1. People of Uruguay call themselves “Orientals” (people from east) because of their position east of the Uruguay River. The official name of Uruguay is “The Oriental Republic of Uruguay”.
2. The name Uruguay actually comes from the Uruguay River, and in Guarani language it means “river of painted birds”.
3. Uruguay River starts in Brazil and flows from north to south, and marks the border between Uruguay and Argentina.
4. Rio Negro is the longest and most important river in Uruguay. The dam on the river has created a reservoir which is now the largest artificial lake in South America - Rincón del Bonete Reservoir.
5. The capital of Uruguay is Montevideo, and more than half of the entire population lives there.
6. The first FIFA World Cup was held in The Estadio Gran Parque Central in Montevideo, in 1930, which Uruguay won to Argentina with a score 4:2. Football is probably the most popular sport in Uruguay.
7. Uruguay has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. That is mainly because the education is compulsory but free. It is also one of the first countries in the world to give free laptop and WiFi connections to all school children.
8. Uruguay’s national anthem, "Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba" (nation or grave), is the longest national anthem in the world. It has 11 verses, each followed by a chorus, 105 bars of music, and can last up to 6 minutes (it’s usually 5 minutes). It was written by Francisco Acuña de Figuero who also wrote the national anthem of Paraguay.
9. Almost three-quarters of the country are covered in grassland, ideal for sheep and cattle, and so in Uruguay there are more sheep and cows than humans. Actually cows outnumber people 4 to 1! It is also the only country in the world to keep track of their cattle 100%.
10. Being such a lowland country, the highest point is only a 514 m (1684 ft) high Cerro Catedral. It is actually more like a hill, but by its height it qualifies as one of the South American Highpoints.
11. A much more interesting place for hiking is Cerro Pan de Azucar (Sugar Loaf Hill), with its Reserva de Flora y Fauna del Pan de Azúcar, a nature reserve and zoo.
12. Uruguay is the most non-religious country in the Americas, and it has no official religion. They even renamed some of the holidays: Christmas is called Día de la Familia (Day of the Family) and Easter Holy Week is called La Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week).
13. Uruguay’s president from 2010 to 2015, José "Pepe" Mujica, is “the world’s poorest president” or “world’s humblest president”. He donates 90% of his salary to charity, lives on a farm with his wife and a three-legged dog called Manuela, and now cultivates chrysanthemums for sale.
14. Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize production, sale and use of marijuana. José Mujica was nominated for the 2014. Nobel Peace Prize because of it.
15. You probably think that tango originated in Argentina, but no one is certain whether it comes from there or Uruguay. Both countries are on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List for tango.
16. You won’t see salt shakers or ketchup on the tables in restaurants in Uruguay. That’s because the government introduced laws to make salt less accessible due to the country’s problems with high blood pressure and obesity.
17. With its grassy lowlands, Uruguay seems like a pretty dull country for us. Most people come here for the beautiful beaches, parties and yerba mate. But inland, the gaucho country actually offers a lot of adventures – like trekking with gauchos in Tacuarembo. There’s also Colonia Del Sacramento, one of the oldest towns in Uruguay, whose historic quarter was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.