Geography of Uruguay

Learn about the South American Nation of Uruguay

Uruguay Flag
The Uruguay flag has nine horizontal stripes of white alternating with blue; there is a white square in the upper hoist-side corner with a yellow sun bearing a human face known as the Sun of May with 16 rays that alternate between triangular and wavy. Source: CIA World Factbook, 2007

Population: 3,510,386 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Montevideo
Bordering Countries: Argentina and Brazil
Land Area: 68,036 square miles (176,215 sq km)
Coastline: 410 miles (660 km)
Highest Point: Cerro Catedral at 1,686 feet (514 m)

Uruguay (map) is a country located in South America that shares its borders with Argentina and Brazil. The country is the second smallest in South America, after Suriname, with a land area of 68,036 square miles (176,215 sq km). Uruguay has a population of just over 3.5 million people. 1.4 million of Uruguay's citizens live within its capital, Montevideo, or in its surrounding areas. Uruguay is known as being one of South America's most economically developed nations.

History of Uruguay

Prior to European arrival, the only inhabitants of Uruguay were the Charrua Indians. In 1516, the Spanish landed on Uruguay's coast but the region was not settled until the 16th and 17th centuries due to hostilities with the Charrua and a lack of silver and gold. When Spain did begin to colonize the area, it introduced cattle which later increased the area's wealth.

In the early 18th century, the Spanish founded Montevideo as a military outpost. Throughout the 19th century, Uruguay was involved in several conflicts with the British, Spanish and Portuguese. In 1811, Jose Gervasio Artigas launched a revolt against Spain and became the country's national hero. In 1821, the region was annexed to Brazil by Portugal but in 1825, after several revolts, it declared its independence from Brazil. It did decide however to maintain a regional federation with Argentina.

In 1828 after a three year war with Brazil, the Treaty of Montevideo declared Uruguay as an independent nation. In 1830, the new country adopted its first constitution and throughout the rest of the 19th century, Uruguay's economy and government had various shifts. In addition, immigration, mainly from Europe, increased.

From 1903 to 1907 and 1911 to 1915 President Jose Batlle y Ordoñez established political, social and economic reforms, However, by 1966, Uruguay was suffering from instability in these areas and underwent a constitutional amendment.

A new constitution was then adopted in 1967 and by 1073, a military regime was put in place to run the government. This lead to human rights abuses and in 1980 the military government was overthrown. In 1984, national elections were held and the country again began to improve politically, economically and socially.

Today, due to several more reforms and various elections throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s and 2000s, Uruguay has one of the strongest economies in South America and a very high quality of life.

Government of Uruguay

Uruguay, officially called the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, is a constitutional republic with a chief of state and a head of government. Both of these positions are filled by Uruguay's president. Uruguay also has a bicameral legislative assembly called the General Assembly that is made up the Chamber of Senators and the Chamber of Representatives. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court. Uruguay is also divided into 19 departments for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Uruguay

Uruguay's economy is considered very strong and is consistently one of the fastest growing in South America. It is dominated by an "export-oriented agricultural sector" according to the CIA World Factbook. The major agricultural products produced in Uruguay are rice, wheat, soybeans, barley, livestock, beef, fish, and forestry. Other industries include food processing, electrical machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, textiles, chemicals and beverages. Uruguay's workforce is also well educated and its government spends a large part of its revenue on social welfare programs.

Geography and Climate of Uruguay

Uruguay is located in southern South America with borders on the South Atlantic Ocean, Argentina and Brazil. It is a relatively small country with a topography consisting mostly of rolling plains and low hills. Its coast regions are made up of fertile lowlands. The country is also home to many rivers and the Uruguay River and the Rio de la Plata are some of its largest.

Uruguay's climate is warm, temperate and there are rarely, if ever, freezing temperatures in the country.

More Facts about Uruguay

• 84% of Uruguay's terrain is agricultural
• 88% of Uruguay's population is estimated to be of European descent
• Uruguay's literacy rate is 98%
• Uruguay's official language is Spanish

To learn more about Uruguay, visit the Uruguay section in Geography and Maps on this website.


Central Intelligence Agency. (27 May 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - Uruguay. Retrieved from: (n.d.). Uruguay: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Retrieved from:

United States Department of State. (8 April 2010). Uruguay. Retrieved from: (28 June 2010). Uruguay - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: