Once in a while, a destination comes around that makes you want to pack it all up and buy a horse farm in the countryside. And you’re not even into horses, but it’s that inspiring. So if you haven’t met Uruguay yet, it’s time to get an introduction. This is the guide for where to visit in Uruguay.
It’s rare to find a place where you can simultaneously feel like an adventurer and a resort-destined hedonist. The unofficial outpost of Argentina is the winter-break destination you, as a free-spirited North American, have been waiting for. Up until now, most vacationers visiting between December and March are from nearby Argentina and Brazil. As you can imagine, the Uruguayan party scene is top tier. But if you’re on the LA nightlife schedule, or traveling with the fam, there are amazing restaurants to dine at (hello, asado), beaches to surf, and importantly, horses to ride. Our team member Martina lives, breathes, and of course eats Uruguay during the winter, and she gave us the insider details to have the best Uruguayan experience.
Where to Visit
Before you hit up our restaurant recs, it’s important to know which cities make for the best vacation. Montevideo, the capital, is centered around a formerly Mexican citadel which boasts incredible art deco and colonial architecture. Known for its ‘old town’ feel, Montevideo is a great place to start getting acquainted with the Uruguayan way of life.
Then there’s Punta del Este, the Uruguayan city to visit if you want to party. Here you can snag an invite to VIP rooftop parties, beach shindigs, and art pop-ups. Foreign investors have the same rights as citizens, so the 20 miles of coast has seen dramatic development in restaurants, museums, and tourist experiences.
Lastly, we have the insider scoop on José Ignacio, the best beach town in the world according to some, and the new Punta del Este. Once a sleepy fishing village, Punta del Este is now a hotspot for high-end travel thanks to top-level hotels and the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen. However, despite the new clientele (there’s been a boom in yoga studios and cocktail bars), there’s nowhere more chill to travel. The food, especially the meat, is barbecued to perfection, and the people are nice as can be. Of course, living in one of the best climates has its effect. You might start searching for where to visit in Uruguay…and end up finding somewhere to live.
Where to eat
Parador La Huella
The place might present itself as a simple beach restaurant, but for those who love Parador La Huella, the eatery is an essential experience near the José Ignacio resort. The multiple beachfront dining spaces are enough to make any meal enjoyable, but the endless rosé and fresh daily menu take the experience over the top. The chefs travel around the world for culinary inspiration, which enhances their perfect asado, the artfully fire-cooked meat.
If you didn’t know it already, the vibe in José Ignacio is feet in the sand. The brilliant thing about this is that you don’t compromise quality for casualness. La Susana is located on the beautiful Mansa Beach, a privileged location. Here, Uruguayan cuisine sees its most careful and delectable iteration with (again) meat as the centerpiece of the menu. After or during your meal, there will also be intimate bonfires and plenty of wine to keep the mood going.
Cruz del Sur Cocina
Farm-to-table takes on a whole new dimension when there is a beach nearby. At Cruz del Sur Cocina, you can enjoy one of the little-known gems of Uruguay. With its produce farmed on site, the dishes are as fresh and healthy as can be. This may also be the spot for any vegetarians who can’t partake in asado. Additionally, the farm stand and boutique attached is a no miss.
Started by one of José Ignacio’s pioneer families, Popei is a testament to the love of fish that has grounded the town since before it was overrun by tourism. Fresh seafood is the name of the game. And the identity of place translates through Popei’s menu, which includes seaweed omelettes and paella.
El Chiringo José Ignacio
El Chiringo José Ignacio is the beach club of your dreams. There’s a bar, gastronomy, music, yoga, and special events (like Full Moon Night) which get the party going. Unlike the more rustic places, El Chiringo is committed to refining “typical.” But even as the new kids on the block, the team is also committed to complete sustainability, which feels good when you’re enjoying yourself.
Mostrador Santa Teresita
Though it looks like a house, Mostrador Santa Teresita is one of José Ignacio’s best-known eateries. Located just away from the buzz of Playa Brava, the restaurant boasts a cozy communal dining room. The crew serves food all day, but this is the best place to refuel after a night out; the breakfast yogurts, granolas, and pastries can’t be beat.
Where to Stay
It’s hard to believe that booking a stay a half hour inland from José Ignacio would be worth it but it is. This Francis Mallmann restaurant turned hotel is a destination in its own right for foodies the world over. Mallmann’s cooking revolutionizes South American food, and earned him an episode on Chef’s Table. He knows what to do with fire, making his food a sensational experience both for the tastebuds and the mind. The attached hotel has a rich history, as it was once the general store for the then-200-person town. Now, guests can luxuriate in swimming pools, and relax in their cozy rooms in between the gastronomic highlights.
If you want to stay in José Ignacio, the Vik Retreats are for you. With three separate locations, Estancia Vik, Bahia Vik, and Playa Vik, there will be a spot that is perfect for the traveler in you. Designed by Uruguayan architects, the properties boast unique casitas, rooms, and spaces designed to enhance the already incredible location. Estancia Vik has a romantic feel with multiple gardens and outdoor spaces. Bahia Vik has a beachside vibe, where indoor-outdoor living is the MO. And Playa Vik might be the most architecturally interesting, with large windows perfect for watching the gorgeous sunsets in José Ignacio.
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