Buenos Aires, Argentina
Many travelers dismiss Uruguay’s capital as a smaller, less flashy, and more expensive version of Buenos Aires. While it’s true that Montevideo is less populous than BA, with 1.4 million inhabitants to Buenos Aires’ 13 million, the other comparisons couldn’t be farther from the truth. From the classic old town, Ciudad Vieja, dotted with plazas and markets grilling unholy amounts of bife, to the beautiful string of sandy beaches and trails lining the coast, Montevideo still has something to offer for the intrepid traveler—a tranquility and sense of ease unrivaled by the Argentine capital.
The origin of the Montevideo’s name remains a mystery. Some theories attribute it to mis-transcription by cartographers of Magellan’s notoriously bad handwriting. Others didn’t even know Magellan had bad writing. Still others say it actually comes from the Portuguese phrase “Monte vide eu,” which means “I see a hill”—though not the most original of names, you have to think that early explorers, after sailing across an entire ocean, might have had a sort of “screw this” mentality about city naming.