Making the short 40 minute hop over the Rio del Plata, from Buenos Aires to Punta Del Este, it becomes immediately obvious why Uruguay is establishing itself as a must to visit while in South America. With miles and miles of untouched beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s a place to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
I would like to say we discovered an untouched gem, however any well-heeled traveller to Uruguay will almost certainly have ticked our destination off their list. Located 25km north of the larger Punta del Este, which for the two summer months of the year becomes the go-to destination for the “portenos” of Buenos Aires – Jose Ignacio has the perfect level of tranquility year round.
Our hotel, Playa Vik, is one of three hotels in the area set up by Swedish financier, Alexander Vik. The hotel has been designed to blend in naturally with the environment with living roofs on all the buildings, a feature V-shaped infinity pool with views over the Atlantic ocean and a sunken fire pit with seats and blankets for the evenings. The rooms themselves also feature natural materials: the baths and furnishings are all made of wood.
When it comes to dining in Jose Ignacio there really is only one place to go, but the lack of choice is certainly not a bad thing as we all agreed you could gladly eat every day of the year here. Situated right on the beach, “La Huella”, which translates as “the footprint”, serves locally sourced fish, grilled on an open flame fire grill. When it came to dessert, no menus were needed as their signature “Dulce de Leche Volcano” with banana ice cream is something everyone needs to try once in their life!
Further afield, we ventured into the countryside to visit the new Francis Mallman restaurant Garzon. Named after the village in which it is situated, Mallman took over a local convenience store to set up a restaurant that cooks using only wood. He now employs two thirds of the village population between here and the accompanying hotel, which serves a selection of traditional Uruguayan cuisine, with dishes such as bread on the coals and burnt orange and steak Milanese “a caballo”, which has an egg “riding” on top.
On our final day, we travelled a few kilometres further north to Lak Garzon, where the recently completed round bridge (which continues the Uruguayans love of funky bridges) connects the south to the north but also, and more importantly for us, a huge lake with ideal conditions for kite surfing. After renting the equipment from the school, which also provides lessons for all abilities, we hit the water to enjoy the day, albeit after a rather shaky start!
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