‘El Cono Sur’ (the Southern Cone) as many native to South America call the combination of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, is known for attracting tourism and study abroad students from northern hemispherical locations during winter; where down south the climate is conversely quite mild, warm and summery. This year was no exception as record number of tourists arrived at airports of Santiago, Buenos Aires and Montevideo between the months of December and February. In particular, Uruguay received a surge of tourism, both internationally and regionally with tourists from Brazil, Argentina, USA, UK or even Scandinavia landing in Montevideo and traveling to popular beach resorts like Punta Del Este.
This year, like the past two years, has made Uruguay a popular vacation destination for both local tourists, bordering neighbors and longer distance travelers, Americans and Europeans, because of a few things:
One is currency disparity. Despite the economic crisis in Europe and North America, Uruguay has remained relatively unaffected yet it still has a weaker currency than many of the countries that were substantially affected. This makes vacationing here a stable situation yet still a very cheap option with beautiful Atlantic coastal beaches.
Another reason Uruguay has only recently become such a popular vacation spot is because until now it was somewhat under the radar. Besides producing some star soccer players, Luis Suarez and 2010 FIFA MVP Diego Forlan, Uruguay is probably best known for it dairy products and cattle industry. Thus Uruguay is something new, interesting and non-overcrowded in the minds of travelers and vacationers. Even at the hippest beaches, like Montoya and Bikini beach, that draw large crowds, the crowds are not even close to being as jammed as Cancun, Mexico or Bondi Beach, Australia or any of the Miami beaches during peak seasons.
Yet they are filling up, in a nice gradual and conscious developmental way that does not destroy history culture or claim the fame of hot-spot for fraternity Spring Break destination. In Punta Del Este high-end hotels, large glass waterfront properties are springing up amidst what was once a uniquely almost Mediterranean like southern European coastal town, with its own blend of European architectural influences. You may encounter many original constructions with terra-cotta roofs in near the downtown and further our into Maldonado county intermingled with some modern European structures and some purely original castle-like structures on the shoreline like Casa Pueblo in Punta Ballena designed by local artist and poet Paez Villaro.
From the high rises, casinos and hip beaches of Punta Del Este, to the newest recently established beach spots in Jose Ignacio and eclectic hippie refuge with tall and impressive sand in Cabo Polonio there is something for everyone on the coast of Uruguay. Whether its Kite Boarding, Sand Boarding, sailing, clubbing, gambling, cultural exploration or just sitting on the beach reading your book and people watching (which believe me is very popular in Punta Del Este) make Uruguay your next vacation destination. There is a lot of natural beauty, culture, relaxation and exploration to enjoy in this relatively unheard of South American haven for safe and economical tourism.
Did I forget to mention delicious? In my next post I will describe the delicacy of a Uruguayan ‘asado’ (a glorified barbecue of epic proportions and savor) as well as other delicious cuisine to enjoy down there.