South America is a big continent with so many destinations to choose from, and Uruguay is often overlooked as one of those destinations. Overshadowed by its bigger neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay struggles with its tourism. But its small-scale tourism makes it the perfect place to visit now.
Along Ruta 10 there is a turn off for Cabo Polonio, a National Park that was established in 2009. This is an amazing little rustic town that has a hippie feel to it. It’s near a tiny little fishing village and has the second-largest sea lion population in the country! There are no ATMs, so you need to bring enough cash with you. The town has limited electricity; candlelight and generators produce dim lighting for all the restaurants and guesthouses, producing such a cozy atmosphere. The view of the stars without any light pollution is absolutely breathtaking!
Getting here is part of the fun… Once you take the turnoff on Ruta 10, you come to an office building. This is where you will buy the return ticket for your 4×4 jeep ride to the town. There are massive 4×4 jeeps that have seats in the back and a few on the top front, above the cab. Try to get this seat as it offers awesome views and is a ton of fun. You have to climb up the jeep to get to these seats, so make sure you are physically able to do so! The jeeps go over the sand dunes and you can see the lighthouse on the point where the sea lion colony is.
As Cabo Polonio is isolated and a bit disconnected, it’s best to book your accommodation in advance but if you show up without a reservation, don’t panic. You should be able to walk around and find something. Most places are very rustic (in other words… basic!) don’t expect anything too fancy if you haven’t booked in advance.
Now get out there and make sure you enjoy yourself! There are a ton of travelers staying here selling handmade jewelry, shoes, notepads, clothing, etc. Anything you can think of is made and sold along the stands throughout the town. The locals are friendly and you can often find them in the town; make sure you say hello!
Remember, this is a small town, so only several days are needed. Uruguay is populated with great little beach towns, so feel free to explore the shoreline! Some of my favorites were Punta del Diablo, La Pedrera, and Colonia de Sacramento. Uruguay also makes a great stopover destination or break from hectic Buenos Aires. For Americans, no visa is needed for stays less than three months, and is similar for many European countries. Make sure you check your country-of-origin requirements for visas before planning your trip.
Photo Credits: Author’s Own