José Ignacio

Posted 03 March 12

We are just getting out of one of the coldest February in years, and my mind driven by a great desire of summer, moves much faster than a plane between places I love.

Last year during this time I was lucky to spend a few days in a place that I fell instantly in love with: Punta del Este, Uruguay. Very easy flying in from Buenos Aires (Aerolineas Argentinas, Pluna, Sol Lineas Aéreas, all have many daily flight connecting the two locations – just 50 min).

First of all, when you go to Punta make sure you stay in José Ignacio area, where nearby are all the best villas, I have seen some and I was impressed on how truly marvelous they are, incredibly charming and with unique style. All the best events, restaurants and beaches are in this area, and with the right connections the life of private parties is just amazing!

Some ideas from my favorite places:

I stayed at ESTANCIA VIK a wonderful 50,000 square foot colonial style ranch or estancia in the middle of the Uruguayan countryside, just five minutes by car from the beach. Sometimes coming back at night you will encounter on your way sheeps or cows passing by.
Each of the 12 suites is uniquely designed and decorated by a different local artist.
We stayed in Badaro Suite, created by the Uruguayan Enrique Badaro. But my favourite must be Master Suite Vik a very masculine room with dark wood-panelled walls and a grand corner terrace.
The hotel restaurant offers a set menu and a communal dining table, but the most impressing is the parillero, the barbecue room with amazing tin walls painted by Marcelo Legrand. 
If you want to feel like a real gaucho polo lessons can be easily arranged in the field surrounding the hotel.

Some alternatives are:

PLAYA VIK (from same owners of the Estancia), it’s a somewhat awkward building for the area, but it grows on you once you get in, especially after a caipirinha (one of the best ever!) in front of the most amazing sunset you can possibly imagine (from Josè Ignacio the sun goes down exactly on the “Punta”, making the sight look like a timeless painting).
The resort sits on the playa of José Ignacio, which is wide, undeveloped and beautiful.
PS: I must say I'm completely in love with the two Viks!

POSADA DEL FARO, quiet, simple, relaxing, with a lot of local touch (all rooms are decorated differently) and a very nice sea view.

PARADOR LA HUELLA, on Playa Brava, it’s my favourite restaurant, carpaccio di polpo is one of their best renown specialties. You could go there every day (in fact is one of the few places that it’s open almost year round), and sooner or later you’ll meet the people you were looking for, everybody stops by, be it for a drink or some food... A nice alternative to all the local variety of tastes is their small selection of sushi. It has a cool and laid back vibe but getting a reservation if you are not a regular is not easy!
(Playa Brava, José Ignacio; 598-486-2279;

MARISMO, located on a small road off the highway from Jose Ignacio, you sit outside on wood table in the sand among bonfires and torches, eating the famous braised lamb… the atmosphere feels rustic and romantic.
(Ruta 10, Km 185, José Ignacio; 598-486-2273; no cc accepted)

NAMM, known as “the treehouse”, is another place you can find only after a bit of adventure in one of the many dirt road in the area. Very social, located within a dense pine forest and housed in a wooden hut, it has hip and chill-out nice atmosphere, the bar is also very popular for after dinner drinks. The menu offers sushi and other Japanese specialities, but also offers grilled meat and fish plates.
(Ruta 10, Km 185, José Ignacio; 598-486-2526)

GARZON, half-hour drive from José Ignacio in this inland small town with the same name you can find a gourmet restaurant run by star chef Francis Mallmann, where food is cooked with an old Andean technique called "infiernillo", between two wood fires on different sized iron griddles. 
(Pueblo Garzon; 598-410-2811;


Shops are quite expensive, you can find a few in the Plaza of José Ignacio (Tekkai, Sureno, Bajo el Alma,..) or many other on the Ruta 10 at La Barra.
The look is beachy bohemian. 

The high season is very short, going approximately from mid December to mid February

Punta del Este is very windy and can get quite chilly at night so bring a warm sweater and shawl to wear while dining under the stars.

Make the sunset an event, it's one of the most beautiful I've seen, be sure to find the right spot and the right time each night to fully enjoy it, with a glass of wine at hand!