Punta del Este is a major Uruguayan tourist destination, lying a peninsula at the wide estuary of the Rio de la Plata, in the far south of the country. From an administrative point of view, the city is located within the Maldonado department, and is just over 140 kilometres from the capital Montevideo. The first European settlers to set foot in today's Punta del Este area were the Spaniards, who landed on these shores at the beginning of the sixteenth century, although the actual foundation of the settlement dates back almost two centuries, precisely to 1829, when Francisco Aguilar was forced to build an outpost in an attempt to control the Portuguese expansionism that began to threaten the capital Maldonado.
Today the city has become one of the most exclusive tourist destinations inSouth America, which has afantastic shoreline with quiet, relaxing beachesequipped for every tourist’s needs, and a proper colonial centre that is undoubtedly worth a visit. Punta del Este is divided into two parts:Playa Mansa("calm beach") andPlaya Brava ("lively beach"), the latter being famous for an original hand-shaped sculpture that comes out of the sand.
Lying along the Rio de la Plata, Mansa offers rather calm waters and is protected from ocean currents that, on the contrary, create large waves on the shores of Brava. The first is ideal forrelaxing in the sun in all relaxation. The second isa surfing paradise, loved by young people from all over the American continent.Thanks to Costa excursionsyou will discover a jewel, known for being a holiday destination for VIPs and wealthy entrepreneurs. A magical place that combines urban life, which is recognised in itsHollywood architecturewith nature, characterised by the coastal area and the immense expanses of pine trees in theresidential neighbourhoods, in a unique mix worldwide.Find out what are the 10 must-see stages.
- Beverly Hills
- Ralli Museum
- Porto Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria
- Avenida Gorlero
- Casapueblo in Punta Ballena
- Hotel Conrad
- The Hand at Playa Brava
- La Barra
- Isla Gorriti and Isla de Lobos
- Punta del Este Lighthouse
One of the most beautiful and picturesque neighbourhoods of Punta del Este for its opulent houses and villas with swimming pools, golf or tennis courts, immense gardens and parks that can reach up to 5 thousand square metres. Order, aesthetics and glitz in the construction of the palaces seem to characterise this corner inhabited by tycoons, entrepreneurs and the jet set. Often the villas have two names as if they were noble residences. The important thing is to be exclusive, to be able to stand out, in décor, in the choice of details or the juxtaposition of colours. The streets here are all called after a tree or a shrub.
On the other hand, green predominates in every corner. The neighbourhood began to be built in the 1970s: the pioneer was a dentist who decided to build a castle. The legends in the neighbourhood multiply, like there are no houses smaller than 300 square metres. The height of the real estate fervour was recorded in the 90s, a riot of parties, famous people and occasionally even scandals. Today there are many parcels of unsold land. Here there is a bit of everything: luxury, international stars, but also a continuous succession of trendy clubs and restaurants, clubs and places to relax.
The Ralli Museum is located in the Beverly Hills area: it has an area of over 6,000 square metres and houses one of the most important collections of Latin American works of art in the world. Recently, critics have highly regarded the works of Brazilian artist Juarez Machado and the magical circus scenes of the award-winning Argentine Rodolfo Medina.
Among the artists there are also renowned European artists such as Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani and René Magritte, amongst others. There is no shortage of goodies like the exhibition of the English artist John Robinson, which is characterised by the creation of life-size bronze sculptures of children playing. Large exhibition halls alternate with beautiful interior courtyards where bronze and marble sculptures rest, creating a magical environment.
A nice discovery could also be the Ocean Museum. This interesting building is ideal for all family members. Here you can see ancient bones belonging to different animals and seabirds and learn all about the biology and geography of these Atlantic coasts. It also has a large collection of ancient objects related to boating and navigation and teaches part of the history of Uruguay and Punta del Este. It's perfect for adding a bit of education to your holiday, a fun and instructive alternative for a cloudy or rainy day.
Port Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria
The port of Punta del Este has spectacular views and is surrounded by bars and restaurants: it is the starting point for the Island of Lobos and Gorriti. It owes its name to the fact that it was discovered on 2 February (1516), the day of the Virgen de la Candelaria. Bands and tango dancers warmly welcome cruise ship tourists, who dock near the port. From here they are transferred by small boats to the main pier. The port itself is a charming place to discover, either in the morning when you can choose the freshest fish and seafood to cook for lunch, or in the afternoon to admire the sunset, through the extravagant sailboats and catamarans.
