Uruguay: Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio

About 5 hours drive north of Montevideo (read more here about Uruguay and its capital), close to the Brazilian border, towards the end of Uruguay’s Ruta del Sol, there lies a little hippie town called Punta del Diablo. From what I’ve read about the place, due to its location and the consequent popularity it grew immensely in the last decade or so but it’s still a small town with strong party scene, beautiful beaches and overall friendly and free atmosphere that attracts the liberal crowds.

It’s not all hippie only, which makes it even better because you can be anyone and fit in. It felt like one of the least judgmental places I’ve been. The beaches are magical with a bit apocalyptic sunsets, although I would be careful swimming in Playa de la Viuda with her strong currents.

Playa de la Viuda, Punta del Diablo

However, Playa de Los Pescadores, the one in “the centre” was absolutely fine for swimming. People were great, beer was cold and overall atmosphere could be given 9/10 stars. The remaining 10th star is deducted because of the prices – Uruguay can’t be exactly called a cheap country – think more expensive than Germany.

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

Cabo Polonio. The place with the hype reaching much further than Uruguayan borders. What’s so special about this place? Vale. It is very (modern day) hippie. Its electricity is all run on turbines and solar panels. It’s friendly, it’s magical, it has many great places to grab a dinner made with love or a good drink, it has great non-mainstream music all over the place and it also has two beaches – one for the sunrises and the other for sunsets. And seals – there are seals near the light house – you can observe from quite a close distance. And it’s expensive.

Personally, I’ve had a great time and I was treated like an equal by everyone. If I really really wanted to search for something negative, I’d have to resolve to the rather high amount of “I am an artist” types. You know those people, who’d tell you that themselves, even without you asking and they do it faster than vegans letting you know about their veganism. Instead of letting you figuring their personalities out by just being themselves – they impose it on you.

But that is just my thing – I’m not really fond of people who will tell you that they are artists, especially when it happens without anybody asking and withing 30 seconds of a conversation in a reaction to your question about the wildlife or something like that. Some people are just like that.

IMHO, being an artist is a state of mind, rather than a tool to advertise yourself to others as “cool” or “interesting”. Let us figuring it out ourselves 😉 But I don’t judge those who like to label themselves – it is, after all in their personality to do so – just as well as in mine is not to. I just prefer a good old fashion modesty ahead of any labels 😉

But in Cabo – because of the fact that I came to their world – I’ve embraced it. Some of those artists actually were interesting people and some of them were even interesting artists. And maybe some of the people I didn’t find that interesting were good artists either but I did not investigate that much 😉 Overall, people there were simply authentic in their own way and I must say that nobody judged me when I didn’t advertise myself as an artist 😉

Anyway, the settlement itself is a small community of semi-illegal settlers inside a national park that receives a lot of tourism. Unlike most places of similar nature I’ve been, Cabo came across as even less formal than other places, where one doesn’t feel like a customer there. But at the end of the day – you are a customer and you are helping these people to get by and if you look closer – it’s there.

It’s not a suggestion – don’t look closer please – it’s better that way, as they say – ignorance is bliss 😉 What I’m trying to say that such thing is naturally there and it’s not a bad thing as well – overall it’s a customer service that you don’t really feel like receiving, which makes it IMHO more comfortable, while it requires great deal of good vibes and skills to make it look that way 😉

One way or another – as I’ve mentioned above, over the years I’ve been to quite a few hippie places and they all operate on similar vibes – sometimes more profit-obvious and sometimes less. But yes, even hippies need to eat, drink and buy things and for that they need you to buy something off them first.

Anyway, I’d say that Cabo is definitely one of the best little hippie places I’ve visited. It is a special place and I’ve had one of my best Xmases ever there and if I was ever around again, I’d love to come back. And I haven’t mentioned that due to the nearly nonexistent light pollution, this place normally is (if there’s no full moon or clouds) one of the most stunning places for stargazing.

Cabo Polonio. The sunset beach on the left and the sunrise one on the right.

Which one of the two is better?

Right. Because of certain circumstances, such as the Xmas timing of my visit but also because the rather magical settings, lighthouse, seals, some interesting people as well – I’ve personally preferred Cabo. But if I had to be objective, I must say that Punta del Diablo offers more variety and comfort. After all, Cabo is kind off a semi-illegal settlement with limited electricity, WiFi and facilities. And because it’s a bit more remote, it is even more expensive than Punta del Diablo, while it provides 1/2 of the (physical) comfort.

I’m talking about hostels being used at the highest efficiency levels ever possible, which means the beds are rammed in small rooms with isles in between being about 50-60cm wide. If you’re over 180cm, your bed will most likely be short for you so your feet will stick out into that little isle. Mosquitoes are also present at levels equally efficient to the sleeping arrangements. What I’m trying to say is that – it’s not exactly a place for a conformists.

But it really depends on what kind of a person you are because once you get the vibe, you’ll be all right with the place or you will just leave on yr 3rd day 😉

Full moon during the sunset at Cabo Polonio

How to get there and how much

There are numerous buses running north from Monetvideo‘s huge and claustrophobic bus terminal. If I recollect it well, in about 5 hours we got to Punta del Diablo for 710,-UYU (€18). From Punta del Diablo to the entrance of the national park 259,-UYU (€6,60) in just under 2 hours. From the park’s entrance, there are this weird shuttle off road tracks running quite regularly and it will cost you 117,-UYU (€3) return. For the bus back to Montevideo from the park’s entrance I’ve paid further 643,-UYU (€16,30).

If you were travelling to southern Brazil, obviously head there from Punta del Diablo – I was only going back to travel west to the town called Salto* in order to cross over to Argentina to head further in order to visit the surreal Iguazú Falls.

Next possible destinations

*For football fans, here’s a curiosity – Salto (pop 100k) is a home to two of the most predatory strikers in recent football: Suárez and Cavani – otherwise there’s not much there…

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