Squeezed between goliaths Argentina and Brazil, South America’s second smallest nation (only Suriname is smaller) is big on appeal. Its primary draw is its 120 miles of Atlantic coastline - much of it pristine - accompanied by sunny, mild days (15-28C) year-round. Expect fascinating diversity - from the cobblestone streets of a World Heritage site to the high rise-rimmed beaches of an internationally renowned resort, where the latest hot spot changes with each season. Venture slightly off the beaten path to spot rare flamingos, buy homemade cheese from a roadside quesería, or visit gaucho towns where you’re the only gringo in sight.
North American and European tourists typically discover Uruguay on a day trip to its founding city, Colonia del Sacramento, 50 minutes by ferry across Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires. Others - especially Argentinians and a growing number of Brazilians - jet into Punta del Este for “the season” (December-February). The objectives: revel in the beaches, world-class dining and exclusive nightclubs, and rub shoulders with the glitterati - itself an integral part of the scenery. In fact, this is one of the safest places in South America to travel in style. Crime is practically non-existent.