Comfortably wedged between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is the gorgeous South American country of your travel fantasies. Its verdant interior, colonial-era architecture (especially in capital city Montevideo) and beach-lined coast hit all the vacation high notes — a sublime food scene (look out for Mercado del Puerto’s sensational steakhouses) doesn’t hurt, either.

Off the radar of North American travelers until recently, Uruguay has a laid-back vibe and sleepy beach towns that have attracted South American glitterati for years with its array of resort destinations like luxe Punta del Este (regarded as the Southern Hemisphere’s French Riviera) and remote retreats such as Cabo Polonio, where you’ll find almost no electricity and few roads.

Despite their relaxed mentality, though, Uruguayans know how to have a good time. Nightlife is huge here with bars and clubs staying open until between 6 and 7 a.m. (most locals don’t even go out for drinks until 11 p.m.) and the longest-running Carnival celebration in the world.