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Modified 30-Jul-09
Created 6-Jun-09
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The playground of Uruguay. It's one of those little known places frequented by the rich and famous, when they really want to get away from the public eye. It's a small sea-side resort town and the houses in the area are quite palatial - not somewhere for the average Uruguyan. Clean beyond belief with all the services you can think of, including KFC, and all the other usual fast food outlets - but the local restaurants are to die for. Great ambiance and wonderful food - they do know their clientele.

Punta Del Este, often referred to as “The St. Tropez of Uruguay” is a trendy and very upscale resort village located about 85 miles (136 km) east of Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay. The village was once known to sailors and fishermen as Cabo Santa María. Known today as Punta Del Este, the area is known worldwide as a scenic vacation area with miles of beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, restaurants and a famous nightlife.For decades, Punta Del Este was exclusively a resort for wealthy South Americans but has seen a recent surge in tourism from the United States and Europe, due in part to its affordability compared to other resort areas around the world. In the off season the population of the village sits at less than 10,000 people while in the heart of the summer months it rises to over 500,000.Punta Del Este is an ideal vacation hotspot for singles, couples and families alike with its temperate climate and many beaches, new casinos, luxurious restaurants and hotels, galleries and restaurants, natural attractions and thriving nightlife. Also as resort village, there are a variety of options of reaching it to include by plane, ferry, bus or automobile.

The Spaniards were the first outsiders to set foot in what is now Punta Del Este at the beginning of the 16th century. The village itself was not actually founded until a couple of hundred years later, in 1829 by Don Francisco Aguilar as the result of Portuguese expansionism in the area at that time.Known for its lush biodiversity, modern Punta Del Este has to thank Antonio Lussich, who purchased 4,447 acres (1899 hectares) in 1896 and created a botanical garden. Lussich planted the garden with plants and trees brought from all over the world and later, they began spreading on their own. This natural growth pattern created the lush fields of Pines and Eucalyptus that characterize Punta Del Este today.The first wave of tourism in the area occurred in 1907 with the arrival of the very first cruise ship the village. Called La Golondrina (the Swallow) the ship was filled with tourists from Argentina and nearby Montevideo. Having been personally invited by the Director of the Punta Del Este Society, their arrival marked the beginning of Punta Del Este’s fame as one of the top international beach resort destinations in Latin America and the world.

In more modern times, U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson attended the America Summit which was hosted by Uruguay and Punta Del Este in 1976. Later in September of 1986, the village was host to the Uruguayan round of International Trade Negotiations which ultimately led to the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994.

Today, Punta Del Este continues to grow with important real estate investments expanding to monopolize on the beauty and tranquility of its beaches. Regional Tourism Director, Horacio Diaz recently noted that the area has “flourished recently with the purchase of a second home [there] by foreigners, mainly Europeans and Americans”.With the housing industry plummeting during the global economic crisis in the USA and Europe, Punta Del Este has seen a surge in real estate transactions. Juan Andres Marquine, a local real estate agent notes that has “Italian, American and Spanish clients who choose Punta Del Este for its beauty. They are looking for peace and security. Every foreigner who comes here falls in love with the place and wants to stay. “While oceanfront property in the United States and Europe remains outside the budget of most people, prices in Punta Del Este start at around US$100,000 and rise past US$1,000,000 making it an ideal place to invest for a variety of people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds.

