Sign Up


Few of those who spend vacation time in the Arapey Hot Springs are aware that there is a hidden treasure just 30 minutes away. Belén is an old rural village on the banks of an enormous lake. The place is full of stories of the Charrúas and Guarani, of Spanish and Portuguese soldiers, the voice of Artigas and the sound of water when the dam flooded the town village. Discovering its old houses, its farms, its murals and the centuries-old church with the help of a local guide, going horseback riding with a local guide along the banks of the lake, going sailing to see the village and the surrounding nature from the river, going camping and trying a delicious barbeque surrounded by native forest, eating tortas fritas (traditional friend bread) and drinking mate while watching horses run in a “cuadrera”, a type of traditional rural race-track and seeing the local handicrafts are just some of the activities on offer.

More Information

  • Belén, a pioneer in the cry for emancipation?Abrir o Cerrar

    Although it is not a part of the official story, there is a theory that the first cry for emancipation of the Banda Oriental came from the village of Belén. One of its main exponents is the teacher and historian Ofelia Pliegas, who disagrees with the “Grito de Asencio” – or the Admirable Alarm – theories (the traditional theories) as the starting point of the decision to start a revolution against the Spanish royalist authorities of Montevideo. In an intensive research paper, Pliega brought together different documents which put the most widespread version of the first events of the emancipators into question. For example, as a foundation the historian cites the work “The History of the Belgrano”, by the Argentine Bartolomé Mitre, who wrote the following on page 411: “At the same time as their naval armament lay broken in the waters of the Paraná River, a part of the Banda Oriental was incorporated spontaneously, raising the banner of the Revolution…The wretched people of Belén were the first to give the cry for insurrection, inspired by their military chief Lieutenant Don Francisco Reduello”. According to Pliegas, it is no wonder that this version of the story has been overlooked given that when the May Revolution began, Belén had only existed for 9 years after its founding in 1801. “Logically we must locate ourselves in time and space in order to understand the isolation of these distant, almost uninhabited lands, virtually ignored from its founding and the creation of the Cuerpo de Blandengues (military group from Rio de la Plata) in the colonial era”, she explained to the newspaper El Pueblo.

    See full article. http://www.diariosalto.com.uy/aunque-la-historia-no-quiera-decirlo-en-belen-se-dio-el-primer-grito-de-emancipacion-oriental/

  • The thousand and one lives of BelénAbrir o Cerrar

    Delving into the history of this village is a guaranteed way to understand the charisma of its inhabitants. It all began in 1800 when the Viceroy Avilés set out to stop the advances of the indigenous people and the Portuguese and offered land to people with no assets. The original population was established next to the mouth of the Yacuy River, under the protection of Our Lady of Belén, who gave her name to the place. The village has had to rise from the ashes several times, as it was burnt to the ground, refounded and burnt down again first by indigenous people and then by the Portuguese. Well into the twentieth century, history mercilessly found a new challenge to test its resilience. In 1973 the Salto Grande Dam literally broke down the middle. Water turned out to be worse than fire. However, once more, Belén was destined to be reborn and in the 1990s, with the rise of the El Espinillar (Uruguayan rum) factory, it became a prosperous community of more than five thousand people. El Espinillar also left and today the town has close to 1,800 inhabitants who make a living mainly through the exploitation of oranges and cranberries, the Arapey Hot Springs and racehorses. In recent years, several villages have also found a supplementary income through tourism.