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A cosmopolitan capital, a jet-set beach scene, and a wild and majestic interior are just some of the draws to Uruguay. This nation of 3.2 million tea lovers, meat eaters, and African drummers is full of surprises. Hemmed in on both sides by Brazilians and Argentinians, Uruguayans will proudly tell you that they have the best beaches, the best meat, the best fútbol, the best wine, the best health service, and, perhaps most important, the least corrupt government in South America. It is no wonder its neighbors are fond of taking holidays here. Whether you are a day-tripper to unassuming Montevideo, a history buff in historical Colonia, or a night owl amid the glitzy bars and clubs of Punta del Este, you might come to look upon this, the smallest Spanish-speaking country on the continent, as also the most special.

Regions in Brief -- Uruguay's origins as a country rest firmly in Europe; the indigenous people inhabiting the region were displaced by the colonizing Portuguese and Spaniards in the late-17th and early-18th centuries. You will find the European influence most evident among the historic treasures of Colonia, where the Portuguese first entrenched themselves, and amid the rich architecture of Montevideo, where the Spaniards landed. Montevideo is the cultural heartland of the country, a place where you will discover the bold accomplishments of Uruguay in music, art, and literature. Among the several internationally accomplished artists are Pedro Figari, who inspired a school of painters; José Enrique Rodó, Uruguay's famed essayist from the early 20th century; and Mauricio Rosencof, the politically active playwright from recent decades. Outside the capital, miles of pastureland and rolling hills draw your attention away from the urban capital to a softer, quieter life. But this rural lifestyle stops at the coast, where world-class resorts centered on Punta del Este lure the continent's rich and famous.