This Place Has Just Been Dubbed the New Riviera

Uruguayan East Coast
Uruguayan East Coast | © Marcelo Campi/Flickr
Milena Fajardo

The coastal resort of Punta del Este has been a famous tourism destination among South American travelers for decades now. In recent years, the rest of the world has started to catch up and is falling in love with the Uruguayan coast, which has now been dubbed the “French Riviera of South America.”

Loved by over 40s

The “Riviera,” Uruguay’s east coast

Having been dubbed “the Switzerland of South America” in the past, Uruguay is no stranger to these reputations, and is eager to live up to them. The country is divided into departments, or big areas ruled by different municipalities. Uruguay’s east coast is part of the departments of Maldonado and Rocha; Maldonado is more developed with foreign and domestic investments, whereas Rocha is unspoiled and hosts protected natural reserves and parks. The best part is that Uruguay’s coastal region is so varied, that this Riviera can be explored and enjoyed in a myriad of ways, suited to every particular taste.

Maldonado, Uruguay

Rocha, Uruguay

Uruguay Riviera

Punta Ballena


Pool and terrace of Casapueblo, the Whitewashed cement and stucco buildings near the town of Punta Del Este, Uruguay
© TravelPhotoExpert / Alamy Stock Photo
Punta Ballena is also known as “the whale’s hump,” because it’s located on top of a big hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Home to incredible beaches, it doesn’t get as crowded as Punta del Este so it’s ideal for people wanting a peaceful holiday, but still close enough to the big city. Enjoy fantastic scenic viewpoints from the top of “the whale’s hump,” and an incredible museum, hotel, and restaurant called Casapueblo, designed by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró.

Punta del Este


Skyline of Punta del Este City Center
© Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

Punta del Este

Punta del Este is big, hectic, and inflated with glamour. The most popular beaches get crowded during high season, with people who seem to live off this intense energy. Here you will find the best parties, fashion and art shows, exclusive nightclubs, busy bars with live music, vibrant restaurants, tall skyscrapers… Punta del Este is your oyster if you’re looking for a good time.

Punta del Este, Maldonado, Uruguay

Skyscrapers in Punta del Este

Skyscrapers in Punta del Este | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

La Barra

Natural Feature

Moon rise over La Barra, Punta del Este
© Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr
La Barra got very popular in recent years as a beach hub that is close to Punta del Este, and has borrowed a lot of its glamour, famous parties and celebrities. The main street of La Barra is incredibly enjoyable to walk on; you will find bohemian and luxury clothes and furniture shops, featuring local and international brands, countless bars, restaurants, and food trucks, and elegant real estate next to quirky beach houses. Montoya Beach and La Posta del Cangrejo are must-visit beaches for surfing, sunbathing, and spotting a local celebrity.



View from Manantiales
© Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr


Manantiales, right between Punta del Este and José Ignacio, epitomises the middle ground between these two hubs. Even though you don’t find a vast number of bars and restaurants, Manantiales is all about quality rather than quantity. There are incredible seafood and Peruvian restaurants, and stylish bars with live music, great cocktails, and tasty bistro food. Manantiales has great nightlife during high season; its trendy Bikini Beach hosts sunset parties, and bars are open until sunrise. Imagine all this without Punta del Este’s tall skyscrapers and overcrowding.

Manantiales, Maldonado, Uruguay

View from Manantiales

View from Manantiales | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

José Ignacio

Architectural Landmark

Lighthouse in José Ignacio beach, Maldonado, Uruguay
© Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr
The town of Jose Ignacio is renowned for being the bohemian-chic part of the Riviera. Many prefer to vacation at these beaches instead of Punta del Este, with access to the highest quality standards while remaining low-key. This former fishermen’s town is now bustling in high season, with Uruguayan, American, and European tourists alike enjoying its unique charm, which has been carefully preserved over the years.

A few favorites are Playa Vik, an unmatched boutique hotel designed by Carlos Ott, the renowned Uruguayan architect, La Huella, the iconic restaurant by the beach, and Marismo Restaurant. Other than the paradisiac beach, pay a visit to the lighthouse on the peninsula, and walk around to see some of the best real estate in Latin America, enchanting shops and stores, and intimate art galleries.



Famous Hotel and Restaurant Garzon in Garzon, Uruguay, January 28th 2019
© TravelPhotoExpert / Alamy Stock Photo
Further east from Jose Ignacio, you will find Garzón, a small town that, although isn’t on the coast, is a big highlight in any Uruguayan Riviera trip. Visit the renowned chef Francis Mallmann’s Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel, and have a stroll around this town that seems suspended in an era far before our time.

La Paloma


La Paloma
© Casas en el Este/Flickr

La Paloma

La Paloma is very underdeveloped in comparison to Punta del Este; it has its own rustic vibe with all the commodities of a city. There are numerous restaurants near the sea, pizzerias and delightful bakeries, and an amazing night market where you can find a little bit of everything. The beaches are some of the best surfing spots in the country, and the overall atmosphere is very relaxed and harmonious.

La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay

La Pedrera

Beach at La Pedrera, Uruguay
© Casas en el Este/Flickr

La Pedrera

This is a very famous town for its wild nightlife, especially during Carnival, where people go in costumes to party on the main streets. Usually young people vacation in La Pedrera, as they feel the freedom of staying in a more rustic, natural, beach spot. Between the last days of January and the start of Carnival week, La Pedrera is less crowded and the parties slow down. This is the perfect time to enjoy the magnificent beaches and surf, if you prefer a more tranquil lifestyle.

La Pedrera, Rocha, Uruguay

Beach at La Pedrera, Uruguay

Beach at La Pedrera, Uruguay | © Casas en el Este/Flickr

Cabo Polonio

Cabo Polonio

The next highlight is Cabo Polonio, a protected National Park that has been described as a hippie utopia. This is a very special place, in every sense. There is no electricity or running water, so people have wells, generators, or just make do with fires and candles. It’s ideal for spotting sea creatures, like whales and dolphins, and one of the biggest colonies of sea lions in the world resides on the rocks by the lighthouse, from where you can enjoy scenic views of this village made of shacks.

As if that wasn’t enough, Cabo Polonio is only accessible by foot, horse, or big monster trucks designated by the government, to protect the massive sand dunes that are characteristic of the region. This is a place to unwind and reconnect with nature, under a blanket of more stars than you’ve ever seen before.

Cabo Polonio, Rocha, Uruguay

Cabo Polonio under a million stars

Cabo Polonio under a million stars | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

Punta del Diablo

Natural Feature

Punta del Diablo Beach, popular tourist place in Uruguay
© Kseniya Ragozina / Alamy Stock Photo
Finally, at the easternmost point, lies Punta del Diablo, or “The Devil’s Peninsula.” This small fishermen’s town has a colorful fish market, where you will find all kinds of delicious ocean creatures fresh from the sea. Naturally, the local seafood restaurants are excellent. Punta del Diablo’s beaches are unspoiled, perfect for surfing, and truly represent a little piece of paradise.
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.