s one of the most liveable cities in South America, and we can feel it straight away.
Let’s put it like that: Uruguay is like its climate – mild and enjoyable but with no extremes. Its a perfect getaway for those looking to escape a hectic routine and refresh their mind.
Weather & Climate in Uruguay
Uruguay has 4 seasons and the temperatures remain mild and temperate all year round. Remember that we’re in the Southern hemisphere, where seasons are opposite to the ones upstairs.
Summer runs in Uruguay from December to March. It doesn’t get unbearably warm, just enough for a dip in the ocean and some beaches get crowded. Only January can be a tad too hot, especially in the hinterland.
Winter in Uruguay is between June and September and never gets too cold either. A simple jumper should do, but bring a rain jacket too, por la duda.
Discover Uruguay landscapes
Uruguay is flanked to the east by the Atlantic ocean, to the south by River Plate (Río de la Plata) and to the west by the Uruguay river. It’s a small country open up to the world, made of fertile lands dedicated to agriculture, sheep and cattle.
It’s a landscape of gentle hills of low elevation, with many streams and artificial lakes. A land for slow-paced fairy-tales, without extreme landmarks but with a definite softness to it. There are a few sandy beaches along the ocean, some of them fairly secluded.
-> Highlights: Cabo Polonio & Tacuarembó the Gaucho land
Altitude in Uruguay
You’ll quickly discover that there is no altitude to speak of in Uruguay. The highest “peak” bears the dangerous name of Cerro Cordillera and culminates at 513.66 m (1,685.2 ft).
Name & capital of Uruguay
The country’s official name is more exotic than we would have thought: Oriental Republic of Uruguay. What’s that then?
In colonial times, when the whole continent was under the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, the land was divided into provinces. The territories north of Río de la Plata and east of the Uruguay River were known in Spanish as “banda oriental” (eastern bank); that comprised present-day Uruguay and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The “oriental” remained during the wars of independence, to imply the armies from Uruguay, led by general Artigas. (You will definitely hear about him again during your Uruguay trip.) It stuck to the country since then.
The name “Uruguay” was first given to the river. It’s loosely taken from an Indigenous Guaraní name probably involving a river bird or a river snail.
The capital of Uruguay is Montevideo; or in the books, the Very Loyal and Reconquering City of San Felipe y Santiago de Montevideo. Locals just write it MVD. It’s unclear where “video” comes from exactly, but for sure “monte” involves the hill on which the city is built.
Flag of Uruguay
The flag of Uruguay is made of nine horizontal stripes alternating white and deep blue. These stripes represent the nine original departments of Uruguay. In the top left corner stands a smiling sun with 16 rays.
Let’s be honest: it sort of reminds of the flag of Argentina, right? It’s mainly because of the Sun of May, representing the May Revolution of 1810, which eventually led to the liberation of both Uruguay and Argentina from the Spanish rule.
There are 2 other official flags in Uruguay, that are tightly linked to the wars of independence: the flag of Artigas (we told you!) and the flag of the Treinta y Tres (flag of the 33).
Languages in Uruguay
A peculiar brand of Spanish called “Rioplatense” is the official language throughout Uruguay, similar to the one in Buenos Aires. People in the north, about 15% of the population, speak a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish called Portuñol (or Portunhol).
So basically, Uruguayans speak bad Spanish and bad Portuguese. But don’t tell them we told you that!
Discover all our travel guides and stories about Uruguay!