Punta Del Este is an ideal travel destination for the entire family as it is known as one of Latin America’s safest locations. With its many beaches, parks, museums and historic sites Punta Del Este offers something for everyone.One of Punta Del Este’s claims to international fame is its many beaches. The village offers a variety of different kinds of beaches with some sporting fine white sand while others offer course golden grains. Some of its beaches offer strong currents and waves which are wildly popular with sports enthusiasts. Other beaches are ideal for families with their calm solitude. La Barra is one of the most popular beaches for water sports enthusiasts while La Posta Del Cangrejo Beach is one of the more popular beaches for families with children. Other noted beaches include: La Tahona, popular with teenagers, Gorriti Island, Montoya, La Punta, Jose Ignacio, La Mansa, La Brava and La Barra.Local attractions include the Punta Del Este Lighthouse with its crystal illumination panels imported from France; Gorriti Island, a natural port and favorite amongst water sports fans; Gorlero Avenue, the town’s main street which is filled with casinos, cinemas, galleries, restaurants and shops; and Artigas Square which is home to a popular handicraft market known as the Feria Artesanal.For the family, there is the Parque El Jaguel, a children’s playground complete with wooden play equipment and animal figures. There is the Municipal Zoo (Parque Municipal Zoologico) which includes many interactive exhibits. And another zoo (Zoologico Pan de Azucar) with a large selection of native animals in natural settings.Area AttractionsThe quiet little village of José Ignacio has recently become an exclusive hideaway for people from all over the world.
Facing the Atlantic Ocean, this rustic town has become the choice location for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life preferring instead to commune with nature. The high point of the town is its many seafood restaurants which have been praised by gourmet lovers from all over the world.La Barra, a former fishing village, is located just a few miles from Punta del Este and is home to chic art galleries, colorful houses, flea markets, restaurants, pubs and the some of the area’s best nightlife.

Once a very small fishing village, La Barra now is the chic place to go for vacations and the “in place’ to go to enjoy a thriving nightlife. La Barra is also home to many noted beaches to include: Bikini, El Chorro, Manantiales, Montoya and Punta Piedras.Maldonado, the capital city of Maldonado Department (province or state), is a lovely colonial town of about 50,000 that is filled with museums, libraries, private and public universities and a thriving commercial district.Punta Ballena, known for its spectacular sunsets, is also famous for Casapueblo, the former home of noted Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Located about 20 minutes from Punta Del Este it is a must see for visitors to the area. Originally built as homage to the artist’s son, one of the 16 survivors of the famous crash of Uruguayan Flight 571, Casapueblo is not just a home, but also a citadel that includes an art gallery, museum and hotel. During the summer months it hosts classical music concerts. Visitors to Punta Ballena can also enjoy the nearby Arboretum Lussich, trekking, surfing and windsurfing.Restaurants & NightlifePunta Del Este offers visitors a wide variety of restaurants and nightlife. Here you will find outstanding international cuisine to include Arab, Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish restaurants. You can also enjoy local favorites such as pizzas, chivitos (a typical Uruguayan sandwich) and parrilladas (barbecue places or steakhouses). Prices range from about US$7.00 for a fast food combo to US$100.00 or more for fine gourmet cuisine. A normal classic restaurant will charge between US$20.00 and US$30.00 for a good meal. One will never had difficulty finding a good place to eat in Punte Del Este, but if going to a more expensive restaurant it is advisable to book in advance.Here are some of the local favorites:View Point Gourmet (www.viewpointgourmet.com.ar ): With one of the nicest views of the Island Gorriti, View Point Restaurant is known for its Mediterranean cuisine created by Chef Roberto Connio.El Garzón Restaurant by Francis Mallman y Finca La Anita (www.restaurantgarzon.com ): The cuisine of El Garzón is based on regional products to include seafood. The wine list includes Uruguayan wines as well as Argentine wines with a special selection of Finca La Anita wines of varied vintages.Moby Dick (www.mobydick.com.uy ): Stepping into Moby Dick, one is immediately struck by its similarity to an Irish pub with its wooden décor and great selection of fine beers. Located in front of the harbor, Moby Dick is one of the areas most famous discos and is legendary for its night life. The club has a terrace which is ideal for hot summer nights and is a great option for late night drinks and live music.Tequila: Tequila is known as one of the most exclusive discos in the Punta Del Este area. Located in nearby Barra just a few yards from Montoya Beach, Tequila is the hot spot most often selected from celebrities from all over the world. During the summer months, Tequila is open 7 nights a week and offers electronic music well into the wee hours of the night (morning in fact). You better get there early though because due to its exclusive nature, some nights it remains almost impossible to get inside no matter what price one is willing to pay to enter.Pros and ConsIf you plan to vacation in Punta Del Este, one of its strongest points is its affordability when compared with tourist hotspots