Adventure Andrea González

Uruguay, from beach to beach

With an average of 28°C during January and February, Uruguay is a top destination if you want to experience the southern summer. The country is irresistible, providing incredible beaches while much of Europe is struggling through the depths of winter. We check out its 200km of Atlantic coastline and visit its most spectacular sandy stretches.

Fly to Montevideo from51 000 Avios (return).

The Rambla de Montevideo avenue stretches over 22km, allowing you to travel the entire coastline that hugs Uruguay’s capital. A symbol of the city, thanks to spaces such as the Teatro del Verano summer theatre, where the Montevideo Carnival will be celebrated on 29 January, this promenade by the ocean not only offers impressive sunsets, but also connects to some of the country’s most famous beaches. One of the most outstanding is Playa Ramírez in Parque Rodó park. Due to its proximity to the city centre, it has become a popular location for festivals, shows and live music. It’s also a favourite with local families. Another beach, Playa de los Pocitos – one of Montevideo’s largest – is located at the heart of the city’s accommodation and gastronomy scene, which includes the hidden gem of Pistatxo Fusión. Just as sophisticated is Playa Carrasco, in the city’s most exclusive district. Its calm waves break in front of century-old hotels and mansions. Here, Otero x Rotunda has revolutionised the foodie arena. This fashion café was designed by one of Uruguay’s most the most dynamic style labels and has become one of the top spots for Montevideo’s ‘it’ girls.

Playa Ramírez, Montevideo

A quintessential holiday destination in Uruguay, Punta del Este, has been nicknamed ‘the Pearl of the Atlantic’ on more than one occasion, as it’s one of the most brilliant and glamorous beach towns in South America. Its peninsular location is blessed with stunningly beautiful beaches where any dream can come true, from surfing to spending a few days of total disconnection. The best-known beach is Playa Brava. Due to its intense waves and its strong winds, it’s perfect for water sports, such as surfing, and there are schools on the beach itself. It’s also home to the Punta del Este’s most important symbol, the impressive sculpture of La Mano by the artist Mario Irarrázabal. Anyone in search of long, relaxing days of swimming in the sun should head to Playa Mansa, which also boasts impressive sunsets. In Punta del Este, you can also enjoy good food on the seashore at beach clubs such as Chef Matías Sanjurjo’s Arenas Magnum, I’marangatú and the high-in-the sky Huma Rooftop at The Grand Hotel, which features international cuisine by the chef Javier Sánchez.

Punta del Este

Punta del Este is also an oasis for fashion and art lovers. The main fashion road – Calle 20 – is located here. It features big luxury brands and spaces, such as Magma, along with the aforementioned Rotunda boutique. And just a short distance away in Punta Ballena is the Casapueblo workshop museum, a near magical intervention that Carlos Páez Vilaró developed during his life by the Atlantic Ocean. The result is an immaculate complex that the artist seems to have sculpted directly on the mountain. It was his workshop and summer home. Today, it includes a gallery, a museum and even a hotel.

Garzón Lagoon

Taking Uruguay’s National Route 10 – which people usually start on the Rambla Costanera, a continuation of the Rambla de Montevideo – from Punta del Este, you’ll soon reach José Ignacio. This town overlooks the Atlantic from its position between two lagoons, Garzón Lagoon and José Ignacio Lagoon. This fishing village has become a mecca of South American gastronomy thanks to the Argentine chef Francis Mallmann. After his international success, he returned to open his Chiringuito in the Arenas de José Ignacio, where lunch is served alfresco every day and features fresh produce grilled over a log fire. The view from Chiringuito’s hammocks is unbeatable, and its 3km beach will make you think you’re on a desert island. Strolls along its golden sand seashore are topped off by distant views of the José Ignacio Lighthouse, a local emblem that dates back to 1877. Don’t leave the area without windsurfing or kitesurfing in the lagoons (Garzón is perfect for beginners) or trying out Federico Desseno’s Marismo. This restaurant has recently opened for the season after having been included in the list of the 100 Best Restaurants in Latin America. If you travel in January, visit the international Este Arte fair by the sea in the impressive Pavilion Vik.

La Paloma

Route 10 continues to Laguna de Rocha, a natural paradise that was declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco. It’s home to species such as the flamingo and the black-necked swan, which offer a show to anyone who travels there for birdwatching. Next to it is La Paloma, a quiet coastal town that has become Uruguay’s top destination for surfing fans. Due to its wind and wave conditions, Playa de la Aguada is one of the favourite beaches for surfers. Visit it in February to catch the biggest waves. This beach is also pet friendly. Sometimes you can also surf at Playa de los Botes, one of the most family-friendly beaches. The area is famous for its small boats owned by artisan fishermen, who supply La Paloma with fresh fish every morning. If you prefer something more peaceful, the shady beach of the 149-year-old Cabo Santa María Lighthouse can be visited every day. A short distance away is Arrecife, a must for visitors to La Paloma who wish to eat well.

Cabo Polonio

Although not easily accessible, the next stop along Route 10 is Cabo Polonio, a destination for young people and the adventurist type. With its alternative atmosphere – genuinely disconnected from the rest of the world – it’s become a can’t-miss visit for backpackers and bohemians. Officially, Cabo Polonio has only 100 inhabitants. Its area – which was declared a National Park – has no access to electricity unless it’s produced using solar panels. Accommodation includes the small hostels that have opened in Cabo Polonio, or hotels such as La Perla del Cabo, a family-run establishment located right on the seashore. It offers fresh seafood and fish and is one of the town’s most interesting culinary options. Cabo Polonio’s two breathtakingly beautiful beaches – Calavera and Sur are suitable for surfing. Nearby is the world’s largest sea lion reserve.

Leones marinos, en Cabo Polonio

Leaving behind Punta del Diablo, where Playa Rivero offers unbeatable surfing conditions, we arrive at Barra del Chuy, our last stop. It’s the easternmost point on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast, located right on the border with Brazil. In fact, the town on the other side of the border has the same name, but in Portuguese: Barra do Chuí. Avenida General Artigas crosses from one side of the border to the other. The area is known for its oceanfront cabins, which are perfect for relaxing in a quiet setting, where it seems as if time has stood still. Barra del Chuy’s beaches – such as the one in La Barra, which ends at the mouth of the small River Chuy – are surrounded by wild vegetation and dunes overlooking the bi-colour lighthouse on the border between the two countries. They are perfect for slow strolls alongside the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.