Fifteen years ago, José Ignacio slipped on the microscopic list of magical and secret addresses for rich initiates. A tiny fishing village, 400 inhabitants year-round, lost on the Uruguayan coast, two hours drive from the capital, Montevideo, towards Brazil. Beaches of white sand as far as the eye can see, some restaurants, a grocery store, postcard sunsets. The opposite of its neighbor Punta del Este, high place of the jet set, now disfigured by buildings, including a Trump Tower …
Today, José Ignacio is celebrated by the New York Times, who qualifies the place of "Chic but not famous". Not famous ? People around the world are jostling however in December and January (since we are in the southern hemisphere). Football stars Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez; Naomi Campbell and Natalia Vodianova; Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Zuckerberg …
But also Argentinian or Brazilian billionaires who make the happiness of the owners of hotels and restaurants, when they do not rent sumptuous architect villas with windows as big as the beach and terraces where children can play football.
"One day, David Rockefeller rented all our rooms for a month," tells Tomas Laura, the manager of the Estancia Vik, located ten minutes drive inland. A sublime ranch overlooking the lagoon and meadows where oxen and horses graze. The most luxurious room revolves around 1,700 euros per night, three times less than a suite at Playa Vik, located by the sea.
For restaurateur Adolfo Suaya, who opened Casa Suaya, "José Ignacio, it looks like the Hamptons (in the state of New York) in the 1960s ". The Uruguayan artist Agó Páez Vilaró, daughter of the sculptor Carlos Páez Vilaró, a friend of Picasso, compares the atmosphere to that of Saint-Tropez, at least that of the Bardot of the sixties. "Well-known people can go barefoot to dine in the restaurant without showing off their fortune. "
Why so much love from these beautiful people ? "There is everything they love here, explains Nacho Muse, who introduces Uruguay to tourists for the Voyageurs du monde agency. Almost no car traffic, no delinquency, an incomparable quality of life, incredible beaches, magical surf spots, high class restaurants … "
A significant difference
Here, no buildings, but houses, some of which are breathtaking. The last place to be talked about, Playa Vik, a villa with green roofs, which belongs, like the Estancia Vik to the Norwegian billionaire Alexander Vik, who commissioned Carlos Ott, coarchitect of the Opera Bastille. To all these attractions is added an appreciable self-esteem. To which, for some gay couples who do not want to live in Jair Bolsonaro's Brazil, the comfort of a country with some of the most progressive social laws in the world is grafted on.
Chef Clo Dimet, who runs Posada Paradiso, one of the most famous restaurants in the area, judges the place "Frenetic during the summer, of incredible vitality and at the same time relaxed, relaxed, quiet. You can party every night as you isolate in one of the most soothing places in the world.
For his part, the grocer-butcher José Luís, aka Manolo, who sells in his shop olive oils, wine and pasta imported from Italy and France, is delighted by the upcoming arrival of summer visitors: "I love all year here, but I prefer when it's overflowing with people; it's incredibly alive and warm. "
The reputation of the place is the happiness of the whole region. While driving thirty or forty minutes, one discovers grandiose and preserved landscapes. You can then choose to stay in Sacromonte, the immense wine estate, wild, luxurious and ecological of the Peruvian Edmond Borit, where you sleep in a glass house with, in the evening, a breathtaking view of the stars from his bed .
"In the spring, you go to the beaches of José Ignacio and you are alone. And when I say alone, it's really alone. It's an incredible feeling. Martin Robaina Antia, Manager of Lote 8
Ten kilometers away, one of the only olive oil farms in the country: Lote 8, 40,000 trees and a tasting organized by Martín Robaina Antía, a young manager who looks like a baba cool who makes taste his oils on a terrace, in the middle of the lavender fields, with a 360 degree view of the surroundings. "In the spring, you go to the beaches of José Ignacio and you are alone. And when I say alone, it's really alone. It's an incredible feeling. And when the season arrives, summer visitors are there, and that's good. Uruguay is empty, just over 3 million inhabitants! We need them, they are welcome! "
We think that nothing should change. We talk about the beauty of the landscapes, the intact beaches, the little concrete. But José Ignacio is already hardly a fishing village. While champagne and cocktails are flowing in La Huella, the hippie chic beach restaurant, Javier Fonte, is sad. "I tell my kids to study because it's over. The artisanal fishing boats like mine, there must be barely five. " In contrast, the "For Sale" signs planted in the middle of the grounds grow like mushrooms.
Child of the country, Nuble Nuñez transports those who land at the airport of Punta del Este. "People tell me that they are here, that there is a soul. There was nothing when I was a kid, we were happy, we were savages, it made them feel like, city dwellers – Wall Street traders all know Jose Ignacio! But you need to be careful… "
He points to the seaside. "This is the first time in my life that I see four cranes. It hurts my heart. " Chef Clo Dimet is not worried though: "Together, we are working to preserve this place. We know how unique and magical it is. " And so very fragile.
Travelers of the world, whose stays are now offset in carbon, offers various formulas to discover Uruguay. From € 3,200 per person for an 11-day break including flights, transfer, 8 nights full board in Rocha, car rental, 24-hour assistance and a Wi-Fi mini-car.
Such. : 01-42-86-17-70. voyageursdumonde.fr
Visit the olive grove Lote 8 in Pueblo Edén.
Practice kite-surfing at Lazaro Kiteschool.
It is the beach restaurant of the village, with its outdoor terrace protected from the wind. Very good card of cocktails and wines, and excellent grilled fish.
La Huella, Playa Brava.
WHERE TO DINNER
José Ignacio is known for his gastronomic tables, as Posada Paradiso, the chef Clo Dimet, a child of the country. In Ruta, 10 km away, Marismo offers meals exclusively outside, on nice wooden tables. It's like being in the jungle. The local specialty is lamb shank, cooked slowly over a wood fire.
Posada Paradiso, calle Picaflores esquina Biguas. posadaparadiso.com
Marismo, Ruta 10 km 185. restaurantmarismo.com
The city has three, two by the sea, and a third, the Estancia, slightly behind, among the horses.
Rooms at the Estancia from 455 €; from € 615 at the Playa. vikhotels.com
An ecological paradise and wine in the hills. The estate is so big that it has its own hiking trails. Villa for four from 410 € with breakfast.
CNO. The Guillermina Km 7, Sierra de Carapé. sacromonte.com