Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay
Area: 176,220 square kilometers (68,039 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Cerro Catedral (514 meters/1,686 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Southern and Western
Time zone: 9 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 555 kilometers (345 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast; 504 kilometers (313 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest
Land boundaries: 1,564 kilometers (972 miles) total boundary length; Brazil 985 kilometers (612 miles); Argentina 579 kilometers (612 miles)
Coastline: 660 kilometers (410 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Small Uruguay forms a flat wedge between its giant neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. The great Río de la Plata estuary and the Atlantic Ocean border Uruguay's southern coast; on the west, the Río Uruguay separates it from Argentina. With an area of 176,220 square kilometers (68,039 square miles), Uruguay is almost as large as the state of Washington.
Uruguay has no territories or dependencies.
Uruguay has a temperate climate with four seasons: spring, from September to November; summer, from December to March; autumn, from April to June; and winter, from July to August. Average temperatures are 17°C (63°F) in spring; 25°C (77°F) in summer; 18°C (64° F) in autumn; and 12°C (54°F) in winter. Winds often sweep across Uruguay from the Atlantic Ocean; the pampero is a cold winter wind from Argentina. Most of Uruguay's rain falls in the winter months of July and August. The yearly average precipitation is 105 centimeters (41 inches). Humidity averages 65 percent. Although freezing temperatures occur, snow is rare.
Well-watered grasslands predominate, with elevations rising into hills in the north. Swamps and lagoons mark eastern Uruguay.
Uruguay is bounded on the south and southwest by the South Atlantic Ocean.
The Río de la Plata estuary is located on an inlet of the South Atlantic Ocean.
A few small islands lie off the coast of Uruguay. Isla de Lobos, with an area of 0.4 square kilometers (0.16 square miles), has one of the largest sea lion populations in the world. It is situated offshore from the mainland town of Punta del Este.
Beaches and rocky headlands characterize Uruguay's coastline, and swamps and lagoons dot the eastern coast. It then curves west and leaves the open Atlantic, running for more than 322 kilometers (200 miles) along the Río de la Plata estuary to reach the mouth of the Rio Uruguay. At the center of the southern coastline, the city of Montevideo has nine beaches on the Atlantic. East of Montevideo is Punta del Este, a peninsular beach resort.
Lagoons appear along the eastern coast. The largest is Lagoa Mirím (Laguna Merín), which extends across the border into Brazil.
The largest of Uruguay's rivers is the Rio Uruguay itself, which flows for 435 kilometers (270 miles) through the country. It marks the entire western boundary with Argentina and extends farther to the north along the Argentina-Brazil frontier. The Uruguay merges with the Rio Parana to form the Río de la Plata, a vast estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It is saline except at its western extremity, where the Parana and Uruguay gush enormous quantities of fresh water into it. The Río Negro rises in southern Brazil, then bisects Uruguay as it flows southwest-ward to join the Uruguay. Its principal tributaries are the Ríos Yi and Tacuarembó. Smaller rivers are found throughout the country, with the Cuareim and Yaguarón flowing along parts of the border with Brazil.
There are no deserts in Uruguay.
Uruguay's interior plateau features ranges of low hills that become more prominent in the north as they merge into the highlands of southern Brazil. The most important of Uruguay's cuchillas (hill ranges) are the Grande Range and the Haedo Hills. Only in these and in the Santa Ana Hills along the Brazilian frontier do altitudes exceed 183 meters (600 feet) with any frequency. Vast expanses of undulating grasslands cover more than 90 percent of the country.
Uruguay has no mountain ranges. Cerro Catedral (514 meters/1,686 feet in elevation), near the southern coast, is the country's highest point.
Uruguay has no significant canyons or caves.
The interior of Uruguay is a low, broken plateau, which is a transition from the pampas of Argentina to the hilly uplands of southern Brazil.
The Río Negro is the site of several major reservoirs. Embalse del Río Negro, formed by the Río Negro dam in the central part of the country, is the largest artificial lake in South America, with a surface area of more than 10,359 square kilometers (4,000 square miles). Other reservoirs are Lake Palmar, also on the Río Negro, and Lake Salto Grande on the Rio Uruguay.
Arrarte, Carlos Perez, and Guillermo Scarlato. "The Laguna Merín Basin of Uruguay: From Protecting Natural Heritage to Managing Sustainable Development." Cultivating Peace. Ottawa, Ontario: International Development Research Center, 1999.
Box, Ben. South American Handbook. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1999.
Bridal, Tessa. The Tree of Red Stars. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1997.
Verdesio, Gustavo. Forgotten Conquests: Rereading New World History from the Margins . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001.
Lonely Planet: Destination Uruguay. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_america/uruguay/ (accessed April 16, 2003).