There's a nice surprise at your fingertips: You may encounter some of the resident sea lions, which are wild, but wander around the port to snack on the leftover fish. Nearby is the prestigious Punta del Este Yacht Club, which organises and oversees regattas and nautical competitions and provides transport services to and from boats 24 hours a day for its members. Its restaurant is one of the most sought after on the peninsula.
The main road in Punta del Este is Avenida Gorlero and it is also the favourite point, day and night, of those who spend their holidays in this seaside resort. It takes the name from the first mayor of Maldonado, Juan Gorlero, and is the only road in the area that has received its name from one person. All others are indicated by the house number, while the avenues are known in order from 5000 onwards. Here you'll find most of the main tourist services in Punta del Este, with a choice of cafes, restaurants, bars, art galleries, cinemas and casinos.
And you can enjoy the traditional sandwich called chivito. It was invented by chance in 1944 by Antonio Carbonaro, owner of the restaurant "El Mejillon" n Punta del Este. One evening an Argentinian tourist entered the restaurant and asked for chivo or kid meat. The restaurant did not have any, but Carbonaro, o avoid losing the customer, improvised and decided to prepare him a sandwich with toast in butter, ham and a piece of churrasco (beef steak). He told the customer that the dish was called chivito: the woman liked the sandwich. The idea became a success and the restaurant sold a thousand a day.
During the summer tourist season, Avenida Gorlero is coloured and is particularly popular forthe numerous artists and live acts. You will meet "living statues", jugglers, photographers and various local artisans stationed along the avenue. For those who want to shop for local crafts and crafts, the best place is in Artigas Square.
Casapueblo in Punta Ballena
One of the most interesting architectural works in this area is Casapueblo. In the beginning it was the atelier of the Uruguayan artist Carlos Vilari, but now hosts a hotel, a museum and some commercial activities. A "living sculpture", made of small white nests bundled on top of each other, along a cliff overlooking the ocean: a work of art excavated in stone in Punta del Este. To see it from the sea, this cascade of houses brings to mind echoes of the Mediterranean. Although he was not an architect, he decided to create a unique space, in this area east of the Uruguayan coast, in tribute to his son Carlitos, one of the 16 survivors of the Andes air disaster.
The buildings revolved around a small tin house called La Pionera, and over the years this beautiful house-atelier developed, full of ingenuity and architectural audacity. The building has an irregular structure that extends over thirteen floors. Its colour, completely white, instead recalls the buildings of the Greek islands. Casapueblo is made up of 72 unique apartments with sea views, built over 36 years by Vilari.
The inspiration for thisinnovative stylecame from his countless overseas trips and the nests createdby the Hornero birds,natives of the region: these birds are real masons, architects, and build the nest with straw and mud until they create a kind of barrel, with a side opening. Over the years these buildings with large white balconies, overlooking the sea,have become a meeting place of famous people, or have been used for conventions and art exhibitions.
It is customary to visit this work to enjoy the beautiful views and magnificent sunsets through which Casapueblo has acquired its fame. The sunset that you see here is unique and has become a ritual: on Fridays, a story by Carlos Vilar is told, reworkedfrom his poem dedicated to the sun. The imprint left by the artist is more alive than ever because he built Casapueblo with his own hands: the ritualin the sun attracts countless visitorsto appreciate the symbolic event to enjoy a drink or rest.
The Hand at Playa Brava
It is a concrete and steel installation lying on the warm sands of Playa Brava. The artwork of the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal it was created for an art contest in 1982 and literally captured the hearts of the inhabitants and tourists; today it is one of the most photographed attractions and also most targeted by writers.
During the summer of that year in Punta del Este the first international meeting of modern outdoor sculpture was held and, although nine sculptors were assigned a place to position their works, Irarrazabal chose this beach to create his work. Throughout the summer, the promenade became a kind of outdoor lab where artists from different countries gathered and began to model.
The Chilean artist arrived with a model, but had to improvise the rest, having to fight in the face of natural obstacles such as wind and sand. At last there was a happy ending and the sculptor managed to carry out his project in the paradise landscape setting. It only took a week for complete the work. The fingers of this colossal hand were made with steel rods which were then covered with a metal mesh and with a material resistant to the passage of time and the fury of the sea. This hand looks like its is "drowning", a kind of warning for the bathers and surfers who frequent these beaches, since the waves in this area are generally very high due to the strong winds.
