by Dirk Baumgartl
It is considered to be the LGBTIQ*-friendliest country in South America: Uruguay offers a lot of culture and nature. It also hosts a committed queer community that sees itself as part of society.
When it comes to the acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender people, there is hardly any other country in the region that is more advanced. Same-sex relations have been legal in Uruguay since 1934, marriage is available to all and an extensive anti-discrimination law in effect. Same-sex couples enjoy the right to joint adoption, and since 2018 a law has ensured state support for transgender persons. When the right-wing conservative party campainged for a referendum against this law in the summer of 2019, the queer community mobilised all forces to make this attempt fail. It succeeded. The progressive policy also includes the legalisation of cannabis, which has been cultivated under state control since 2017. It is distributed through pharmacies, but only to Uruguayans and people who have been residents for at least a year.
Beach & Culture
With a population of just under 3.5 million, the country covers an area about twice the size of Austria, but with just as many inhabitants as Berlin. It is this feeling of “everyone is known to everyone” that makes this nation so endearing. This is all the more true for the LGBTIQ* scene there. When it is going clubbing or partying, the El Tempo club in the capital Montevideo is the place to be. The small club is crowded at weekends and a visit there is certainly the best opportunity to get in touch with the locals. And who knows – maybe you will meet a friendly Uruguayan here who will show you his city. Buenos Aires on the opposite banks of the Rio de la Plata makes little of its location on the estauary. In contrast to that, Montevideo makes most of its river banks, that seem more like sea shores, due to the width of the estuary.
The beach promenade Rambla is the real centre of the city. You can do sports, doze in the sun or stroll hand-in-hand with your sweetheart along the beach at sunset. Montevideo’s old town with its narrow streets and the impressive Plaza de la Independencia is best explored by bicycle. Past the Palacio Salvo and South America’s second largest theatre, the Teatro Solis, continue in the direction of Rambla. The best view of the city is from a hill called Cerro and the Fortaleza General Artigas, thath was built in 1717 to protect the city from invasions.
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, houses and churches dating back to the early colonial period, it is a real gem and a popular destination for many day-trippers from Buenos Aires, who travel by hovercraft (buquebus) across the Rio de la Plata in just eighty minutes. Colonia del Sacramento unfolds its greatest charm in the morning and evening hours, when it is mostly in the hands of locals. The silence is then only disturbed by the screeching of countless parrots resting on the branches of ancient trees in the Plaza Mayor. If you stay in a boutique hotel like the minimalist Charco, you are right the middle of the old town and can enjoy excellent steaks with a glass of wine and a view on the Rio de la Plata.
You can find excellent wines in Uruguay and get to know them better during a visit to the wineries in the region west of Colonia, around the town of Carmelo. The Tannat grape cultivated here is a good match for great red wines such as Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. But due to small quantities, it is rarely exported to Europe or elsewhere. Carmelo is not only a good destination for wine lovers, but for anyone looking for a relaxing and quiet environment. Just treat yourself to a boutique hotel in the middle of the vineyards 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 of South America meet here, but also a lot of gay holidaymakers. While the jet set mostly populates the former fishing village José Ignacio, the queer scene gathers at Playa Chihuahua. The nudist beach not far from Punta del Este is Uruguay’s most famous Gay Beach and the nearby Hotel Undarius a gay resort like on Gran Canaria or in the US.
How to get there
Spanish airline Air Europa offers several flights per week from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Munich to Montevideo via its hub in Madrid. For feeder flights from other European cities, see the carrier’s homepage. A330s with economy and business class operate on the transatlantic route. www.aireuropa.com
Where to stay
The Holiday Inn hotel in the centre of Montevideo is an ideal starting point to explore the old town and the Rambla promenade. The hotel, renovated in 2018, features about 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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