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Tiny Uruguay, Big Coast

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You go Uruguay and I'll go mine...

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    January 13, 1997

    (CNN) -- If a trip to South America tickles your travel fancy, now's the perfect time to enjoy summer in the southern hemisphere. This is the high season for Uruguay, where tourists flock to get away from it all with a warm, reasonably-priced vacation.

    Uruguay is a small, yet prosperous country sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil in the heart of South America. It has a population of about 3 million people and is an essentially European country, since the majority of its citizens are descended from Spanish and Italian immigrants. Spanish is the official language, but more than half the country also speaks English.

    Ninety percent of Uruguay's land is habitable, due to its mild oceanic climate and fertile ground. Average temperatures range from 25 degrees Celsius or about 80 degree Fahrenheit in the summer, to about 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

    The country is divided into 19 provinces, and the majority of the main cities, like its capital Montevideo, are situated in the south near the coastline. Montevideo is Uruguay's smallest province, but it holds 40 percent of the population.

    White sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean east of Montevideo compose Uruguay's version of the Italian and French Rivieras. This coastline stretches to the Brazilian border and houses some of the most impressive seaside resorts in South America.

    The tiny peninsula of Punta del Este, with its yacht harbor and expensive hotels, is Uruguay's most spectacular beach resort. Each summer, this glamorous Atlantic town draws rich and famous tourists from Europe and South America. Punta del Este is a lively, chic resort with fantastic beaches, superb food and scenery. The area is clean and not too pricey: a weekend would cost a couple about $200 (U.S.) for lodging and meals.

    Colonia Del Sacramento is a coastal town just west of Montevideo and across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Charming Colonia, a legacy of the Portuguese colony, is an amazing historical site from the 17th century. Its Barrio Historico district is the perfect place for a scenic walking tour to see the colonial houses lining the area's cobblestone streets.

    Uruguay may be small in size, but the country is big in friendliness. The natives enjoy welcoming visitors from cold climates all over the world who journey to their sunny shores.

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