By Christina Ohly for Fathom | Old Montauk meets Malibu in Jose Ignacio and the coastal towns surrounding Punta del Este in Southeastern Uruguay. Here you’ll find everything from surf shacks to gauchos in traditional garb, not to mention delicious communal asados (barbecues) set on wide Atlantic beaches. Punta del Este serves as an entry point to a series of lovely fishing villages and quieter inland destinations such as Garzón, the Deco throwback set amongst verdant, rolling hills that is home to famed Argentine chef Francis Mallman’s hotel and restaurant, Garzon.
For beach chic with an artisanal vibe, this area is impossible to beat. Jose Ignacio is hardly a travel secret anymore, but the destination is only going to get more and more popular. So magical is the entire scene that you should just book your trip now.
And although this gets tossed around like a bad travel brochure cliche, there truly is something for everyone in this part of the world. For the avid, athletic types, there’s horseback riding, biking, and invigorating swims. For the chaise lounger, there’s poolside capriroskas (a cocktail borrowed from neighboring Brazil), endless massages, and long lunches at La Huella (as seen in Michelle Lehman’s Just Back from Jose Ignacio, and I agree wholeheartedly with her ringing endorsement of this special spot by the sea).
Kids of all ages are enchanted, too, by the rugged mix of cowboy culture (horseback riding is accessible to all), polo ponies (in the high season which lasts the few, short weeks between Christmas and mid-January), and swims in the 20-meter Absolute Nero stone pools that have twinkling under water “constellations” (an added bonus at all Vik hotels.)
LAY OF THE LAND
After landing in either Montevideo or Punta del Este, head straight for the laid-back village of Jose Ignacio. You’ll pass the picturesque 1877 lighthouse and the stunningly simple mid-century modern beach homes owned by the likes of Shakira and Argentine hotelier Alan Faena.
Drive along the coastline (preferably in an open-top Jeep) through the villages of La Barra, El Chorro, Punta Pedras, and Manantiales. Plan on spending a few hours in Manantiales to visit Atchugarry Foundation, the workshop of master sculptor/local hero Pablo Atchugarry and also to stock up on beach gear at the many great surf stores in the area and house décor with playful prints at Roberta Roller Rabbit. Try to come hungry, so you can have delicately fried cod sandwiches and fresh gazpacho on the whitewashed patio at stylish Fish Market (Ruta 10, km 163.5; +598-42-774-431).
Word to the wise: Before you set off on any expedition, you should know that there aren’t…