Situated between its two large neighbours Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay with a tiny population of 3.4 million, is renowned for being a relaxed, safe and culturally sophisticated country. The name Uruguay can be loosely translated into ‘river of the coloured birds’ and the country is famous for its varied bird life, untouched wilderness, distinctive colonial towns, passionate and hospitable people and deserted, white beaches. Uruguay shares with its large neighbours a passion for football, the first ever World Cup took place here in 1930 and like Argentina it has a strong gaucho culture of horsemen, cattle ranches and big open countryside and skies. It has a staggering 410 miles of largely untouched wild beautiful sandy beaches, long popular with Argentinians and Brazilians and now gaining an international reputation.
The lively capital of Montevideo has the longest Carnival in South America running for forty days from the end of January to mid March. Uruguay is one of Latin America’s most secular countries, with legalised same-sex civil unions, a high literacy rate, a strong independent press and low levels of corruption. Recently retired charismatic President, Jose Mujica and his enlightened, progressive policies towards the legalisation of gay marriage and cannabis helped Uruguay become the 2013 Economists country of the year.