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Away from Punta del Este
Punta del Este is the typical beach holiday in Uruguay. But it’s not the best.
Here, the sands stretch for kilometres. Waves crash onto the shore, filling the air with thunder and the smell of salt. Birds fly overhead while fish leap from the water. The sun rises in the sky, the rays embraced by the coastline and caught by the crests of the ocean.
The beach is ready. The only thing missing is the people.
You see, it’s December in Uruguay and it’s still a week or two until the crowds descend.
Welcome to the summer playground of the South Americans. This is their secret indulgence… their escape from the heat of the cities. And they don’t want you to know about it!
The coastline of Uruguay, stretching from near the capital, Montevideo, all the way to the Brazilian border has some of the nicest beaches on the continent.
The big popular one is Punta del Este. But most of them aren’t heavily developed and most of them don’t have huge hordes of Western tourists.
This is part of the charm.
The city of Punta De Este could be Miami, the Gold Coast, or Ibiza. Outside of this hub, though, the coastal communities remain just that, communities.
Accommodation is limited to small guesthouses, bungalows on the sand, hostels, and apartments for rent. These are often booked months in advance, and that adds to the mood of exclusivity.
Best beaches in Uruguay
Some of the more relaxed and alternative villages, like La Pedrera, don’t even have paved roads or an ATM. They are a haven from the daily lives of its summer visitors.
Cabo Polonia doesn’t even have a road into the town – you have to stop on the outskirts and catch a truck in.
And in nearby Punta Del Diablo, the village consists almost entirely of small cabanas – all with a constant reminder of the coastal residence as the wind, the sand and the salt blow through each day.
The communities do prepare for the summer influx with new restaurants and bars but even now, with just days until the official season begins, many are still being built in the dirt streets or on the edge of the beaches.
In general, the beaches themselves have resisted the natural inclination of humans to develop waterfronts. Water turns to sand, which becomes grasslands and then sky finishes the landscape.
When dead animals like seals and dolphins are washed ashore, they stay where they land, as part of the environment. Ships wrecked upon the shore are also untouched, left for the rust to devour.
If the South Americans (and by that I mean mostly the Uruguayans, Argentines and Brazilians) had their way, everything along this coastline would be left untouched by everyone except them.
That’s not to say they are resentful of foreign tourists who visit – in fact, they seem very proud that we are acknowledging how beautiful the area is.
It’s just that they don’t want the place to be overrun by those who might then make it harder for them to enjoy their paradise.
Well, I’m sorry, guys. The cat is now well and truly out of the bag.
Uruguay is not typically on the top of the list for tourists visiting South America. But it should be.
I am declaring Uruguay – and in particular it’s eastern coastline – one of my top travel destinations for 2012. Get yourself there before everyone else does!