Florence: The symbol of the Renaissance

Florence: The symbol of the Renaissance

180 miles north of Rome, Florence is one of the great cities of the world. Everywhere you turn in this incomparable town you will see exquisite masterpieces of architecture and art which recall the days when Florence was the undistuped leader of the Renaissance world, under the rule of the powerful Medici family.

Magnificent palaces like the Galleria degli Uffizi, built to house the State Judiciary in 1565 and now one of the largest and most important mseums in the world; Palazzo Pitti, in the Boboli Gardens, which has a modern art gallery and a silver museum as well as Raphael works, Titian and Giorgione. Donatello’s famous statue of St George is in the Bargello Museum (a prison of the 16th century).

The second pair of bronze doors which Ghiberti designed for the Baptistry of the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori, were described by Michelangelo as ‘the gates of paradise’ and the cathedral itself, with its celebrated bell tower is a glowing masterpiece of colored marble. Every square and every ancient building is a work of art – the 13th century church of Santa Croce, where Machiavelli and Michelangelo are buried; the Dominican monastery of San Marco, with its beautiful Fra Angelico frescoes; the Accademia di Belle Arti, where you can see Michelangelo’s superb statue, David. A copy is in the Piazza della Signoria, which is a busy square in the city and one of the most beautiful open air galleries in Europe.

Florence is also one of the top gourmet cities in Europe. Try bistecca alla Fiorentina, the Fiorentine way with a big juicy steak, or tortino di carciofi (eggs with artichokes), or triglie o baccala alla Livornesei which is a fish and tomato sauce concontion.

Places to enjoy these masterpieces – the roof gardens of the Baglione Palace hotel, where you can dine and dance in the evenings. The Open Gate (Viale Michelangelo); Ristorante Ponte Vecchio, near the famous 14th century bridge; Sabatani (via Panzani); Villa San Domenico (via della Piazzola); Otello (via Orti Oricellari); and if you want to eat American now and then, Doney’s (via de Tornabuoni) does a good line in snacks as well as specials, like scampi alla Medici. Harry’s Bar is a favorite meeting place and Jolly Club is a lively discotheque.

Italians and Wine Culture

Italians and Wine Culture

Italians drink wine as an aperitif, with the meal and after the meal they finish off with a hair-raising distilled wine called grapa. Chianti is probably the best known Italian wine, but the quality varies, so look for the sign of the black cockerel on the label, and settle for reliable makes, like Frescobaldi, Melini and Ricasol. Other good red wines (rossi) are Barolo, Valpolicella, and a full-bodied wine from Scily called Corvo.

Connoisseurs say that Brunello de Montalcino is the best Italian red wine. Some of the best white wines are Orvieto, Frascati, and Soave and, if you like a sweet, light sparkling wine, Asti Spumante is very refreshing. Martini and Cinzano are famous Italian aperitifs, but for a change try Punt e Mes, or Campari. Strega is an interesting liqueur and Sambuca (tastes of licorice). In general, it is safer to order wine by the bottle or half-bottle rather than the carafe. Rome is ful of fascinating drinking places. Perhaps the best known is the Cafe de Paris, of La Doce Vita fame, on the famous via Veneto.

The Cafe Greco (via Condoti 86) was a favorite haunt of Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde and Buffalo Bill. Baretto, on the same street, is one of the places to be seen having your before-dinner drinks – if you can get in. Bar Zodiaco (viale Parco Bellini, 90), the lovely Monte Mario near Observatory, and the Bar Tre Scalini has a lovely terrace in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, Piazza Navona. This is a great place for ice cream too.

Greece and the Meditarrenean Sea

Greece and the Meditarrenean Sea

In Athens maps and informtion brochures are available from the National Tourist Organization. Bus tours can be arranged through hotels or travel agencies, and What’s On in Athens gives details of current events. Admission to the Acropolis and all other ancient monuments and museums is free on Thursdays and Sundays. Museum hours vary according to the season.

