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.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
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3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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