Uruguay has a warm-temperate (or subtropical) climate – in fact it’s the only South American country to be wholly within the temperate zone. The sun shines for most of the year and temperatures hardly ever drop below freezing point. Nevertheless, the weather can be unstable owing to the lack of hills to act as barriers, and it can be windy, especially in winter and spring, with storms blowing up on the Plata estuary.
In winter, a warm spell is liable to be ended by the pampero, a chilly wind that can howl in from the southwest, while the warmer sudestada brings rain from the southeast when a high-pressure system south of Buenos Aires combines with low pressure over northeastern Argentina. In summer, ocean breezes can bring welcome relief on hot days, while winds from the north only bring heat and humidity.
The seasons are clearly defined, but without great extremes of heat or cold. Spring is usually cool, damp and breezy, summer is hot, autumn is milder and winter is relatively chilly and wet. The northwest of Uruguay, however, being further from the sea and the River Plate, is hotter in summer and drier and warmer in winter, but it does get more rain than the rest of the country.
Average temperatures range from 12°C in winter (June–September) to 25°C in summer (December–March). Rainfall (1m per annum) is evenly distributed year-round, although the wettest months are July and August when cold fronts bring grey, drizzly weather; in summer thunderstorms are common (tornados are possible but very rare). Droughts can occur in summer and are likely to become more common with global climate change, even though average rainfall may be increasing – Uruguay is becoming more tropical, with species such as flycatchers already extending their range southward from Brazil.
Festivals and public holidays
6 January – Epiphany (Día de los Reyes)
February/March – Carnaval (the two days before Ash Wednesday)
February/March – Five days for Holy Week (Semana Santa or Semana de Turismo; dates vary from year to year)
19 April – Day of the Landing of the 33 Orientales
1 May – Labour Day
18 May – Battle of Las Piedras
19 June – Birthday of Artigas (also marking the end of the dictatorship)
18 July – Constitution Day
25 August – Independence Day
12 October – Columbus Day (Día de la Raza)
2 November – All Saints