My travel plans baffled my American friends, but those in Argentina understood. I’ll let you in on a secret: Uruguay is fabulous. This lesser-known South American destination offers big white-sand beaches, wonderful wildlife viewing and numerous equestrian activities, as well as copious shopping, museums and galleries courtesy of the art-world scene that’s sprung up around the once-quiet fishing village of José Ignacio. This time, I expected to focus my reporting as much on the high-quality local wine scene as the hotels, but the accommodations proved phenomenal.
Since Uruguay gets busy in the summer, I waited until autumn (the Northern Hemisphere’s spring), when the pace slows. Lucky residents of Buenos Aires can simply drive onto the ferry and cross the Río de la Plata estuary, but travel from the United States requires more effort (this time, we had a stopover in Panama City). With few exceptions, international flights land at Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, which is on the edge of a coastal plain. Farther east, the scenery turns more picturesque, with low sierras plunging toward the Atlantic Ocean. Past the resort town of Punta del Este, about two hours from Montevideo’s airport, we arrived at our lodgings at last. All that travel proved to be well worth it.
LUZ Culinary Wine Lodge
Opened less than two years ago by Argentine architect Diego Montero, this hideaway is tucked into 35 acres of vineyards and olive trees right between two hotels we already recommend. It’s a 10-minute drive from both the equestrian-themed Estancia Vik José Ignacio and the highly contemporary Playa Vik José Ignacio on the coast. But LUZ Culinary Wine Lodge has a different atmosphere than either, as you might gather from its name.