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Uruguay is tucked away between Brazil and Argentina on the eastern coast of South America. It’s a dreamy place, with rocky coasts, sandy beaches and laid-back, friendly locals, and offers lots of opportunities for travellers to go off the grid. Here are some ideal places to explore if you want a time-out to drop off the map for a while.
As Punta del Este appears in the distance behind Isla Gorriti, you’ll reach Punta Ballena (Whale Point), which looks out across the bay towards the city. Much smaller, quieter and slower than the city of Punta del Este, Punta Ballena is rimmed by a beautiful green landscape, all the way up to the edge of the rocky coast that rolls into the ocean. A known place to vacation amongst locals, Punta Ballena isn’t on many travellers’ radar, keeping it quaint and quiet.
Outside of the chic, trendy, upscale city of Punta del Este, you will find the relaxed surf town of La Barra. Continue on a little further and you will reach the small commune of Manantiales. With a semi-permanent population of under 150, make sure you don’t accidentally miss this small locale, as it’s made up of just a few hundred meters of main streets and avenues. A few restaurants, cafés and, of course, a beautiful beach is all you really need.
Continue past Manantiales and you will come across the outcrop of rock the town of Jose Ignacio sits on. A grid system of 12 streets that all slant and roll down to the main attraction, the ocean, this town feels sleepy and laid-back even at the liveliest of times. As soon as you arrive, you too will slow down and accept the relaxed way of life that revolves around limited but quality restaurants and cafés.
It might have just one strip of short road running through it, but La Pedrera is an enchanting place. The main road ends in a long, sloping staircase that goes right into the ocean, offering many picturesque views for you to enjoy. To this day, only a few restaurants, a very small supermarket, a café and a hostel make up the centre of La Pedrera.
Possibly the town most off the beaten track, Cabo Polonio has no real roads, just sand paths that weave around small sand dunes and sporadic green grass, as the little town is located on the cape within the Cabo Polonio National Park. There is not much here other than a relaxing vibe, terrific scenery, and no reason to leave.
Having grown rapidly in popularity in recent years, Punta del Diablo is still a quiet place, as there is only one paved road and building restrictions limit the town from growing out of control. Other than the main walkway that goes past a few restaurants, beach bars and fresh fish stands, the whole town revolves around the beach, which is complete with huts and hammocks.
Located within the impressive Santa Teresa National Park, here you will find beaches, forests, lagoons, and even a Medieval fortress. Also growing in popularity, Playa de la Moza is one of the most beautiful beaches in the park, with a few dusty paths leading through the area that some might not even classify as a town. Many visitors pitch their tents and occupy a patch of grass at one of the campsites, there is a very small market to buy snacks, and a couple of bars and restaurants open at random times, usually only during high season.