Jose Ignacio, Uruguay: The Hamptons of South America
Forget about touristy Punta del Este and head east, a 45 min drive along the coast line, to the stylish and off the radar fishing village of Jose Ignacio. There is something special and unique about this wonderful place. Its laid back, barefoot chic atmosphere and beautiful rugged nature makes Jose Ignacio the perfect stylish escape. This is where you want to be.
You can almost feel all your stress slipping quickly away as soon as you arrive and 'tranquilo' is probably the word that I heard the most frequently while here. Jose Ignacio is oh so chic but there is a certain je ne sais quoi about it and despite the celebrity filled crowd no one lifts an eye brow- I can understand now why this is the perfect off the beaten track hideaway. No one really cares and how can you not love this place which offers the ultimate combination of simplicity, style and relaxed atmosphere. Sandy beaches and windswept dunes as far as your eyes can reach, great food and a chic yet chilled party scene.
In a very South American fashion, everything starts late in Jose Ignacio. Lunches and dinners are a love affair dedicated to amazing food, good friends and laughter and can go on for hours. Preferably held in one of the fashionable beach shacks restaurants. The food here is world class and frankly spectacular. Everything I tasted while here was a culinary delight with the most fresh fish or tender meat, directly from the sea or grill.
While in Jose Ignacio, if you get tired of practising the blissful art of doing nothing, you should walk or cycle around the cute little streets, pop into one of the trendy yet low key cafes or shops. Get a fresh juice or a dulce the leche ice cream. Let yourself wander around and get lost among the adorable beach houses and quaint stores. The architecture is mindblowing contemporary and stylish and even the smallest coffee shop seems to be something taken straight out of a glossy decor magazine.
If you like yoga, the Shack Yoga is the place for you. If you like surfing or kite surfing, you will have some great conditions just straight on the beach which is never far away.
Some compare Jose Ignacio with Montauk in the Hamptons or claim the similar feel to what Trancoso or St Tropez were before the crowds discovered it. All I can say is, go before it is too late. You will not regret it.
WHERE TO STAY:
- THE VIK BOUTIQUE HOTELS : There are three VIK Hotels and each of them are as beautiful and stylish as it gets and it is almost difficult to describe how fabulous they each are in simple words. Whichever one you choose, you cannot go wrong.
- Posada del Faro: Luxe for less but still chic and cozy.
WHERE TO EAT:
- La Susana at VIK
This beach club/ restaurant/ bar is as chic as it comes. Enjoy spectacular food while mixing with the stylish crowd and enjoy a lovely relaxed beach vibe.
- Parador La Huella: This place is iconic and almost an institution here in Jose Ignacio. Located straight on the beach, the food is amazing. The sushi and grilled fish are unforgettable. Simple and delicious. Great atmosphere and chic crowd. Lunch or dinner. This place is a must.
- Fishmarket: Casual hang out a short drive from Jose Ignacio. Anything on the menu tastes heavenly and you simply cannot go wrong with anything you order. The ceviche is to die for! Definitely worth the journey.
- Mostrador Santa Teresita: A food paradise with delicious healthy salads, juices and a mix of entrees to choose from. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can't go wrong eating here at any time of the day. Family style tables and a casual vibe. Don't leave without having sampled the desserts...
- El Canuto: You will find this gorgeous store just behind the Playa Vik hotel. Not only is the beach shack exterior and interior design oh so sharp but the clothes are beautiful. The locally hand made knitted ponchos, in the most precious merino wool, are something to bring back. They are stylish as cover ups on a chilly evening at the restaurants as for any occasion, city style or beach.
- Sentido: Interior design heaven with beautiful linen and everything you can imagine. You can spend hours wandering around here. Get inspired and add a few more extra kilos to your luggage weight.
- Handmade knitwear/ ponchos: Just by the lighthouse you can see a few fashionable shacks selling artisan and handmade products. It is here you will find a lovely man who makes typical gorgeous Uruguay style ponchos and blankets, by hand, in the finest wool.
- Cafes: Jose Ignacio is filled with cute cafes and bakeries. Among my favourite ones are Gondwana and Sentido Cafe ( nestled into the garden behind the Sentido shops ). Relax drinking tasty coffee while reading inspiring table books.
- Laguna Garzon: A kitesurfing mecca. Sand dunes and beautiful lagoons in plentiful.
- Garzon: A little bit inland you will find this beautiful hotel and restaurant. The surroundings are stunning and the food is fantastic.