Uruguay, the diminutive nation mostly bordered by Argentina, is sometimes overlooked by visitors to South America. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in location, easy access, and a wealth of culture, art, food and drink, including its iconic wine, Tannat. Here are twelve things you probably didn’t know about Uruguay.
1. Uruguay is just the size of Oklahoma, the second smallest country in South America, after Suriname.
2. More than half of the country’s 3.5 million people live in Montevideo.
3. It’s just across the La Plata river from Buenos Aires. If you take the ferry from the Buenos Aires pier you’ll be in Colonia (one of the country’s most picturesque towns) in just an hour.
4. Uruguay is mostly flat, with the highest point in the country, Cerro Catedral measuring only 514 meters above sea level.
5. Mate is more or less the national drink of Uruguay with up to 85% of Uruguayans partaking in this bitter, herbal beverage. Consumption of mate easily eclipses soda consumption per capita.
6. They have a national sandwich, called a chivito, and it’s got beef, mozzarella, bacon, eggs, olives, tomatoes and mayonnaise, and is usually served with a side of fries.
7. The city of Punta del Este is considered the South American Riviera, where the local glitterati spend their summer weekends.
8. Jorge Drexler, who won an Emmy for his sound track for Motorcycle Diaries is one of Uruguay’s most well-known singers on the international stage.
9. Uruguay takes the separation of church and state very seriously, and recently renamed Christmas “Family Day,” though individual families of course still celebrate Christmas.
10. Uruguay’s public education system is among the continent’s finest, and the country has a 96% literacy rate.
11. Uruguay cultivates more than 20,000 acres of wine, and is the fourth largest wine producer in South America, including production of its signature Tannat wine.
12. The sprawling fleamarket at Tristan Narvaja in Montevideo has been running since 1909. Visit on a Sunday for a real locals-only experience.