Coastal Uruguay: Punta del Este & La Barra

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I’ve quickly noticed what a strange place Uruguay is. Half of the population lives in Montevideo and the rest is scattered about the country the size of Iowa, living in small rural villages in the pampas or in towns along the coast.  If you are anyone but an American tourist you might have heard of Punta del Este, the ritzy beach resort 2 hours outside of Montevideo. Argentinians, Brazilians, and Europeans flock to the area for fun in the sun during their summer when literally every hotel, house, hostel, and fishing shack is rented. For the other 9 months of the year, it is practically empty – they even turn off the stop lights in town.

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Now this is great if you are, say, a writer in need of silence and long stretches of abandoned beach, or considering retirement (like my parents), but personally I found it a little strange. Some creative travel writers in my pre-trip reading described the area as resorting back to “sleepy fishing villages” in the off-season. Well, as far as I can tell, the only “villages” left are comprised of mammoth 10-bedroom vacation homes and sleek (but empty) cafe-lounges serving $15 burgers. My parents know a European couple who are the ONLY people living in their 12-story luxury condominium once the summer has ended… all a little too close to The Shining for me!

While we continued our search for a more authentic Uruguayan experience, we did manage to suffer through the glorious weather and peaceful beaches! And we even saw some sea lions – or as I like to call them, the “Bullmastiff of the Sea” – huge blubber blobs roaring and slobbering as they lazily await their daily treat from the fishmongers in the harbor.

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