Member Postcards

Uruguayan Escape

Indagare contributor Elena Bowes recently returned from a family trip to Uruguay, where they stayed at the rustic-chic Estancia Vik. Here are her impressions from the trip.

One past Christmas I decided it was time for an adventure, time to shake up my family’s traditional wintery Christmas at home in London. We needed a holiday where we could spend quality time together without killing each other in the process; in a place that’s relaxing but not dull. We wanted beautiful beaches, hot sun, a cool vibe, warm locals, and really good restaurants and hotels.

With all this in mind we traveled south of the equator to the reliable heat, endless blue skies and natural laid-back charm of José Ignacio on the southern Atlantic coast of Uruguay. Once a sleepy fishermen’s village, José Ignacio is now a hip beach town with great seafood, beautiful people, deserted beaches and modern architecture. Surreal sunset bike rides were often punctuated with plenty of stops for picture taking.

We flew into Punta del Este from Buenos Aires, and then made the easy, 40-minute drive north to our sublime hotel, Estancia Vik, one of the uber-stylish, art-filled and eco-friendly hotels from the expanding Vik Hotels Group. This year alone sees the opening of two more sure-to-be-stunners, Bahía Vik and Viña Vik. The former spans ten acres on the coast further down the beach from Playa Vik, while Viña Vik is set on an 11,000-acre vineyard two hours south of Santiago, Chile.

Initially, I had tried to book rooms at Playa Vik. We’re beach, not country folk, I reasoned. But Playa Vik’s 19 suites were full, so we ended up at its nearby sister hotel, which turned out to be a lucky coincidence. While Playa Vik’s architecture—gravity-defying, spaceship-like buildings star next to a cantilevered infinity pool—is jaw dropping, we found the public areas a bit claustrophobic. Then again, anything would seem snug after the Estancia’s 4,000 acres of gentle, rolling countryside. The driveway alone is over a mile long, curving past lush grassland and rolling hills dotted with cows and horses. Perched on a hill in the distance is the Estancia, a white Spanish colonial-style building with just twelve uniquely appointed suites and a pool with a fiber optic bottom that mirrors the constellations.

During the day, we were often the only guests at the hotel. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, making our stay feel more like a weekend at a friend’s house than at a hotel. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, but if you just want to relax, there is no prettier place to chill than by the pool at either Estancia or Playa.

Our days took on a lazy, wonderful, unpressured feel. We’d wake up late, saunter into the wood-paneled breakfast room and then go for a swim, use the small gym and read by the pool. Some days we’d have lunch and a swim at Playa Vik or the Vik’s beachside restaurant La Susana. We also really enjoyed the high-end beach shack scene at Parador La Huella, the equivalent of St Tropez’s Club 55. The grilled squid and corvine were spectacular. We loved the romantic, candle-lit Marismo restaurant where we dined under pine trees with our toes in the sand.

My only regret is that we didn’t explore the scenic olive plantations of Garzon or eat at El Garzon or Lucifer (099 255 249; Camino a la Estacion Custiel;, but they are excuses to return.

Published onMarch 11, 2014

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