UruguayUntil recently, travelers planning a trip to South America would by-pass thoughts of Uruguay, opting instead for the better known attractions of the colossal countries on either side. Increasing numbers of visitors are discovering all that this little country has to offer. Uruguay is comprised mostly of grasslands, fringed by blissful sand dunes and beaches. For the vacationer, this means the opportunity to enjoy pristine air, agricultural bounty, scenic adventures and Bohemian chic surroundings. Ride the dunes, relax in tiny laidback coastal towns with unpopulated beaches or join the glitterati at the country’s biggest lure, Punta del Este, called the Uruguayan Riviera by international travelers. Winter has its attractions too. Come June when most sun worshippers have departed the coast, temperatures remain mild and the endangered southern right whales arrive, swimming so close to shore you can see them from the beach in various locations. Uruguay’s over 400 bird species make it a birder’s paradise too. The influx of so many Europeans centuries ago has resulted in longstanding agricultural traditions for fine wines, artisan cheeses and honey. Explore the sophisticated capital of Montevideo and Colonia, the architectural gem of a city just a ferry ride away from Buenos Aires. Stay in historic estancia accommodations, ride horses across the pampas. As a getaway, travel to Uruguay is hot.
Northern ArgentinaIf Patagonia hiking isn’t on your bucket list, it opens up many other options for Argentina travel. Argentina’s vast northern regions are full of attractions, and in most locations, fewer tourists. Head west and you’ll be in Argentina’s famed Mendoza wine country, center of the Malbec universe where you can dine in vineyards, viewing the Andes in the distance. Keep traveling north and Argentina’s colorful canyon landscapes await along with the country’s best preserved colonial city, Salta. In northeast Argentina on the country’s border with Brazil lies Iguazu Falls. There will be crowds but you won’t mind. It is one of the continent’s biggest attractions, famous for its breathtaking expanse and the rainbows its cascading waters produce.
BrazilAny country with 4,600 miles of beaches has to be a great place to cast off the winter blues. If you’re a surfer, the place most likely to call to you is Florianopolis, a 2½-hour plane ride south of Rio de Janeiro. Called the Hawaiian Islands of Brazil for its beauty, Florianopolis is considered one of the world’s top surfing spots, offering waves for the most advanced surfers to beginners. Companions without a hankering for waves won’t be bored. The sunbathing, hiking and fresh seafood are more than enough to occupy the senses. In Brazil’s far north, the scenic dunes and the absence of tourists make for a heavenly winter escape. Most every visitor stops to visit legendary Rio de Janeiro. Lots of Brazil tours include time in this must-experience city plus one or more of the country’s other top attractions such as the Amazon or Iguazu Falls. Brazil comprises a quarter of South America so starting off with a winter escape will be sure to bring you back for more.