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 Haras Las Tordillas where you can spend the day riding and in the evening lounge on overstuffed leather sofas in front of a huge fireplace. 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.

Bonfire by Laura

Enjoy deserted beaches and cut-price accommodation

Years ago we rented an ocean-front mansion for just 25 dollars a night in July. I suspect the house agent pocketed the cash 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 swimming weather, it will often be perfect for relaxing and taking long deserted beach walks.  I took the photo below at Punta del Diablo in August, 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 stay more open off season as well as essential advice on renting beach-houses (hint, there are some really crumby ones out there).

Watch whales and dolphin

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 on the intersection of boulevard Artigas and Avenida Brasil. 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. [Covid – given these activities are outdoor it’s very possible that these activities will be happening this year]

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. [Covid update – live shows have been permitted for a significant portion of the pandemic with audience numbers limited.]

Live Music in Montevideo - Trelew by Claudia Rivero

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Discover the warmth of a Uruguay winter wine tasting

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 yourself.  Arrange a visit to a winery just outside of the capital like Artesana or a fine wine tasting with a premium expert like Manuel Filgueira at his dining table–and marvel at the warmth and informality of the Uruguay wine world.

Carmelo - wines of Uruguay, Almacen de la Capilla

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 –or Storm of 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 of the damage from  Santa Rosas past.

Storm of Santa Rosa -Jimmy Baikovicius

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.

More reading

Photos: Guru’Guay, Jimmy Baikovicius, Claudia Rivero, Laura, Tawil Al Umr

[First published on Jun 21, 2018 and last updated at the date above]

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