Exploring South America – Punta del Este

18 Mar

My last stop on my adventures through Uruguay was Punta del Este, the spot where the Río de la Plata officially meets the Atlantic Ocean. The city has become famous as a popular vacation destination of the rich and famous. It’s easy to see why: Punta is lined with mile after mile of pristine beaches (plus good nightlife, food, and safety). I arrived just after high season, to a quiet resort town (the only real visitors were from a cruise ship docked off shore).

Mansa beach

Mansa beach greets me in Punta del Este

mercedes taxi

You know the place is fancy when the taxis are Mercedes

I was immediately excited to see the Atlantic. Growing up next to a large body of water (Lake Michigan) you tend to take such things for granted, that is until you find yourself without them. It was awesome to be awed by endless water and powerful waves.

Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic freaking Ocean. Yippee!

Punta is neat because it is a peninsula that sticks out into the ocean and river. The beaches on the western river side are better for swimming, with calmer water, and the eastern ocean side has great rolling waves that are good for surfing.

After getting over the pleasure of just watching water lap on sand, I did a walking tour of Punta’s peninsula.

I saw some neat sculptures and other art installations as I walked along the nice waterside rambla.

hand sculpture

Giant hand sticking out of the sand (La mano by artist Mario Irarrazabal)

Grotto

A waterside grotto (Image of Our Lady of the Candelaria by Mario Lazo)

Rambla

Waterside path along the peninsula

mermaid sculpture on the point

Mermaid sculpture on the tip of Punta del Este

There were also loads of seabirds.

egret

An egret hunting for food

Cormorants

Cormorants hanging out on the rocks

more birds

Seagull hanging out with a neighbor

stilt

South American stilt

I also stopped off to see the point’s lighthouse and local church (which is an odd baby blue color).

lighthouse

Punta's lighthouse, from 1860

church

The parish church on the peninsula, matches the sky rather nicely.

inside the church

Inside the church

A visit to the artisan’s market in Plaza Artigas led me to discover an adorable older man who made pendants by carving out old coins.

Plaza artigas

Plaza Artigas, home to the artist's market

pesos

Carved out Uruguayan pesos. These new pesos feature cool animals. I was very tempted by the capybara and rhea!

centimo

I ended up going for this French 20 centimo piece

My wanderings eventually led me to the port, where there were some interesting buildings, pretty views of the nearby island, and a man feeding a giant sea lion.

boats in harbor

Boats in the harbor

National armada

National Armada building

sea lion show

Some sort of waterside sea lion show

Back on the river side of the peninsula I enjoyed the sunset from Mansa Beach.

me mansa beach

Me on Mansa Beach

sunset

Sunset on Mansa Beach

skyline sunset

Sunset with the skyline

The next day I headed out on a rented bicycle to explore the coastline. I ended up riding to La Barra, about 5 miles east of the peninsula. Along the way I stopped to enjoy the beaches and saw a sea lion relaxing on the sand.

Atlantic boardwalk

Boardwalk to the water

sea lion

This cutie was just sitting on the beach

sea lion punta

Sea lion with Punta in the background

I also got to ride over the very fun Leonel Viera bridge, which has a wavy design.

Leonel Vera Bridge

My first look at Leonel Vera bridge

wavy

Wavy!

I ended up back on the Mansa Beach in the afternoon to relax and swim.

beach

All the clouds magically went away so I could enjoy my swim.

Then I headed to Punta Ballena (whale point) to visit Casapueblo, a fantastic building built by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. The buildings is a house, museum and hotel, in a style I’d describe as Antonio Gaudí meets the Greek Isles. I explored the museum, then headed down to the waterside restaurant to catch the sunset.

me at casapueblo

Me at Casapueblo

torre

A whimsical tower

museum

Inside the museum at Casapueblo

restaurant view

View of the building from the restaurant patio

table view

Sunset view from my table

It was a perfect end to a memorable week. Check out all of my pictures from Punta del Este and Punta Ballena on flickr.

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6 Responses to “Exploring South America – Punta del Este”

  1. tamarackgold March 18, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Wonderful! Love Casapueblo! Indeed it reminds me of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  2. Josh James May 7, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Hi
    Could I ask whether you could get me one of those Capybara pesos and if so please could you tell me the price including postage to the UK.
    Many Thanks

    • boldandbrilliant May 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

      Hey Josh,
      Unfortunately, I’m not planning on being in Punta del Este again in the near future, however, I wrote down the contact info for the man who makes these: Dardo Fernandez Balao, Taller el Mago, Moneda Caladas, Feria Punta del Este – Stand 64. His phone number is listed as 099 34 59 29. Hopefully that helps you out. I bought a french franc and it cost around 8 USD.

      • Josh James May 8, 2012 at 1:41 am #

        Hi, Thanks. Did he have an email address as I am based in the UK and it would cost the world to phone him.

      • boldandbrilliant May 8, 2012 at 8:47 am #

        Unfortunately, he didn’t have one of those on his card. You might want to try a cheap voice over ip service to try to call him.

      • Josh James May 8, 2012 at 10:01 am #

        Hi,
        Thanks. Would it cost anything to call from where you are?
        Many Thanks

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