The most famous archeological site in the Parthenon, the sacred temple of Athena, and one of the most skilfully contrived pieces of architecture in existence. From here there is an excellent view of Athens, Piraeus and the sea. On the hill around the Parthenon stands the Erechtheion – famous for its porch of graceful Caryatids (maidens); the imposing Propylaea, the entrance gate to the Acropolis, built in 482 BC and the exquisite little temple of Athena Nike, also called Wingless Victory.

On the south eastern slopes of the Acropolis is the Theater of Dionysus built in the 5th century BC, where the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles were first performed and on the south western slope the theater of Herod Atticus, built in 16 AD and now the site of summer events in the Athens Festival. See the soaring Arch of Hadrian and just behind it the temple of Olympian Zeus – one of the greatest temples of the Hellenistic world. The Temple of Hephaestos (Theseum) is marvelously preserved.

Directly north of the Acropolis is the Agora, the market place and civic center. See the remains of Hadrian’s Library and the Tower of Winds built to house a hydraulic clock and sun dial in the 1st century. Look at the Doric Gate, presented to the Athenians by Emperor Augustus in 27 BC and note the beautiful monument of Lysicrates – 334 BC. Relics of the Roman era are also to be found among the present day houses of the Plaka (old town) district. Visit the stadium, built into a hillside and restored for the celebration of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Phuket’s beaches are world-renowned and tourists flock from across the globe to visit the famous beaches at Patong, Karon, and Kata. So much so that many people complain these beaches have lost their charm. They say Phuket can no longer claim to be an idyllic tropical island getaway.

The beaches are too crowded. Sun loungers line the entire length of the beaches, sometimes in rows three or four deep. Jet skis, banana boats and parasail boats plough through the water while vendors ply their wares up and down the beach. They say Phuket is finished as an island getaway destination and only caters to the party crowd.

These people have not spent enough time exploring Phuket. There are more than 40 beaches around Phuket Island and there is something to suit all tastes. If you want a beach with good holiday facilities but not too crowded then Nai Harn, Kamala, Surin, Bang Tao and Nai Yang all have good hotels and restaurants yet do not draw big crowds. If you really want to get away from the crowds then Nai Thon and Mai Khao beaches in the north of the island are usually very quiet.

Still all these beaches are well known in Phuket and firmly in the tourist travel guides. In this article, we will look at some beaches that still remain undiscovered to most tourists. We will not even include Laem Sing or Yanui in this list. They are both charming beaches but they have become well known and usually have plenty of visitors. Some of the following beaches are not even known to many of Phuket’s residents. These are Phuket’s secret beaches.

Secret Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

Banana Beach

This beautiful beach is in the northern half of Phuket between Bang Tao Beach and Nai Thon Beach. It is a lovely two-hundred meter strip of sand, studded with rocks in the middle and ringed with trees. It is a good swimming beach and there is some great snorkeling. There is no accommodation and just a single beach restaurant with a handful of sun loungers at the southern end.

There are usually only a handful of visitors at this beach. The majority of them arrive by longtail boat from other beaches but in fact, you can see the beach from the coast road above and there is a trail down.

Pansea Beach

Right at the northern end of Bang Tao Beach is beautiful and peaceful Pansea Beach. There are two up-market resorts here yet the location retains its refreshing tranquility. Just offshore is Kala Island (or Kata Island depending who you believe) which shelters the shallow bay from waves so it is always calm. The waters are too shallow for swimming and when the tide is out you can walk to the island. It is a great beach for paddling and ideal for children to play. There are no refreshments here so it is a good idea to bring a picnic.

Pon Beach

This secluded little beach is in the headland north of Patong. The locals know it as Nai Yair Beach. It is amazing how few people find this beach considering it is located so close to the hordes at Patong. There is nothing here but a couple of rural shacks and a few grazing cows. It is a sandy beach but not good for swimming due to the rocky seabed. There is some good snorkeling.

There are usually a couple of locals renting sun loungers and selling refreshments. They can also provide you with a small barbecue to cook your own. There may be a small charge for crossing the private land to reach the beach.

