Wedged between big brothers Brazil and Argentina, it is little wonder that Uruguay has often seemed to slip behind their boisterous shadows- building a reputation on becoming a base for international business and its beautiful beaches, deserted most of the year round.
While Punta del Este has earned a name as one of the world’s most coveted winter playgrounds for the international jet-set, this has been the somewhat limited scope of Uruguay’s reputation as a luxury destination in the international travel press- much to the joy of long time lovers of the Uruguayan Riveira, who breathe a sigh of relief as high season stops almost as quickly as it began, and they can go back to their usual surf-side spots at favourite local fish restaurants and coastal roads devoid of traffic.
But big changes are a foot.
First up, Montevideo, the birthplace of tango, hispanic tannat and Diego Forlan, is set for a serious make-over this year, with the opening of two new 5 star hotels that are set to put it firmly on the agenda as a new destination to explore. Up until now, visitors to Montevideo have been stranded between standard multi-national business hotels and tired boutiques- with little to warrant more than a night or two in the capital. However, in August 2012 the new Sofitel Carrasco is set to open its elaborate doors, having spent $63 million to restore the former hotel to the elegant mansion it was in its early 20th century heyday. The property will have 119 rooms, a signature spa and the smartest casino in the country, providing a vibrant meeting point for the local smart set, high-end travellers and the international business moguls heading towards Uruguay in the wake of its recent rise in credit rating from Standard & Poors. With Pestana set to open a similar 5 star property by the end of the year, the feeling is that Montevideo is certainly on the up, providing increasing impetus for the vibrant local culture and restaurant scene to follow suit.
Roll up the coast and sit on your heels till the end of the year, where the word on everyone’s lips (and invite cards) is set to be the Setai- Long awaited, the Miami born brand will open a super star resort and private condomium just down the beach from celebrity enclave Jose Ignacio. While at the same time cementing Jose Ignacio’s status as the chic spot to stay in Punta, it also hints at its increasing commercialisation.
While this may spell great news for the off duty rock stars and local restaurateurs, the understated trend-setters have already headed up the coast to the laid-back surf spots of Punta del Diablo, La Pedrera and La Paloma- where good value is the order of the day and property prices are still cheap. What they lack in world-class hotels, they make up for in buckets of charm and authenticity, which means the first trickle of international entrepreneurs are not far behind, particularly with a very recent adjustment in tax transparency laws which will make property investment significantly less attractive for the Argentine market, and hence open it up to international investors looking for a lovely beach house in the next Jose Ignacio.
To explore Uruguay’s secrets as they unfold, as well as be one of the first to try out these new properties, contact Dehouche to plan you an unforgettable trip.