Bubbles on a Uruguayan beach isn’t a bad way to spend Christmas Day
Punta del Este is a sweet little peninsula city on the southern tip of Uruguay that we were told would be ONE GIGANTIC WILD PARTY during December. It’s the place where famous models hang out on the balconies of million dollar condos and where the wealthy set of Argentina flock to party away the summer. During the year there’s only 15,000 residents but in the warmer months that figure swells to around 200,000 people all looking for a good time.
So, WE WERE EXCITED. Mainly at the possibility of partying with Snoop Dogg because, of course, Snoop Dogg would most definitely be there. We scored an over-priced taxi at the airport and made it to the hotel that we would call home for a week. After fumbling through yet another conversation in a language we didn’t speak, the receptionist led us to our room on the 9th floor. We could see the ocean far off in the distance so headed towards it in the hopes of finding something to eat. Now at this moment you would love us to tell you that we stumbled on into Claudia Schiffer’s house party and sipped champagne until the wee hours, right? We wish we could tell you that too. Unfortunately this long, winding walk to find something, (anything!) to eat was the beginning of a very quiet week. We walked for about 40 minutes before we managed to find a restaurant that was actually open and serving food. No beats blaring from beach parties and no sexy models in sight. We put the lack of action down to it being a weeknight relatively close to Christmas. There will be parties, we told ourselves, there will be gigantic wild parties.
As the week cruised along and Christmas came closer we hired bikes to get around (Punta stretches across a large area and if you don’t have a car, you simply can’t get around) and began exploring the city. The coast is lined with houses that you could only dream of owning – each one complete with their own personal gardener and sprinkler system – majority looked as though no one had entered them for months. We continued our mission to find some nightlife and rode our bikes around town until our legs hurt. We asked barmen, waitstaff and anyone who spoke English where we could find the parties. One night we rode an hour and a half to La Barra where we were told the clubs were, only to eat a chivito (the national dish, which is essentially a steak sandwich) and ride straight back. PUNTA WAS DEAD. THERE WAS NO PARTY.
By the time Christmas rolled around we’d grown used to the sleepy atmosphere – we ventured to the beach, read books, slept and watched films. On Christmas morning we exchanged gifts and ate a supermarket roast chicken. And then, on the day we left to catch our flight out of there, we saw scaffolding being built for concerts and vehicles piling into town. The party was about to start.
If only we’d stayed a week later. It’s safe to say, we really missed the party. And Snoop Dogg.
Punta del Este really is a stunning place – the streets are immaculate and you feel safe at all times. If you’re after a super chilled quiet time, it would be ideal any time of the year. But if like us you want to see the nightlife and party atmosphere Punta is so famous for, plan your time well – don’t do a Chelsea and Stu. Make sure you arrive towards the end of December and definitely DON’T spend Christmas there (unless your wealthy uncle has a mansion and people who will cook you roast turkey).
Thing to do in Punta del Este:
- hire a car
- stay in La Barra
- don’t expect big parties over Christmas
- eat a Chivito Canadiense (Uruguayan steak sandwich)
- visit the giant fingertips sculpture
We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.
Stu took this beautiful shot of the pier the first night we were in town
We cycled everywhere and most of the beaches were empty
Fancy boats crowd the main port area of Punta del Este – there were hundreds (if not, thousands) of them
The quiet rocky shore
We have no idea who built this table in the middle of the water, but it made a pretty good pedestal
The walkway out to the table
Muscle shells covered some areas of the shore
Jogging along the water
Rest, Punta del Este
Monumento al Ahogado – this giant hand sculpture is constantly flanked by people taking photos
Stu downing beer by the beach – we could get pretty used to this
Indulging in a local “chivito” which is basically a steak sandwich
Punta was deathly quiet the entire time we were there
The sunset as viewed from the top of the curvy bridge which joins Punta del Este to popular La Barra