The clouds hung low as Leandro tightened the girth and eased me into my saddle. It was sure to rain, we only didn’t know when. We left the corral, crossing the wide green grounds of La Baguala towards the sand. I loved the view of him from behind, leading, smoking, checking his cell phone for messages. It was classic yet contemporary. Like most Uruguayans we met, he had a fair complexion and fine chestnut hair, most of which was scrunched underneath his boina, the woolen beret typically worn by gauchos from the fertile lowlands of South America—the Pampas. In contrast to his youthful face, a swift tug on the reins revealed leathered hands that were tanned well beyond their years.

“¿Sos de aquí?—Are you from here?” In this part of the continent, nobody used tú eres for “you are”; vos sos was the standard of rioplatense, the dialect of Spanish spoken in Uruguay and neighboring ArgentinaSí, indeed he was, having spent most of his life taming Montevideo’s mares and stallions. We rode on, straddling our steeds as they plodded ever so leisurely forward. The first droplets fell, dewed against our glasses, and dampened the surrounding air in an alabaster calm. On the plains of the Oriental Republic, by the bank of the Río de la Plata, the morning showered us under a watercolor of quietude.

A ceramic tile map of a colonial town and a drumming procession walking down the street
A procession of drummers fill the streets of Colonia del Sacramento with the sound of candombe, a style of music and dance brought to Uruguay by slaves from Angola, Congo, and Mozambique
A Chivito, Uruguay's national dish consisting of a fried egg, strips of steak, tomato, and lettuce
The national dish, chivito, consists of thinly sliced grilled beef topped with bacon, melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and fried egg
Scenes from a Hispanic colonial town
Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese and fought over for a hundred years by Spain and Portugal, Colonia del Sacramento is Uruguay’s second oldest settlement
Young man drinking maté in front of a ranch
An estancia stay is a unique sojourn into Uruguay’s rustic and folkloric landscape, where one can still find rugged gauchos roaming the rolling pastures
Closeup of English lavender and a Uruguayan-style mate gourd
The traditional yerba mate gourds of Uruguay are smaller and rounder than their Argentinean counterparts, which are more adapted for passing around
A hacienda with palm trees at sunset
The 1940s-era hacienda of La Baguala lies on the outer rim of Montevideo, surrounded by farmland, wineries, and the sea
A spacious hotel bedroom and a tree at twilight
Drawing inspiration from the bagual, feral horses of the Southern Cone, La Baguala’s countryside estate evokes the bold and spirited image of wild, unruffled frontiers
How to get to Uruguay

Carrasco International Airport (MVD) is located 30-minutes outside of Montevideo with flights to and from Madrid operated by Iberia and Air Europa. Additionally, Buquebus ferries run several times per day between Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento, and Montevideo; a one-way ticket costs approximately $2,800 Argentinean pesos (US $45) per person.

WHERE TO STAY IN Uruguay

The wide acres of La Baguala is a short drive from Montevideo’s city center and an hour away from Colonia del Sacramento. Combining Uruguayan easygoingness with dignified luxury and a touch of adventure, daily horseback riding is included with a stay in any of its twelve stately suites. Doubles from approximately $ 4,600 Uruguayan pesos (US $105) per night.

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