In the past it was a fishing village, while today it is a landmark characterised by the well-known undulating Bridge located at the mouth of the Monaldo stream, a work built by Leonel Viera in 1965. It is a great area for fishing and doing numerous water activities. It also represents a stretch of coastline equipped to allow the practice of activities such as surfing, canoeing, water skiing or fishing, while the beauty of the landscapes and waters of Montoya Beach Manantiales Beach and Bikini Beach stand out.
The latter in particular is an ideal beach for those who love to live amongst people and be seen. The beach, from mid-afternoon until late night comes to life in a totally different way: fashion and trends are born, live, spread and die in this particular corner. You have to expect the best: international DJs playing house music at the beach bars, volleyball matches, and yoga and aerobics.
La Barra represents a living neighbourhood full of things to do: art galleries to visit, surf shops, artisanal ice cream parlours that prepare cones and treats very similar to Italian style. Not forgetting the nightlife especially in the summer. Parties are popular in the town, especially on the beach. In the area you should not miss the location of El Tesoro, a few minutes' drive from Punta del Este.
Isla Gorriti and Isla de Lobos
It was the cemetery of British soldiers who participated in the British invasions of 1806. It becamea scientific research centrethat the naturist Charles Darwin also visited in 1829. A hospital was set up forcholera sufferers of the European epidemic in 1885. It witnessed the conquest by Rio de la Plata and the process of founding Maldonado: the island of Gorriti is an enigmatic land that preserves archaeological remains that make it a museum. One of the most attractive tourist destinations in Punta del Este. Between the months of August and November it is also an excellent site forwhale sighting.
Isla de Lobos is part of the Wildlife reserve belonging to the "Coastal Islands National Park" in the Atlantic Ocean, 8.5 km from the coast of Punta del Este (45 minutes of sailing). The area of 41 hectares is inhabited by the largest colony of sea lions in South America, from which the island also takes its name. The island is 980 metres long and its rocky shores alternate with fine sand. The soil is composed of pink granite and is partly covered with vegetation.
Punta del Este Lighthouse
45 metres high, it was built in 1860 by Tomas Libarona, with materials from Europe. Its original purpose was to facilitate orientation for sailors sailing the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata. It is now possible to climb the 150 steps of its spiral staircase. The lighthouse is preserved in perfect condition to this day, as a particular Roman volcanic earth mixture that is harder than cement was used for its construction.
The prisms of glass that make up the lighting system were brought from France. It became the "first unmanned lighthouse" Uruguay with 21st century technology. thanks to new equipment that feeds on solar energy through the panels that charge different batteries inside the same lighthouse. Initially it was thought that the best place for the installation was on the isla de Lobos, but the fishermen claimed that the lights disturbed the sea lions and elephants, which is why it was moved to the peninsula. Another historic building of the old town, which is located in front of the lighthouse, is the "iglesia de la Candelaria, " A beautiful blue Catholic church. The building was opened in 1911.
Inside, you can see an image of the Virgin of Candelaria who came from Spain. The work continued for several years. In 1947 the current arches and pillars on which the main aisle rests were built, the aisles were redone and finally, in 1950, Antonio Meneghin's monolithic floor was built; with which the project was completed.
Discover Punta del Este with Costa Cruises
The "Saint-Tropez" of South America is famous not only for parties frequented by the international jet set, but also for the many cultural events organised, contemporary art galleries, the mild weather all year round and the good wine, which is produced in the surrounding countryside. For the rest you can spend relaxing days playing golf, wandering around the shopping streets, monopolised by the fine boutiques of the most well-known international clothing brands, or strolling through the streets of the old town.
The latter, perhaps less well known, presents a very interesting fabric characterised by nineteenth-century buildings of valuable workmanship, to which modern constructions in concrete have been added over the years, beautifully designed to maintain the old-fashioned charm of the city. And then there are beaches, nature, museums.
Punta del Este also has a touch of glamour: In 1951, the Argentine businessman Mauricio Litman organised the first Punta del Este International Film Festival, an event that brought stars such as Joan Fontaine, Silvana Mangano and Gérard Philipe to the resort. Today in summer it is easy to find some of the best-known Latin American stars here even Shakira. Another reason to choose Punta del Este as the destination of your next holidays.