Paradise Beach

In the headland south of Patong, there are two beautiful beaches that remain relatively unspoiled. They are not as undiscovered as the other beaches we mention on this list but still a break from the heaving masses at Patong. The first is Paradise Beach. Right at the tip of the headland, you can reach it by road (track) or boat.

It is a beautiful beach with overhanging trees. There is no accommodation but there is a restaurant and there are plenty of sun loungers. The beach is not the best for bathing due to the rocky seabed close to shore but there is some excellent snorkeling. There are usually plenty of people around but still it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Freedom Beach

You can only reach this stunning beach by boat. It is in the headland south of Patong all the way around and back towards the Karon Beach side. Still it is well worth the boat ride with fantastic bathing and snorkeling.

There are a couple of restaurants and plenty of sun loungers under the trees. The locals take great care of the beach and it is always pristine. Plenty of people do make this a day trip from Patong but the beach is never crowded and again it is surprising how many people in Patong do not know this beach is here.

Nui Beach

This beach is most known for how difficult it is to reach by land. Located between Kata and Nai Harn, the only way to reach it by land is down a two-kilometer dirt track that is almost impossible to traverse in a car. You can just about do it on a motorbike but it is better to walk or let one of the locals take you down on their ATV for a small fee.

It is also known as the most expensive beach in Phuket because you have to cross private land to reach it and they charge 250 baht for the privilege. This fee does get you a sun lounger and drink. When you do arrive, it is a beautiful secluded spot with good swimming and snorkeling. There is a rustic restaurant overlooking the beach but no accommodation. It is never crowded.

Ao Sane Beach

This beach is in the headland at the north end of Nai Harn Beach. You need to go through Le Meridian Phuket Yacht Club’s car park to reach it but they do not stop you. There is a restaurant here and some budget bungalows by the beach. There are usually a few people around but it is never busy.

It is actually a series of three small beaches split by little rocky headlands. None of them is good for swimming due to rocks and corals close to shore. There is some excellent snorkeling.

Laemka Beach

This little beach is at the southern end of Phuket between Rawai and Friendship Beach. It is not signposted and a little difficult to find but a beautiful spot. The Evason Resort and a small bungalow resort are nearby but still the beach remains quiet. It is one of the few southern beaches where you can have a swim and there are nice views out to the southern islands.

Ao Yon Beach

Nestled deep into Cape Panwa is Ao Yon Beach. This is the best beach on the southern side of Phuket. Although it is well developed with residential property, there are no hotels or restaurants by this beach. It is home to Phuket Yacht Club and there are always plenty of boats moored in the bay. It is a beautiful stretch of sand and a good bathing beach. It is usually very quiet and a real getaway.

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona is the 48th state of United States of America. It is located in the southwestern region of United States. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix which is the largest city of Arizona. It was the last state declared by the government of United States in the United States of America. Arizona does not have a very moderate climate and therefore it is liked by the people who are interested in spending their vacation in hot summers.

Arizona is known for its hot climate, desserts and very mild winters. It was also termed as the fastest growing state of United States of America in terms of population. It consists of about 4 million people. Phoenix is the most popular part of Arizona and also its capital. The other important cities in Arizona are Mesa, Glendale, Peoria, Chandler, Sun City, Sun City West, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Avondale, Tempe Tolleson and Scottsdale.

Arizona is a state which solely follows American culture. However, the weather affects its culture. The food pattern is the same as that of the rest of United States of America. Arizona is very famous for its cooking patterns. The tourists here can also enjoy desserts. Arizona is one of safest places in United States of America. The infrastructure is developed in a very good and secure manner. Arizona is also very famous for its sports. It has its own teams for different sports, just like the other States of United States of America. Arizona is a very wealthy state in terms of education and sports. People who like educational and sports activities come to Arizona to study and learn.

The top attractions in Arizona are Bisbee, Canyon de Chelly, Jerome, Lake Powell and Monument Valley. These are the most beautiful places to visit in Arizona. The most famous hotels in Arizona are Anthem, Bellemont, Page, Paradise Valley, Parker, Oak Creek Canyon and Oro Valley. These hotels are the best and most luxurious hotels in Arizona. They are very well developed and have the best and the latest amenities.

