With daily averages of 60° F (15° C) during the day and rarely going below zero at night in the city, Uruguay’s climate in winter* sounds wonderfully mild, right?
So why am I f-f-f-freezing?
My friend Lisa from Calgary in Canada (think MINUS 40° C in winter) came to stay in August. She later confessed that she had never felt as cold as she did during that winter in Montevideo.
Over a decade living here tells me that this is down to visitors from the Northern Hemisphere looking at the temperatures for June to August (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) and not preparing for coastal Uruguay’s bone-penetrating humidity (read damp).
They see 15° C and think.. sandals!
Saying that, winter in Uruguay is exhilarating. There are periodic Indian summers. Sun-traps are easy to find. The days may feel very cold but they are usually gorgeously sunny.
Even during the coldest months of July and August, the average sunlight hours are typically 6-7 hours a day. It’s rare to have rain for more than a few days in a row.
Why does it feel so cold? Jules Verne was reporting on the wicked Pampero wind back in 1868.
It’s a polar front from the South Atlantic which affects Argentina, Uruguay and Southern Brazil in the South’s winter months. In Uruguay we mostly feel its effects on the temperature more than the wind itself.
It feels so damp because of our proximity to the vast River Plate and the Atlantic Ocean. Houses and offices can be really, really cold. This is because except for the newest buildings, most houses were designed for warm weather (think Southern Spain). They are do not have decent heating systems and are poorly insulated. Gas and electricity are also expensive so most Uruguayans economise on heating.
What to wear in winter in Uruguay
These are my essential tips to dressing to enjoy winter in Uruguay. Do take them to heart and avoid the sniffles.
Layers, layer, layers – the sun comes out, you boil, the sun goes in, you are suddenly freezing again. Choose several layers instead of one thick one. If you wear one thick one, when the sun comes out you boil. And then you will end up taking that off and you catch a cold.
Warm footwear, especially boots, and gloves. You will not regret this.
Hats and wind-breakers – combat that wicked Pampero should it blow.
Essential tip when renting in Uruguay in winter
If you are staying in a rental, check the heating options carefully.
Think twice about renting where the heating is by old-fashioned gas or electric heaters. The air will remain damp. You’ll find yourself paying a fortune for utilities and the end of your nose will still be cold!
Heating with an airconditioning unit (split AC) is a good choice – they dehumidify, sucking up that awful damp, and when powerful enough can heat up a space in just a few minutes. Our cousin chose an AC unit for his rental loft that heats the entire 800 foot square open-plan loft in just a few minutes. Fabulous.
And don’t forget to buy yourself a pure Uruguayan wool blanket from Manos del Uruguay. Just for good measure.
*The winter in the Southern Hemisphere is June, July and August.