We’re in the southern hemisphere so winter in Uruguay goes from June to August. Kinda weird when you’re not used to it. Winter is a great time to visit Uruguay especially if you love peace and quiet. There are very few tourists around. It’ll be you and the Uruguayans basically.
Go gaucho – horseriding by day and toasting in front of a blazing fire by night
Winter is a great time to visit a Uruguayan ranch or estancia. Somewhere like San Pedro de Timote where you can spend the day riding and in the evening lounge on overstuffed leather sofas in front of a huge fireplace. You can get your creative juices flowing in the mysterious old library and revel in the lit fireplace in your bedrooms at night. It’s a magical retreat. And remember, the countryside or interior as it is called here is usually several degrees warmer than at the coast during the day.
Enjoy deserted beaches and cut-price accommodation
A few years ago we managed to rent a beach-side mansion for just 25 dollars a night in July. I suspect the house agent just pocketed the money and didn’t tell the owner! But still, you can get some really amazing deals, especially for longer stays at the beach. Though we’re not talking about swimming weather it will often be perfect for relaxing and taking long deserted beach walks. I took the photo below and the one at the top of the post at Punta del Diablo in August, a beach that is overrun by thousands in January. Beware that a lot of eateries close down at the beach during winter. The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Estancias and Wine Country goes indepth into which towns have more staying open off season as well as essential advice on renting beach-houses (hint, there are some really crumby ones out there).
Watch whales and dolphins
Southern right whales visit the coast of Uruguay to breed in the warmer waters at the start of winter. It is an incredible privilege to be able to sit on the beach and just watch whales and dolphins only metres away. Uruguay is an official whale and dolphin sanctuary and you’ll want to check out which places are the best for spotting these gentle beasties. Check out my video narration of whale-watching in Punta del Diablo in August. And this is what we saw.
Dance around the bonfires of San Juan
You may have seen the San Juan bonfires in Spain to celebrate the longest day of the year. Uruguay also celebrates the same festival and adds candombe drumming. Bonfires are built in various plazas in different towns in Uruguay to celebrate the SHORTEST day of the year. In Montevideo, head to Plaza Varela. The residents of La Pedrera on the coast have also started celebrating the tradition as an antidote to the massification of carnival. Wineries all over Uruguay also celebrate San Juan.
Check out vibrant music and culture in Montevideo
Montevideo, a city of 1.5 million people, has more musicians than most of its size. If you are into music then this is the best time of year to visit with great live music on every day of the week. Check out comments by a Texan journalist who has some great observations about Montevideo’s live music scene.
Discover the serenity of a winter wine tour
What better way to deal with winter than nursing a fine wine. July might see an influx of Brazilians at the wineries. Brazilians LOVE to come to Uruguay and use the leather boots they bought on their last trip to Uruguay and have not used since. But the rest of the time you’ll have the wineries pretty much to you and your guide. Uruguay has some of the friendliest wineDamian runs great wine tours in Colonia and Carmelo. Or arrange your own visit to a winery just outside of the capital like Artesana.
Brave the Storm of Santa Rosa
Every year five days before or five days after August 30, Uruguayans brace for La Tormenta de Santa Rosa – an annual storm! It’s a weird weather phenomenon caused by the first warm winds of the southern spring clashing with cold fronts from the Antarctic. You have to see footage from recent Santa Rosas.
Warm up on guiso
Guisos (say GEE-so) or stews are the stars of the Uruguayan country kitchen. The flavours depend on the region, ingredients in season and grandma’s recipe. In the countryside, make sure you try an ensopado (vegetables, beef and noodles in broth) or guiso de arroz, a rice stew of lamb and vegetables. In Montevideo, hearty lentil stew is on most menus at midday. Ask for guiso de lentejas.
Enjoy those sunny winter days but wrap up warm
Even during the coldest months, Uruguay has six to seven hours of sunlight on average per day and there are frequent Indian summers. It’s rare to have rain for more than a few days in a row. But do check out the Guru’s tips for dressing for winter in Uruguay because of the humidity. And bookmark this herbal cold and cough remedy from Uruguay – just in case.
- The best time to visit Uruguay The Guru has put together a handy chart for you to plot your interests and be able to decide to when to come
- Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country from Amazon has 180 pages of info on beaches, ranches and wine country, doh!
- Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo from Amazon has a 140 pages on the capital’s gourmet, music, cultural, art, etc etc etc scenes,
- Those same guidebooks for your tablet, phone or kindle from the Guru’Guay Store (thanks for supporting us!)
- If you are in Uruguay you can get them from these stockists
Photos: Guru’Guay, Jimmy Baikovicius, Claudia Rivero, Laura, Ana Amorín, Tawil Al Umr