How a vacation in Uruguay can soothe your soul

German guidebook writer shares tips for a perfect vacation in Uruguay and misconceptions Europeans have about this little known destination.
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on May 24, 2024

A vacation in Uruguay may not be the most popular choice, especially for a German, but to Lars Borchert, author of Uruguay: A Travel Guide for Personal Discovery, Uruguay may be the perfect destination to soothe your soul, reconnect with yourself and relax.

When journalists and guidebook writers come to Uruguay, many set up a meeting with Guru’Guay. After all, Karen A Higgs is the only author writing for an international audience about Uruguay in English based full-time in Montevideo. She has her finger on the pulse. And she wants Uruguay to have the best reputation worldwide possible, and is happy to share her knowledge. German journalist Lars Borchert’s guidebook whose title translates as Uruguay: A Travel Guide for Personal Discovery first came out ten years ago. This year he travelled to Uruguay to update the fourth edition which will be out later this year.

Guru’Guay: How many Germans come to Uruguay?

Lars Borchert: Last year it was almost 25,700 after falling to 16,300 in 2022. Before the Coronavirus pandemic the numbers were always between 21,000 and 22,000 each year. So Uruguay is growing in popularity but is still very much a niche destination.

What strikes you most about Uruguay as a destination?

Its beauty, the coastline as well as the interior. The good food, I am a total meatatarian and love to eat meat from animals that spent their lives outside. The weather, as a German I am often very sun deprived. The music, I have been a fan of tango ever since I analysed the lyrics of a few songs in my studies. At a certain point I even sang Tango songs myself at a milonga in Germany. But I also love Candombe. The sound of the tambores is just the kind of rhythm that I like to dance to.

I am addicted to the deceleration I feel in Uruguay, travelling Uruguay comforts my soul. Or on a simpler note—being able to breathe more freely. Then, I love the infinite horizons that I see, when I travel the country. And one of the really still hidden gems is the Uruguayan wine. Tannat or also Tannat in a blend with Viognier or a different white grape—that’s a total party to my palate.

Share five favourite places or things to do in Uruguay

That’s as easy as it is tough to answer. But let’s see:

  1. Horseback riding with a gaucho anywhere in the country—preferably Valle del Lunarejo o Quebrada de los Cuervos.
  2. Strolling through Colonia, stopping for coffee and cake here and there. Even though I’ve been there countless times, I never get tired of spending time there. And lately I have a new favourite bar in Colonia: La Locanda.
  3. Enjoying the beach and nightlife in Punta del Diablo. Even though it’s not as quiet anymore, I still love the vibe of the place altogether.
  4. Connecting with what I consider to be the soul of the country: A glass, or even better a bottle, of Uruguayan wine anywhere in Uruguay—watching people dance to tango music.
  5. And my absolute favourite: Hanging out at the beach of La Península Dorada in San Gregorio de Polanco, smoking weed or having cold beer. If I am really lucky, someone plays the guitar.

What is the biggest mistake people can make when coming to Uruguay?

Many people think they can save on money. But it’s rather the opposite. Prices in Uruguay are generally higher than in Europe. Even though the average income is a third of what people earn in Germany. Plus, you don’t do the country justice if you approach it with European standards. Especially people who want to move to Uruguay should keep that in mind.

How did you come to write about Uruguay for a German-speaking audience?

In the 1990s, when I was still a student, I worked for a few months in Buenos Aires at a radio station. After a while, the big city started to wear me out. So I asked my friends where I could find nice beaches to lay low. They all recommended I hop on a ferry to Colonia. That’s how I started to get to know Uruguay.

Then in 2013, the publisher of the Reise Know-how travel guides asked me if I was interested in writing the book on Uruguay. I said yes and started to travel the country again. The first edition sold very fast, and a fellow journalist said we should do a film on Uruguay. In the end it was two: Uruguay – Gauchos, tango and grandezza and Uruguay – Little land by the big Río de la Plata.

What are the mistakes YOU need to avoid when working on your guidebook?

The biggest challenge is not to get lost in my fascination on one hand, and to be overly critical on the other.

Next comes to show the most important things just like the hidden gems and, at the same time, leave space for individual discoveries, as it also says in the subtitle of my book.

Plus, I find it important but also difficult to convey that even though many things may remind us of Europe, it’s a Latin American country. That also counts for the quality of certain products and prices. You might find a very nice place by the beach for around 150 US-dollars per night that calls itself a boutique hotel. But by European standards it isn’t a boutique hotel, and it’s twice the price you might pay in Spain, Germany or Italy.

How did you run across Guru’Guay?

When I was updating my book for the second edition, I stayed at your beautiful guesthouse in the Old City to include it in my travel guide [Editor’s note: The guesthouse closed in 2020 so that the author could dedicate herself 100% to Guru’Guay]. That’s where I saw your book first in the dining room.

Then I went online and found your website. I immediately liked both. They are both fun to read, and your website also to watch. I guess, due to the videos you produce and post there. And you dedicate a lot of space to descriptions. You even put photos of the venues you write about. The same counts for events and let’s call it socio-cultural information.

Due to the fixed page count and the publisher’s concept, I am much more restricted. Venues are only described briefly, no photos—that also counts for events and other information. But therefore I provide information on almost 30 cities and towns, plus maps of the entire country, and many general tips on technical aspects like insurances, pharmacies, logistics or financial issues.

Thanks to all the information you give, your work is a very helpful point of reference for me. When I started to write my travel guide, I found literally nothing—not in German, or Spanish or English. Apart from my own research while travelling, I had to gather the hard facts by writing to the Uruguayan embassy in Berlin and different ministries or tourism organisations in Montevideo. Now there is Guru’Guay—and I can compare and see if I’ve missed out on anything. You’ve become my sparring partner in crime.

And other reason why I like your online publication: It is always up to date. This goes clearly beyond what a paperback can deliver. But that’s why I update my book regularly.

When will your book be out and how can people get hold of it?

Uruguay: Reiseführer für individuelles Entdecken will be out in late 2024 and can be preordered with the publisher (support independent press!)

If you’d like a guidebook in English, remember you can get the Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay and the Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo.

Photos: Lars Borchert




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