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.”

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

1. Punta Ballena

Museum

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Garzón

Hotel

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.

5. 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.

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