You just know a destination is a winner when the great and the good of the neighbouring countries flock there in their droves. Even more impressive when those two neighbours are places as spectacular in their own right as Brazil and Argentina. So, whisper it quietly, little Uruguay is the holiday destination to watch in Latin America, and after a recent research trip we're suitably smitten. If we had to pinpoint one thing that's sets Uruguay apart, it's probably those beaches and the achingly hip towns that line the shore
Many people might think of Uruguay as a 'deeper cut' - somewhere to go once you've well and truly caught the Latin American bug in the big guns like Brazil, Argentina or Peru. Well, there's a certain logic to that, but Uruguay has more than enough attractions for the Latin American first timer as well, with the added advantage that these attractions are in relatively easy reach of each other - particularly when compared to the distances involved in either of the country's vast neighbours.
Some scene-setting statistics - Uruguay has just 3.5 million inhabitants in a space about the same size as Britain, meaning it's a whole heap less crowded than the place we call home, and those wide open spaces just happen to be extremely attractive, too, made up of endless pristine beaches, beautiful rolling hill country and vast plains of cattle grazing pastures. Add a healthy dose of fascinating colonial history, a burgeoning wine industry and boutique hotels to rival any in the continent and this is a cracking addition to our Latin American portfolio.
It gets better - this is the sort of country that active types will adore, be their chosen mode of transport a horse, a mountain bike, a surfboard or a kite surfer. Riders can enjoy the full gaucho experience and even try their hand at that most glamorous of sports, polo; the many wineries can be explored by (increasingly unstable, presumably) mountain bike and the coastline has beaches and breaks to suit all standards of surfers, kited or otherwise.
Uruguay also offers, trekking and cooking courses and the chance to spend time with some of Latin Americas most charming and laid back people.
The trendiest of the beach towns, Punta del Este, Jose Ignacio and Cabo Polonia, play host to an impossibly beautiful crowd in the summer months, so work on that tan and toning regime before you arrive and then prepare to party hard. They also attract a serious crowd of jetset party animals come Christmas and New Year. Fortunately, the hoteliers we work with can open all the right social doors so you can join in the fun.
If you can drag yourself away from all this hedonism, a combination holiday with Argentina works a treat as the best way to arrive in Uruguay is flying into Buenos Aires and hopping across the River Plate.