ESSENTIALS

  • Bring cash! There are no ATMs in José Ignacio and most places do not accept credit cards
  • ‘High Season’ is short (Dec 10 – Jan 26) and prices are highly inflated during this time. Except lots of crowds and “see and be seen” parties around New Years
  • ‘Off Season’ – most of the town is comprised of vacation homes which are vacant most of the year & most restaurants/shops are closed
  • ¡Buen provecho! Lunches are long and start around 3 pm & dinners may start around 11 pm or even as late as midnight
  • Book a rental car in advance – fly into Buenos Aires with a connecting flight to Punta del Este (Punta to José Ignacio 40 min driving) or fly into Montevideo with an easy 2 hour drive to the beach
José Ignacio
"The only good addiction is love." - Uruguayan President José Mujica

SHORTLIST

  1. Experience the gaucho culture and ride horses in the pampas
  2. Asado – sample the various cuts of meat including morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (sweetbreads) & chinchulines (small intestines)
  3. Join a group of locals and partake in the mate ritual – the cebador (server) fills a gourd with the bitter tea and everyone takes turns sipping from the bombilla (metal straw)
  4. Day trip to Garzón and Francis Mallman’s famous restaurant of the same name
  5. Lunch, dinner (or both!) at the beachside restaurant La Huella
  6. Boutique shopping by the beach
  7. Cortados on the back patio of Cafe Flo
  8. Los Dedos monument in Punta
  9. Antiquing in La Barra
  10. Sample the Uruguayan signature red wines

STAY

La Barra boutique
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Mediterranean vibes
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Private beach villa
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ITINERARY

Friday

  • Los Dedos Monumento | If you’re driving from Montevideo, you’ll pass through ‘Punta’ on your way into town. Make it a point to stop at Playa Brava to see a massive sculpture of five fingers emerging from the sand. Chilean artist Irarrázabal completed the sculpture in just 6 days.
  • Conrad Hotel | Stop here for an afternoon of blackjack and roulette if you’re into that kind of thing. Punta del Este is known for it’s casinos and Miami Beach-like scene.
  • La Barra | Check out Aaron’s Trading Post (same owner as Casa Zinc) for a collection of antique odds & ends. The café has excellent cortados.
  • Montoya Beach | Watch the surfers catching waves on the famous beach just outside of La Barra.
  • Café Flo | Grab a bite at the very popular cafe’s back patio overlooking the beach. Enjoy a salmon salad for lunch or an omelette for breakfast.
  • Sculpture Garden | Tour the impressive grounds and massive sculptures at the Fundación Pablo Atchugarry. The foundation aspires to be “a space of ideal union between art and nature” and it achieves just that.
  • La Huella | Probably one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to. It’s romantic, bustling, swanky and laid-back all at the same time. You can’t go wrong with any of the dishes including grilled fish, octopus or calamari. Sip on a white-wine clericó (like sangria) and linger for hours on the beach.

Saturday

  • Garzón | Be sure to make the trip to this tiny pueblo and enjoy lunch at the restaurant of internationally-renowned chef Francis Mallman, El Garzón. The 140-year-old building sits on the corner of the town plaza which used to be a general store. The dining room is romantic and the palm tree-shaded courtyard comes with an outdoor fireplace. The seasonal menu is cooked on an iron grill with a eucalyptus-wood fire flanking both sides.
  • Alium | This unexpected design shop in Garzón was opened by graduates of Montevideo’s Center of Industrial Design. The little studio promotes the work of local designers and artists. Check out some of their funky wares and the garden out back with their own art exhibit.
  • Wine Tasting | Spend the afternoon at Playa Vik for a private tour of the property and a tasting on the terrace at sunset. The tour ends at 8:30 pm which allows plenty of time for a Uruguayan dinner around midnight.
  • Estancia Vik | Enjoy dinner at the impressive 4,000 acre sister property to Playa Vik which still operates as a cattle ranch. Art collectors Alex and Carrie Vik have single-handedly put Uruguay on the map with their world-class collection. Look for the frescoes in the drawing-room which were hand-painted by the artist Clever Lara, and inspired by the Google Earth representation of José Ignacio and Uruguay.

 

Sunday

  • Mutate Coffee Shop | Grab a cup of joe at the coffee shop/boutique combo. Everything about this space is artfully designed from the mid-century furniture to the collection of men and women’s clothing & vintage accessories.
  • Lighthouse | Check out the iconic landmark on the beach and look for the crabs burrowed in the nearby rocks.
  • El Canuto | Just down the street from Playa Vik near the lighthouse, this boutique stocks beachwear and handmade jewelry reflecting the laid-back culture of the town.
  • La Caracola | An experience not to be missed, enjoy a leisurely lunch on a private island. Opened by La Huella, only around 20 people can attend the beach club at one time.  Catch a boat from Laguna Garzon and arrive on a tiny island where you can enjoy the beach from your own private tent. Sip on drinks and nibble on appetizers before an incredible asado is served with grilled fish and lamb.
  • La Olada | This small husband-and-wife-owned restaurant is actually located in their house (with a dog and cat to boot!) It’s quiet and romantic with a garden and fire pit. Get the lamb and top off the meal with a typical Uruguayan dessert of flan.

PACKING LIST

ROADMAP

Includes every location mentioned above
Lauren Greenberg
Itinerary By

Founder of The Weekender

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