Uruguay is on the east coast of South America. The country is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Argentina to the west. The wide Río de la Plata (River Plate) separates Uruguay from Argentina.

 Most of the country consists of rolling plains and low hills criss-crossed by rivers. There are no mountains in Uruguay, but two large ranges of hills, the Cuchilla de Santa Ana and the Cuchilla Grande, rise in the north and east. Along the coast there are several large lagoons separated from the Atlantic Ocean by sandbars.

The Río Negro, which originates in Brazil, divides the country in half. Near the centre of the country, the river has been diverted into a huge artificial lake, the Rincón del Bonete, where gigantic turbines produce electricity for the whole country. The use of hydroelectric power is important for the economy of Uruguay as there are no commercial reserves of oil or coal.

 Uruguay is the only Latin American country that lies wholly outside the tropics and the climate is mild. The average temperature in winter is 10°C and the average summer temperature is 22°C. Rain falls throughout the year and droughts are rare. However, the cold winter pampero winds from Argentina, as well as storms from the South Atlantic, can be violent and destructive.

  Did you know?
The ombú is a huge evergreen tree that grows in the prairies of Uruguay. It can reach great heights and provides a point of reference as well as shelter for travellers. 
Uruguay has some unique wildlife. The rhea or nandú is a large, flightless bird resembling a small grey ostrich that is often hunted for its meat. The ovenbird or hornero is a small, reddish-grey bird that builds a circular nest of mud, twigs and straw that looks like an old-fashioned oven. If other birds take over the horneros' nests, legend has it, the horneros wall up the intruders in the occupied nest. 

The carpincho looks like a water-dwelling hog but is actually a large rodent. It eats grasses and water plants. Caimanes are sometimes found in Uruguay's rivers. These are reptiles similar to but smaller than crocodiles. They eat fish and water fowl. On the sea coast and islands near Uruguay there are huge colonies of seals and sea lions. Uruguayans hunt them for their furs.

  Did you know?
The gauchos, or Uruguayan cowboys, chase rheas on horseback and throw boleadoras at them to tangle their feet. Boleadoras are leather thongs tipped with leather-covered stones. Inuit hunters in Canada use a similar weapon to snare small birds.