These hotels serve various types of cuisines to their guests. The hotel management takes care of maintaining different types of cuisines according to the type of the guests from different countries. The music is also very diverse in Arizona. It is based on the native English music which is followed all over America. However, it also contains some French and Spanish words in it.

As far as sport is concerned, there are many popular players who are now playing as professionals in the American teams. These teams play at the world level championships and leagues. Arizona is also famous for having the maximum number of female governors, than any other state in the country. It follows a very rich education pattern. The universities and schools are very sensitive about their education level and student management. The state government is also very active in maintaining law and order in the state to make the natives as well as the tourists feel safe and secure.

Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam: A Quick Orientation

Amsterdam, in its physical aspect, is almost entirely a product of the so-called “Golden Age” of the Netherlands-that period in the 17th century when Holland surged to the near-pinnacle of world power, after its victory over Spain in the brutal Eighty Years War. It was during this period that the merchants of Amsterdam-then the dominant element in the city-laid out a pattern of gently-curving, concentric canals that occupy the central section of Amsterdam and constitute the city’s particular glory today. Amsterdam performs an essentially capital city service function for the rest of the Dutch economy.

The canals run in a fairly regular pattern that makes it quite easy to orient yourself. Starting at the Central Station, the first of the canals is the Singel. Then comes the Herengracht (“Gentlemen’s Canal”), then the Keizersgracht (“Emperor’s Canal”), and finally the Prinsengracht (“Prince’s Canal”). Along these canals the merchants of 17th-century Amsterdam then constructed what seem today like endless lines of gilded, patrician mansions and homes. These have, in recent years, been occupied by business firms, but their façades are absolutely untouched-and it is in this most beautiful centuries-old setting that you’ll want to spend most of your time in Amsterdam.

Crossing through this pattern of parallel, concentric canals, like the spokes of a wheel, are avenues, the most important of which is the Damrak, which starts at the Central Station and heads straight to the Dam Square, site of the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and National Monument. From the Dam Square, this street becomes the Rokin, and veers a bit as it heads to the Mint Square (Muntplein), where the famous old Mint Tower Amsterdam stands, and where the Amstel River begins.

Near the Mint Square is the Rembrandtsplein (Rembrandt’s Square), one of the two major entertainment areas of Amsterdam; a bit further out, and to the west, is the Leidseplein (Leidse Square), the other entertainment section of Amsterdam, and the site of the Stadsschouw-burg (Municipal Theatre). And beyond this central area is a slightly more modern section where you’ll find the two great art museums of Amsterdam-the renowned Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum- as well as the famous home of its much-acclaimed orchestra, the Concertgebouw.

Why Americans travel to Europe for what?

Why Americans travel to Europe for what?

Americans go to London for social triumph, to Rome for art’s sake, and to Berlin to study music and to economize; but they go to Paris to enjoy themselves. And there are no young men of any nation who enter into the accomplishment of this so heartily and so completely as does the young American.

Paris determined to see all that any one else has ever seen, and to outdo all that any one else has ever done, and to stir that city to its suburbs. He saves his time, his money, and his superfluous energy for this visit, and the most amusing part of it is that he always leaves Paris fully assured that he has enjoyed himself while there more thoroughly than any one else has ever done, and that the city will require two or three months’ rest before it can read just itself after the shock and wonder due to his meteoric flight through its limits. Paris, he tells you, ecstatically, when he meets you on the boulevards is “the greatest place on earth,” and he adds, as evidence of the truth of this, that he has not slept in three weeks. He is unsurpassed in his omnivorous capacity for sight-seeing, and in his ability to make himself immediately and contentedly at home.

The American visitor is not only undaunted by the strange language, but unimpressed by the signs of years of vivid history about him. He sandwiches a glimpse at the tomb of Napoleon, and a trip on a penny steamer up the Seine, and back again to the Morgue, with a rush through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, between the hours of his breakfast and the race-meeting at Longchamps the same afternoon. Nothing of present interest escapes him, and nothing bores him. He assimilates and grasps the method of Parisian existence with a rapidity that leaves you wondering in the rear, and at the end of a week can tell you that you should go to one side of the Grand Hôtel for cigars, and to the other to have your hat blocked. He knows at what hour Yvette Guilbert comes on at the Ambassadeurs’, and on which mornings of the week the flower-market is held around the Madeleine.

