Jose Ignacio – Discover the Hidden Treasure of the Uruguay Coast
During most of the year, Jose Ignacio is a charming and intimate village with few inhabitants, but during high season it is one of the most popular spots of the Uruguayan coast.
Located less than 40 km from the Peninsula of Punta del Este, Jose Ignacio is a stone tip entering the sea for about a mile, leaving both sides of natural bays forming a tame beach with its small fishing boats and magical sunsets and on the other side the towering waves of the Brava beach. Just like in in Punta Del Este, these lovely beaches are called Brava and Mansa. Both of them offer the perfect combination of countryside and sea, with rocks in permanent clash with waves that leave trails of foam and shells on the thick sand.
Nature All Around in Jose Ignacio
The wonders of Jose Ignacio are not limited to its beaches or its elite resorts on the beach. Its natural landscape surrounding the peninsula, its steep cliffs, the nearby lakes and areas of native vegetation are as worthy of seeing from any of their viewpoints, like from the top of the lighthouse of Jose Ignacio which is the real symbol of the town. Built in 1877 its proud slender silhouette is always standing out against the rocky shore.
Jose Ignacio in the Spotlight
Jose Ignacio, despite its small size, has become in the last decades a remarkable tourist destination and one of the favourite holiday spots for many personalities in the world of culture, television or politics.
For many decades entertainment personalities have chosen Jose Ignacio to build their summer homes as the popular singer Shakira who prefers to spend leisure time here, rather than in other more crowded places.
Despite the quiet environment, Jose Ignacio is equipped with facilities of high standard and with all kinds of highly professional services . During high season there are plenty of events and after beach parties attracting visitors and tourists to this area.
One of the latest events during January 2015 were the film festival JIFF, Concerts by the lighthouse, art workshops and galleries like the Las Caracolas who are always present in Jose Ignacio presenting the latest displays of contemporary art.
Slow food in Jose Ignacio
Whoever comes to Jose Ignacio, loves to linger at the different spots of the village. This is why most restaurants invite visitors to stay and enjoy the relaxed style of its cuisine together with the sights.
The restaurants in fact are a great attraction for those looking to savour not only the best seafood, but also original and trendy dishes.
Below are some restaurants of Jose Ignacio with unique offerings and intimate environment.
• La Huella with its rustic inn on the sand of Playa Brava, near El Faro, is one of the hot spots of José Ignacio, busy all day and with plenty of frequent famous faces. The kitchen is simple, with seafood including sushi, along with grilled meats, pastas and pizzas made in the classic mud oven “uruguayo”.
• Los Negros: The famous chef Francis Mallmann started this project in 1993; this is a place to feel among friends. It is located almost on the rocks facing the sea, and retains the cosy style of its origins, but with a super sophisticated menu and concurrency.
• Namm: Hidden in the woods, this gem of gastronomy can be found just when exiting Jose Ignacio on Route 10 . Known as the “tree house”, the atmosphere invites you to relax around stoves, candles, coffee tables, lots of wood and stone. Dinner starts with sushi and sashimi, ending with regional dishes served in special clay pottery.
• Lucy: Famous for its tea time, this warm restaurant is open from morning to night with a menu that reconnects us with the most delicious dishes. The owner and chef, Luz Acevedo, personally takes care of every detail and surprises with unique desserts like the “cake of the sun”.
• Marismo: One of the favourite of celebrities, with rustic tables under the moon, scattered on the sand and in the trees, is the setting for a quiet, intimate dinner. Candles lit the stove and the environment. The lamb is delicious, the daily catch is prepared traditionally and the grill is a must.
• Jardin: Latest new fine dining experience in the area where Namm and Marismo is located. Young chef Maca from Mallorca opened this place last year and she is the youngest chef receiving a Michelin Star in Europe. The ambiance and food is truly something special to experience.
Beyond José Ignacio
After the roundabout at the entrance of José Ignacio, if heading towards the east to the end of the department of Maldonado, there are 7 kilometers of Route 10 that are the last frontier before Rocha that starts after the Lake Garzon.
This road is confusing. It seems as if it does not lead anywhere, only asphalt surrounded by pines and locust trees growing firmly on the sand dunes that overlap the road at times. These images show nothing in particular, however, the charm of this part of Uruguay is that nature is present everywhere. Only the roar of the waves is heard with the always present wind from the coast.
Saying it is still virgin territory would be a mistake. Under this tranquillity there is a mix of options for those coming to spend time in Jose Ignacio. This area is growing in its own way, combining luxury, good taste and exclusive services combined with the hardiness of the own saline ocean that bathes its nearby shores.
There are few road signs, some announcing the raft to cross the lake and some leading to dirt roads, given hints of sites that preserve their semi-secret character. Some of the best restaurants in the vast coast are within the forests of winding roads that are beyond José Ignacio. They are places with zero advertising, basing their customers in non-traditional methods, such as social networks or some as traditional as word of mouth.
Besides the restaurants there are also hotels and hostels for visitors to sleep, rest, eat breakfast, and make walks, go sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Once the bridge of Lake Garzon is operative there will be indeed more offerings but the magic of this place still remains for now.
Mary Ann Thompson