by Dirk Baumgartl
It is considered to be the LGBTIQ* friendliest country in South America: Uruguay offers a lot of culture and nature as well as a committed community that sees itself as part of society.
When it comes to the acceptance of gays, lesbians and transgender people, there is hardly anything else that sets a precedent for this country. Since 1934, same-sex relations have been legal in Uruguay, where marriage for all exists as well as an extensive anti-discrimination law. Same sex couples enjoy the right to joint adoption, and since 2018 a law has ensured state support for transgender persons. When in the summer of 2019 the right-wing conservative party collected signatures for a referendum against this law, the community mobilized all forces to let this attempt fail. With success. The progressive policy also includes the legalization of cannabis, which has been cultivated under state control since 2017 and distributed through pharmacies – but only to Uruguayans and people who have been there for at least a year.
Beach & Culture
With a population of just under 3.5 million, the country has an area roughly twice the size of Austria, just as many people as Berlin. It is this feeling of “everyone knows everyone” that makes this nation so likeable. Of course, this is all the more true for the LGBTIQ* scene there. When the LGBTIQ* scene celebrates, it is above all the El Tempo club, which is based in the capital Montevideo. The small club is crowded on weekends and a visit there is certainly the best opportunity to get in touch with the locals. And who knows – maybe you will find a friendly Uruguayan here who will show you his city. In contrast to Buenos Aires, located on the other side of the Rio de la Plata, which makes little of its location on the water, life in Montevideo is oriented towards the river, which is more like the sea due to its width. The beach promenade Rambla is the actual centre of the city. Here, one does sports, dozes in the sun or strolls hand in hand with one’s beloved along the beach at sunset. Montevideo’s old town with its narrow streets and the impressive Plaza Independencia is best explored by bicycle. Past the Palacio Salvo and South America’s second largest theatre, the Teatro Solis, we continue in the direction of Rambla. The best view of the city is from Fortaleza General Artigas, located on the hill called Cerro, which was built in 1717 to protect the city from attackers.
There is even more history to be discovered in the small town of Colonia del Sacramento, a good two hours’ drive west of Montevideo. Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, it is Uruguay’s oldest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its narrow streets and houses and churches dating back to the early colonial period, it is a real gem and a popular destination for many day tourists from Buenos Aires, who travel by ferry across the Rio de la Plata in just eighty minutes. Colonia del Sacramento unfolds its greatest charm in the morning and evening hours, when the majority of the visitors are not yet in the city. The silence is then only disturbed by the chirping of countless parrots resting on the branches of ancient trees in the Plaza Mayor. In boutique hotels like the minimalist Charco, one lives in the middle of the oldtown and can enjoy excellent steaks with a glass of wine and a view to the Rio de la Plata.
The fact that there are excellent wines in Uruguay can be experienced during a visit to the wineries in the region west of Colonia around the town of Carmelo. The Tannat grape variety cultivated here is a good match for great red wines such as Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon, but due to the small production quantities it is rarely exported to Europe. Not only wine lovers can take a break here in Carmelo – be it in a boutique hotel in the middle of the wine fields like the Posada Campo Tinto or the luxurious Hyatt Carmelo Resort & Spa.
The seaside resort Punta del Este, located east of Montevideo, is known for its beach. Especially between November and February not only the rich and beautiful people of South America meet here, but also a lot of gay holidaymakers. While the jet set hangs around especially in the former fishing village José Ignacio, the scene meets at Playa Chihuahua. The nudist beach not far from Punta del Este is Uruguay’s most famous Gay Beach and the nearby Hotel Undarius is a gay resort as known from Gran Canaria or the USA.
Located in the centre of Montevideo, Hotel Holiday Inn is an ideal starting point to explore the old town and the Rambla promenade. The hotel, which was renovated in 2018, has almost 150 rooms and suites as well as a heated indoor pool. www.holidayinn.com
Uruguay ranked 17th in the Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2019 next to other countries, including Switzerland and France.
- Uruguayweb-29_SPT0319: Dirk Baumgartl
- Uruguay_2014 1025: Dirk Baumgartl
- AirEuropa: Air Europa
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