After our final overnight bus from Iguazu (yay!) we rolled into Concordia, Argentina, on a sunny morning and took a short bus through customs and across the Rio Uruguay to the small city of Salto. We bussed another 8 km out of the city to a hamlet called Termas del Dayman, named after their much renowned “hot springs,” which ended up being more of a low-key water park with warm pools than the beautiful natural springs we were expecting, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
We were looking for a pleasant little town to spend a few days in before Montevideo and this was one of only three that was even listed in our guide book (I guess Uruguay is not the hottest of traveler destinations). Termas is about the size of two football fields, though even that may be generous, but it was lovely and serene and a nice low-key stop for a couple of days. Even our ho(s)tel was picturesque and had a lovely terrace. And we were able to have another asado (BBQ) for dinner!
We spent a half-day wandering around the city of Salto but a half day was more than enough to cover it. Would you ever choose this as your vacation destination? No. Was it a pleasant place to pass through and unwind? Certainly.
We bussed on to the capital city of Montevideo. We had heard it was reputed as a more laid-back version of Buenos Aires, so we had high hopes. While there were certainly nice parts of the city, we found it overall to be a bit rundown. The highlights we had read about, such as the central market, old square and popular streets for bars and restaurants were overpriced and underwhelming. I will confess here that our three dinners on the three nights we stayed were as follows: McDonalds, steamed hot dogs and scrambled eggs with avocado. I’m not particularly proud of this.
We did make the most of it, and spent a day down on the beach. The water was brown and we both got severely sunburnt, but, it was still a beach day in December, so life is good. We explored the old town and found a charming old café to relax in and Jasper was pleased to find a heavy metal bar in the evening (where we were the only patrons).
The highlight was the tango/music show that we went to on the last night at Baar Fun Fun. It was a small, divey old bar and the stage was small but there was some fun local music and great tango dancing. This I would definitely recommend to anyone going to Montevideo.
On Christmas eve, we bussed on to the small colonial town, aptly named Colonia del Sacramento (or just ‘Colonia’ by those in the know). This was the highlight of Uruguay for me and one of the most beautiful cities we have been to so far. Before we came to South America, I spent a fair amount of time looking up nice places to spend Christmas that would work with our travel itinerary, so I was very pleased that Colonia lived up to expectations.
There are two things, and only two things, to do in Colonia as it is equal parts small and beautiful: walk around and eat. Luckily, that is really all we planned to do, expecting that everything on Christmas would have been closed anyway. We wandered around the waterfront old town on the evening of the 24th and sat outside for a drink on the cobblestones. We went to the supermarket to get some wine, “champagne” (which tasted like cough syrup and we had to dump it; luckily, it was only $4), and a big spread of meats, cheeses, nuts and snacks to have in our hotel room, while listening to Christmas carols.
The plan was to spend Christmas day lying by the pool, but mother nature had other plans, so we cozied up in the hotel while we waited for the rain to subside, which it did, just in time for dinner. We did jump in to pool in the rain and do a few laps, just to say we swam on Christmas day, but the hotel staff definitely thought that we were crazy. The truth is, it felt more like Christmas was happening only at home, not where we were, and we were just away for it this year. But we did try to get into the spirit. It was a bit hard to be away from family but we knew that we were doing something amazing and that is a small price to pay for a year of travel.
For dinner, we sat outside on the patio of a vibrant little seafood restaurant with live music that was just across from a church, finishing up it’s Christmas service. It was a beautiful end to the day and a Christmas that we will long remember. ❤