While you are still hunting for apartments he has visited the sewers under the earth, and the Eiffel Tower over the earth, and eaten his dinner in a tree at Robinson’s, and driven a coach to Versailles over the same road upon which the mob tramped to bring Marie Antoinette back to Paris, without being the least impressed by the contrast which this offers to his own progress. He develops also a daring and reckless spirit of adventure, which would never have found vent in his native city or town, or in any other foreign city or town. It is in the air, and he enters into the childish goodnature of the place and of the people after the same mariner that the head of a family grows young again at his class reunion.

The Château Rouge was originally the house of some stately family in the time of Louis XIV. They will tell you there that it was one of the mistresses of this monarch who occupied it, and will point to the frescos of one room to show how magnificent her abode then was. This tradition may or may not be true, but it adds an interest to the house, and furnishes the dramatic contrast to its present wretchedness.

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

An insider’s guide to Jamaica, featuring the island’s best hotels, restaurants, bars, attractions and things to do, including how to travel there and around. By James Henderson, Telegraph Travel’s Jamaica expert. Click on the tabs below for the best beaches, including the top spots to stay stay, eat and drink.

Why go?

Jamaica is the liveliest, most captivating and most compelling island in the English-speaking Caribbean – and among the most beautiful too. It has the beaches and the hotels, but Jamaica also has more depth, with culture in its history, art and of course its music. The Caribbean experience is stronger here – Jamaica takes familiar strains from around the Caribbean and amplifies them.

When to go

The best time to visit is when the weather is at its worst and coldest in the UK, between mid-December and mid-April (the official winter season). In Jamaica this is also the driest part of the year. However, prices are at their highest then, so you may want to consider the shoulder season, up until July, when hotel prices reduce by as much as a third and the weather is not that different. The summer months are hot and sometimes muggy. You may want to avoid September and October because of the risk of hurricanes and November because it is the rainy season.

Why and when to travel to Jamaica

Know before you go

Flight time

London to Jamaica takes between nine and 10 hours.

Currency

The currency of Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar, or ‘J’, which floats on the international exchange (currently £1 = J$175 approx). However, many people use the US dollar (hotel bills are quoted in this currency). You should check the rate and make the calculations to see what exchange rate you are being offered.

Local laws and etiquette

Personal safety is an issue in several islands around the Caribbean. Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach nor in a car. Do not walk in remote areas in the main towns nor on remote beaches, certainly not at night. If in doubt ask your hotel reception what they do. Largely speaking the Jamaicans are charming and if you stop to ask them advice or directions they are delighted to help. Be careful when you are approached, however – consider what you would do at home if approached by someone you didn’t know – and act in a similar manner.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

A few decades ago, nobody wanted to touch DTLA. There simply weren’t enough things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, aside from being a firsthand witness to the decline of a once great city center. These days, it’s a different story. While Downtown is still a little bit rough around the edges, it’s in the midst of a cultural and architectural resurgence that’s turning the area into a walkable, Metro-friendly destination dotted with museums and beautiful buildings. Get to know Bunker Hill, the Historic Core and beyond with these 20 things to do in Downtown Los Angeles.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

As the $274-million crown jewel of the LA Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn’t yet worn off: both inside and out, this is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but the schedule is surprisingly varied throughout the year. The complex also includes the 250-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, a gallery and a roof garden.

Music Center

The Center Theatre Group programs two of the halls that make up DTLA’s original cultural complex. At the north end, the Ahmanson Theatre presents pre- or post-Broadway fare, while the smaller Mark Taper Forum stages a wide range of new plays. Also part of the Music Center, the grand Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is the home base for LA Opera, as well as occasional concerts and dance events. Last, but certainly not least, the Center also includes the previously mentioned Disney Concert Hall.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Bradbury Building

Walk through the archway entrance of this otherwise nondescript brick building and you’re greeted with a stunning, light-flooded alley of wood, iron and brick. You’ll have to do all of your gawking from the ground floor (and half a flight of stairs) as the rest of the building is private office space. History buffs will appreciate its place as Downtown’s oldest commercial building (1893); movie buffs will recognize the zigzagging staircases from the climax of Blade Runner.

Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours

We could fill an entire list with nothing but Downtown’s stunning architecture (unsurprisingly, quite a few of our picks for the most beautiful buildings are in DTLA). Instead, we’ll point you in the direction of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s acclaimed walking tours. Choose between tours of modern skyscrapers or the Historic Core, Art Deco icons or Victorian mansions. Most tours meet at Pershing Square, near the mini-groves of orange trees.

Grand Central Market

This European-style food hall has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. Even if you’re not there for the food, it’s worth a trip; people from all corners of LA mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Of course, if you’re hungry it’s a great place to get cheap pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, as well as food from handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut and G&B Coffee.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Grand Park

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park’s 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. The park plays host to performances, gatherings and other community events.

The Broad

LA’s newest contemporary art museum, the Broad, is the public home for Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works. The free museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, has added yet another cultural anchor to Grand Avenue. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.

Union Station

Train travel has gone in and out of fashion, but the last of the great American rail stations is just as handsome as the day it opened: its Mission-style exterior opens up into a grand waiting area with marble tiles, faux-wood beamed ceilings and Art Deco touches. Wander through its halls and courtyards and you’ll find a building rich with history, locomotion and—with the coming of a high-speed rail and a new concourse—progress.

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

As the oldest section of Los Angeles, where the city was first established in 1781 as a farming community, El Pueblo has an authentic, Spanish-style feel. The area comprises 26 historical structures, 11 of which are open to the public, as well as the famous Olvera Street, which is full of local independent vendors selling a range of goods.

Uruguay is well worth discovering

Uruguay is well worth discovering

As South America’s smallest Spanish-speaking country, Uruguay is often overlooked by tourists visiting the region. However, with its vibrant nightlife and stunning coastline Uruguay is well worth discovering. Due to its strategic position on the north shore of the Río de la Plata, Uruguay’s territory was hotly contested from the first European settlements, initially by Spain and Portugal, then by the emerging regional powers of Argentina and Brazil.

A delightfully low-key, hospitable place, modern Uruguay enjoys a high standard of living but draws fewer tourists than neighbouring Brazil and Argentina. Visitors here can melt into the background and experience the everyday life of a different culture – whether riding horses under the big sky of Uruguay’s sparsely populated interior or strolling with throngs of mate-drinking locals along Montevideo’s 15km-long (9 miles) beachfront.

The three most popular destinations are the culturally vibrant capital Montevideo, the picturesque 17th-century port of Colonia, and the trendy coastal resort Punta del Este, which lures jetsetters from around the globe to its sandy beaches, fine restaurants and party-till-you-drop nightclubs. Visitors with more time should explore the dunes and lagoons of Uruguay’s long Atlantic coastline, soak in the hot springs near Salto, or spend the night at a tourist estancia amidst the wide-open grandeur of gaucho country.

Uruguay is well worth discovering

All About Uruguay

Uruguay, officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay), is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the “Río de la Plata” (River of Silver) to the south and with the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo. With an area of approximately 176,000 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.

Uruguay was inhabited by the Charrúa people for approximately 4000 years before the Portuguese established Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the early 18th century, signifying the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It remained subject to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics until the late 20th century. Modern Uruguay is a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government.

Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, e-government, and is first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class and prosperity. On a per-capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peace-keeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per-capita income and inflows of FDI.

Uruguay is the third-best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It is regarded as a high-income country (top group) by the UN. Uruguay is also the third-best ranked in the world in e-Participation. Uruguay is an important global exporter of combed wool, rice, soybeans, frozen beef, malt and milk.

The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013 acknowledging the innovative policy of legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed, outstanding regionally and ranking highly on global measures of personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues.