Uruguay are customs, it’s kindness, there are endless beaches, top destinations with the best parties, horseback riding on the beach, small towns with charm, nature and history.
Discover five of its essential stops on a route along the coast of Uruguay that goes from the most mystical place to the favorite destination of celebrities.
The Uruguayan capital is the starting point of any route through this country. Modernity and tradition go hand in hand in this city where old architectural treasures such as the Puerta de la Ciudadela or the Matriz church are interspersed with Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings, such as the Rinaldi Palace or the Pablo Ferrando building, respectively. If something can also boast Montevideo is its wide cultural offer, theaters, cultural centers and museums such as the National Museum of Visual Arts or the Museum of Tango where Gerardo Matos Rodríguez played for the first time the best-known tango in the world and the second most versionada song of the history, the Cumparsita.
To soak up the culture and the Uruguayans come and go, nothing like strolling along the capital’s rambla or going to the Mercado del Puerto (mercadodelpuerto.com), a meeting place for locals and tourists to sample their most typical drink, mate, buy some other souvenir or taste some of its succulent meats or one of its many desserts with dulce de leche.
PIRIÁPOLIS, FOR MYSTIC TRAVELERS
Located on the Uruguayan coast, sheltered by three high hills – Pan de Azúcar, San Antonio and El Toro – is Piriápolis, a spa town that is pure mysticism. At the top of the hill of San Antonio you have to go up to contemplate the heart shape of its bay and the beauty of its surroundings. There is also the temple of San Antonio, where it is said that single women come to ask for a couple. And between legends and magical history you should visit the source of Venus, the second mandatory stop in this Uruguayan corner. It is said that you have to travel in the opposite direction to the hands of the clock while leaving `backpacks’ and problems that we carry on our backs, those that weigh and hinder the way, and then go through it in the direction of the needles of the watch filled with positivism and good wishes.
The ritual will not be complete until you go to the next stop, the Toro fountain. Around it, small stone benches invite the visitor to sit down to finish cleaning themselves with the water that flows under their feet. The bull, located at 33 steps, symbolizes the earth, a little higher is the lion, the material part, and up the mountain you can reach the eagle, which represents the spiritual field. Visit the castle of Piria, founder of the city, Pittamiglio or walk along its promenade complete the list of essentials of the place.
PUNTA DEL ESTE
Punta del Este, the birthplace of luxury and exclusivity, can not be missed on a route along the Uruguayan coast. So far, every summer, not only thousands of tourists, but also many celebrities who come to enjoy its wide range of leisure-shopping streets, nightclubs, art galleries, luxury restaurants …- and its more than 20 kilometers of coasts. For those who seek tranquility there are also charming corners far from the hustle and bustle. The best way to discover this city is with a bicycle route with Bike Tours Uruguay (biketoursuruguay.com). Route that includes the visit to the port, where the sea lions go in search of the remains of fresh fish that they sell, every day, the fishermen after fishing, the lighthouse, the image of Our Lady of the Candelaria – located on the beach -, and the famous sculpture of the Hand, made by the Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal in Playa Brava.
Just 15 kilometers from Punta del Este is one of the Uruguayan artistic gems: Casapueblo. Its location, the shapes that draw its different rooms and the artistic legacy it keeps make this place one of the most magical and impressive in Uruguay. Here comes to know the history of Carlos Páez Vilaró, to contemplate his works and to enjoy the most beautiful sunsets. Each afternoon, when the sun goes down you can sit down to contemplate this show enlivened by several paragliders that fly over the area while listening in the background to one of the most beautiful poems of this Uruguayan artist that he built with his own hands, and with the help of the locals, this refuge in Punta Ballena to which he returned again and again after traveling around the world.
40 km from Punta del Este, in the department of Maldonado, is the town of José Ignacio. It only has about 100 permanent inhabitants, but in high season the population reaches 1500 people. It is its perfect location, surrounded by two beaches -the Brava, with imposing waves, and the Mansa, with its fishing boats, its exuberant nature, is located between two lagoons with a great biological wealth, its coquettes and small houses and its lighthouse, what hooks who visits it.
Another key to this place is its rich cuisine where not only succulent meat is found, but also first class fish. In the lagoon of Garzón is La Balsa, a small restaurant whose terrace is just that, half a raft that crossed, long ago, on the other side of the lagoon. In addition to its elaborate and exquisite dishes you can enjoy a beautiful sunset. And to stay, nothing like doing it in a floating hotel, Laguna Garzón Lodge) that offers small houses for two or three people located on the lagoon and that also have kayak and bicycles to discover the surroundings.
To visit Colonia de Sacramento is to take a trip back in time, to go through history to learn about the disputes between Portuguese and Spaniards that shaped this colony whose historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Located on the north bank of the Río de la Plata, one hour by boat from Buenos Aires and two by road from Montevideo, Colonia is a city to rest, to enjoy and to walk around. To visit it, we will have to retrace our steps to leave from the Uruguayan capital to the west.
In the old town you have to stop at the Calle de los Suspiros, the best preserved and most photographed place, go up to the lighthouse to see the panoramic view, visit the basilica of the Santísimo Sacramento – the oldest in Uruguay – and sit down from its terraces to try a chivito, (meat sandwich typical of the country).