Back in 2013 I spent six weeks in South America, between Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Prior to planning my trip with my friend that I was staying with in Buenos Aires, I had never thought about visiting Uruguay. Since it was a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires, we decided to spend a weekend in Uruguay.
To get to Colonia del Sacramento, we took a one hour ferry across the Rio de la Plata. Upon arrival we hopped on a bus for the two hour drive to the capital Montevideo, where we would be spending the night.
We woke up early the next day, found a rental car and headed to Punta del Este, a resort town on the Atlantic coast of Uruguay. During the drive we were able to see a bit more of Montevideo.
Punta del Este
Punta del Else which is often paralled to be to Bueons Aireans what the Hamptons is to New Yorkers. Since I visited in 2013, there has been a lot more press about the town so perhaps I should make a return trip. The weather was not that great when we arrived which may have given me a tainted view of the city. While I was not that impressed and did not feel like I was in Miami, the prices of the seafood restaurants and the docked yachts were reminiscent of a high end beach town.
We did not stay in the city for very long as we were anxious to get to smaller beach towns, but before we left we were sure to see a very popular attraction, the famous Mano de Punta del Este (hand of Punta del Este). The sculpture features five fingers partially above the sand. It was completed in 1982 and remains one of Uruguay’s most recognizable landmarks.
During the weekend we visited three different beach towns and we were able to take in views of the countryside along the way.
Punta del Diablo
Punta del Diablo was our first stop because it was the furthest north, almost at the Brazilian border. Prior to arrival we didn’t arrange accommodations because my friend was sure that we could sort it out when we arrived. It was true. We were able to.
Arrival in Punta del Diablo was like arriving in a hippie’s paradise. Between the marijuana smells that tickled your nose to colorful pant clad dredlocked men strewn about to the carefree energy that engulfs you, this place felt like a mecca that many were searching for in the 70s. We met many people as everyone was very open to chatting.
One couple we met were running a sandwich shop and living in a small white van. She was Swedish and he was Uruguayan. They worked in Sweden part of the year to save money, then came back here to live an easy life.
The weather was surprisingly chilly, but we still sat on the beach and enjoyed the sunset followed by star gazing.
Barra de Valizas
The next day we headed to Barra de Valizas and the weather had finally warmed up. We enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch paired with cold beers and sangria, then walked around to see the crafts that people were selling on the small street in front of the restaurant. One vendor asked my friend for some of his beer. I thought it was odd, but after spending a few hours in this small village I quickly realized that it was not out of the ordinary.
After lunch we enjoyed the beach and also went sandboarding!! We found a guy on the beach who had a boat and sandboards. We paid him and hopped in the boat to cross the small river to get to the dunes. I was a bit scared to do the sandboarding but I built up some courage hopped on and enjoyed the ride. It is really really fun. So if you have a chance, no matter where you are, definitely go sandboarding.
Our final day in Uruguay was spent in Cabo Polonio, which was my favorite little town that we visited. The town is well maintained largely because there are no roads leading to it and it is a little over four miles from the road. We had to take a jeep ride and then walk into the town. The town also has no electricity or running water for its nearly 100 residents, though there are a few generators that power some stores.
We walked around the small town and talked to a few of the residents. We walked over to the lighthouse and were able to see many seals or walruses (not really sure) resting on the rocks below. We enjoyed lunch at a small quaint restaurant called Mariemar that had a great view, good paella and ice cold Cokes. We unfortunately only spent a few hours in this quiet haven, but if I returned I would stay at least one night. If you are looking to unplug, this is a great place to do it.
All in all, there was something peaceful and magical about the small towns that we visited during the weekend in Uruguay. None of them are very fancy, but they all felt very authentic and the people were very pleasant and kind. On our way back to our car a kind couple shared their mate with me! Mate is a green tea that is very popular in South America. You often see people on the beach with their mate kits and generally people share it with their friends.