Montevideo is a South American city with a relaxed vibe. It has a nice seafront promenade which stretches all around the city, well kept plazas and parks, and several small beaches to spend a sunny day on. The Museo Andes 1972 is a highlight and is a boutique museum that shouldn’t be missed.
This article is based on my visit to Montevideo in the month of March. All of the photography and videography in this article is my own – no stock photos, no posing, no filters!
What to Do in Montevideo
Visit the Museo Andes 1972
This boutique museum tells the story of a flight, with most passengers being players for a Uruguayan rugby club team, who had to survive without food or water for months after their plane crashed high up in the snow-covered Andes between Chile and Argentina.
The story is well known, was a huge international news story at the time and even had a movie made about it titled ‘Alive’. The museum was a highlight of Montevideo just because of the sheer amount of information and detail which told a sad but amazing story of disaster, resilience and motivation. Even personal letters from survivors, and the dead, are displayed which make for emotional reading and an experience rarely captivated in any museum.
The museum contains lots of original items from the event and has a huge amount of narratives for each of the 72 days of this event. All information is displayed in both Spanish and English, and the Founder and Director of the museum, Jörg Thomsen, is really friendly and helpful. He gave me a quick tour through the museum in English which was great. The location of the Museo Andes 1972 is shown in the map below.
Later that year, I was climbing a mountain of 6,088 meters in the Bolivian Andes, further north but in the same mountain range as the crash. It was really tough and when I was feeling a bit sluggish and had thoughts of not being able to make it to the top, I thought of the Andes plane crash story and this very quickly put things in perspective.
I had food, water, cold weather clothes, equipment, sun protection, a guide, the excursion was only 3 days and I had certainty about getting back down… the survivors of the plane crash had none of these things, suffered extreme trauma and hardship, and 16 of them survived 72 days!
So although my climb was tough, it was nothing compared to what other people have experienced. This was yet another reminder that if something feels hard, just remember that someone has probably been through much worse, and anything is possible, both good and bad.
Walk Around the City Centre & Seafront
Uruguay is probably the most progressive country in South America. It has legalised same-sex marriage, marijuana and it even has ‘open prisons’ where inmates can feel as if they are part of a village rather than in a jail cell.
Montevideo is a city that feels smaller than it probably is. At least when I was there, at the end of March, it was really quiet and felt quite laid back. Uruguay is probably the safest country in South America and I never felt unsafe at any point. The city centre isn’t that big so it’s easy to walk around. As it’s situated on a small peninsula, the sea is visible from 3 sides and there’s a lot of seafront, with the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 22km long, to walk along where people are fishing and relaxing.
As you can see, the people here are so laid back that they drive backwards! Just kidding, I think that they were shooting a scene for a movie. Anyway, from walking around Uruguay’s capital, it was clear that this was a really chilled out place and was a bit different from most other places in South America.
It is still South America though and some parts have that rugged feel and colour that you can see all around the continent. There’s a good mix of well preserved European architecture and more modern street art covered surfaces.
Go to Playa Ramírez
The city has a little beach and although I didn’t go in for a swim myself, it looked really nice and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Visit the City's Parks
There’s a really nice park, Parque José Enrique Rodó, just across the road from the beach. It has a few little lakes if you want to rent a pedalo. There are also football pitches along the seafront if you want to join in, although you should be up to standard because the Uruguayans are pretty good and have an incredible football record for such a small country. The city centre is full of nice plazas that almost feel Parisian. So this city is a nice place to be.
How to Get to Montevideo
Where is Montevideo?
Montevideo is located in the Montevideo Department (state), Uruguay. It is the capital city only 213km across the River Plate (Río de la Plata) estuary from the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires.
Getting Between Montevideo and Buenos Aires (Argentina), Colonia del Sacramento, Punta del Este
I travelled by bus to Montevideo from Colonia del Sacramento to the east which took only 2.5 hours. Punta del Este is only 2 hours away to the west and Punta del Diablo is a bit further from Montevideo and takes about 4 hours. Buses in Uruguay for these distances should cost about 375 UYU (€9 / $10).
Coming from Argentina, I took a ferry to Colonia del Sacramento. You can book tickets online or at the ferry terminal. There are also ferry routes directly from Buenos Aires to Montevideo although it is generally cheaper to get a ferry to Colonia del Sacramento and then get a bus from there to Montevideo. I did look for a bus for the way back from Montevideo to Argentina but to my surprise I couldn’t find anything.
Other than by car, ferry seemed to be the most popular mode of transport between the two countries although I found that by South American standards, at 3,682 UYU (€90 / $99) it was incredibly expensive, especially for a journey of only 3 hours. However, I think that it was a bank holiday weekend at the time, so prices may have just doubled just for this weekend.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Montevideo
I stayed at Club & Bar Hostel which was is in a lovely European style building. It’s about 40 minutes walk from the city centre but it’s in a nice area with a local feel. As a capital city, there are lots of options and I wouldn’t be worried about finding accommodation in Montevideo.
Seasons: When to Visit Montevideo
There Summer months of November to February are high season for tourism in Uruguay. When I visited Uruguay in late March, Montevideo felt like a ghost town but Punta del Este was packed, probably because it was a bank holiday weekend and everyone in Buenos Aires and Montevideo had flocked to the beach resorts for the weekend. So it depends what you’re looking for.
If you prefer peace and quiet over busy noise, go to Montevideo in the Summer months of November to February when everyone is away, although I don’t think that Montevideo is an incredibly crazy place even when it is at its most active. If you just want to relax and chill on the beach, April may be the best time for you to visit Uruguay.