All the rich and the famous of Argentina travel to Punta del Este, Uruguay in summer. They go there because of all the fabulous beaches, and I suspect: because everybody else go there. Not being rich, nor famous we still figured that it would be nice to spend some time at the beach.
We took the Buquebus boat across Rio de la plata to Colonia. A wonderful old town, that is on the UN World Heritage list. Colonia is cosy, with lovely vegetation, cobbled streets and low white brick buildings. Just as cut out from an old movie.
But after a short stay in Colonia we carried on to Montevideo and Punta del Este. Apart from having all the ritzy jet-setters, Punta also has the best beaches (we were told that they were much better than Argentina’s own Mar del plata). And since the success of a vacation in Norway usually is measured by the degree of tanning, we decided it would be best to “bronze up” a little bit before going home.
Now we have been here for a week, and at least to me that has been plenty. Punta is three times as expensive as Argentina, and I still haven’t encountered many of the rich models I was promised. However, it is harder to get Marte to leave the beach. And it is rumoured that Leonardo de Caprio was here at the same time as us.
First we stayed north of the actual peninsula of Punta del Este, in an area called La Barra. There was a backpacker there, and the nightlife was supposedly good. However, after a day or two we moved closer to the centre (the peninsula) and stayed at a hotel called Hotel Dollar. Contrary to it’s name, it was quite affordable, and the staff were extremely friendly. Recommended.
Earlier this week we hired a car and drove up Cobo Polonio. A small fishermen’s village, only accessible by 4-wheel drive. It is about two hours drive north of Punta del Este. It really was an interesting place. Beautiful, beaches all around, and you could get up and close with the Lobos Marinos (sea lions). We were told before getting there at there would be lots of hippies and flower power there. And true enough – I was offered marihuana within 10 minutes of arriving. The place was nice, but tourism is picking up quite rapidly, and a place like this is destroyed with too many visitors.
Another highlight from Punta was Casa Pueblo. A giant white “sand castle” that is the workshop and museum of the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. The house (without a single straight line) is built on the side of a cliff on the edge of a cape. It was just weird. And beautiful. As I sat drinking a Seven-up on the terrazzo a maniac in a paraglider flew from side to side right in front of the building. It was the closest I’ve ever seen to a man actually flying. He was hovering just in front of the terrazzo for a long time – only meters from the building. Occasionally he would fly up, do some turns, and quick as lightning zoom past the building again. He would even dive down and touch the ground before letting the paraglider carry him up again.
Although the beaches here in Uruguay are nice, they do not justify a visit from Europe. If you are short on time, there is definitely more to see and do in Argentina.