Argentina is one of the most popular destinations in South America right now, but many travelers completely overlook another nearby country when planning their trip.
Uruguay is a small country sharing borders with Argentina and Brazil. It is located across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires, just an hour and 15 minutes by ferry.
And yet this is one of the most overlooked countries in South America, receiving less than half the tourists annually than Argentina or Brazil.
But Uruguay is well worth a visit, as I recently learned on a trip to this underrated destination.
Here’s why you should consider adding Uruguay to your South American travel itinerary:
1. It’s Easy To Visit
One of the most obvious reasons to visit Uruguay? It’s easy! Many travelers don’t realize just how close Uruguay is to the popular tourist destination of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
There are two modern, high-speed ferry companies that run numerous crossings between Argentina and Uruguay every day: Buquebus and Colonia Express.
You can get from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay in just one hour and 15 minutes or to the capital Montevideo in two hours and 45 minutes.
If you’re already planning a trip to popular countries in South America like Argentina and Brazil, it’s easy to squeeze in a visit to Uruguay as well.
2. Colonial History
One of the best places to visit in Uruguay is Colonia del Sacramento. This charming, romantic town dates back to colonial times and is filled with picturesque squares and tree-lined cobblestone streets.
This colonial town is a destination you shouldn’t miss in Uruguay, but you can also find more colonial history and architecture in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, which is two and a half hours from Colonia del Sacramento by car or bus.
Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja is the oldest part of the city, with plenty of colonial history.
3. A Vibrant Capital City
Speaking of Ciudad Vieja, it’s one of the best parts of Montevideo to discover. You’ll find cobblestone streets, vintage shops, beautiful bookstores, and historic churches.
Other neighborhoods worth checking out in Montevide include lively Parque Rodó and Barrio Sur.
Montevideo is the perfect place to buy your own mate kit, including a cup, metal straw, and dried yerba plant. Mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a traditional hot beverage that is extremely popular in Uruguay, and you’ll see people strolling down the street drinking it when it’s chilly outside.
4. The Riviera Of South America
Aside from Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, Punta del Este is another one of the best destinations to visit in Uruguay.
Located about two hours east of Montevideo by car or bus, Punta del Este has earned the nickname “The Riviera of South America.”
This city located on the Atlantic Ocean is known as a ritzy beach destination for Uruguayans and other South American travelers. If you’re visiting Uruguay during their summer (December through March) then you shouldn’t miss this beachfront destination.
Punta del Este is also known for being the safest destination in Uruguay.
5. Safest Country In South America
While Punta del Este is the safest destination in Uruguay, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the country is dangerous. Far from it!
Uruguay is actually the safest country in all of South America and within the top 50 safest countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. It’s also the country with the lowest poverty rate in South America and the least corruption.
Additionally, Uruguay is proud of being the most progressive country in South America, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community, making it a safe and welcoming destination.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com