Uruguay, (population: 3,399,000) the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America, looks a bit like an upside-down diamond wedged between Argentina and Brazil. For tourists wanting to travel off the beaten track, it may may just be a diamond-in-the-rough.

The majority of the country consists of wind-blown prairie, or Gaucho Country (cowboy country). Lend a hand, or sit back and relax on one of the ranches, estancias, in this untamed Uruguayan terrain for as long as you like. Many of these ranches have opened up to tourism.

If you’d rather shelve the cowboy boots and slip on your flip-flops, Uruguay also has a long stretch of South Atlantic Ocean coastline. The most popular resort is Punta del Este, but there are plenty of other worthy beaches along the coast. The Río Uruguay makes up part of the border with Argentina and provides easy ferry access to Buenos Aires, especially from the lovely Colonia del Sacramento.

Some attractions not to miss on your trip to Uruguay:

Montevideo: this capital city features beaches, colonial plazas, outdoor cafes, and a plethora of restaurants, nightclubs and casinos Punta del Este: A finger-like peninsula extending to the southernmost point in Uruguay, Punta del Este, is wildly popular and fills to capacity during the warm summer months, December to March.

The region of Uruguay north of Montevideo all the way to the Brazilian border is known as Gaucho Country. This large chunk of Uruguay is best explored on horseback. There are many converted ranches, estancias, where you can spend the night, or just a day.

Colonia del Sacramento (population: 117,600) is a ferry ride across the Río de la Plata from Buenos Aires and features historical gems like the oldest church in Uruguay, the only Plaza de Toros (bull ring) in Uruguay and a historic center with a fortress and contraband port that are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

All information for this page was researched and written .