As part of my Sabbatical year trips, I went from Buenos Aires to Uruguay, in January 2011.Among the different regions we visited the wild Rocha, whose most interesting highlight was undoubtedly Cabo Polonio, a hamlet and natural reserve located in the eastern coast of Uruguay, that preserves all the wilderness of the country’s beautiful coastline.
Cabo Polonio is located at about 250 km from the Capital Montevideo, and about 7 km from the main highway.
One of the characteristics of this place is that it has no roads leading to it and therefore it is accessible only by a long walk through the beautiful dunes or by a 4×4 vehicle.
We were camping in the nice and hippy – but quite crowded – La Pedrera, when, heading North to Santa Teresa National Park, we decided last minute to stop in Cabo Polonio, curious to discover this nearly out-of-the-world place.
Thus, we jumped on the first bus leading there, without knowing too much about this area, and very eager to explore it on our own.
After getting to the “entrance” of the protected area, where it was not possible to go on by bus, we had to decide how to get to the village. We found out there where 4×4 vehicles we could take at certain intervals of time. We did so and after about 20 minutes of jumping among charming and colorful dunes, we reached Cabo Polonio.
First thing I perceived from the car, was the sparkling blue sea surrounded by sand dunes and little, fishermen’s style houses, mostly in wood and bursting with lively colors.
A few handicraft shops and the imposing lighthouse far in the distance.
The town was really different from the several coast villages I was used to see in other parts of the world.
Furthermore, the hamlet is a very ecological place, promoting sustainability as a lifestyle and a sustainable approach to vacations.
It has no electricity or running water for the few hundred houses of this town, and wind power and a few generators are used to power some of the posadas and grocery store. There is a lighthouse that gets power from the national grid. Residents obtain water from nearby water wells or collecting rain water. I found all that really interesting.
There are almost no hotels, and the most common options for staying over are represented by renting cabanas, sharing a small house, going to a Posada (similar to our B&B) or a rancho. There are not big turistic buildings either…it is really a place where not all kind of tourists would go…a very pleasant surprise for all travellers that would not mind a bit less comfort to enjoy at the most Nature’s beautiful creations.
We also learned that a few years ago they approved a law according to which no more new buildings can be created, in order to respect the microclimate of the area.
We were delighted looking at the varied fauna, living peacefully and joyfully in this paradise…elegant wild horses, a colony of 500 sea lions sunning on the rocks, several hens running happily among the little houses and on the narrow winding streets, seagulls and other birds flying over the stunning wild shores. It was really a throwback in time to when life was simple; no phone, electricity, or paved roads.
We had a milk shake and a cheese cake in a little cafe, we strolled among the handicraft shops full of items made out of natural elements (pebbles, stones, shells…), we had a long long walk through the dunes…not brave enough to swim in the clear clean waters as they were quite cold despite the shining sun! We only strolled in the water until a bit over our knees!
I also had the opportunity to participate to some local artist’s workshop, showing how to use several recycled items to make beautiful handmade objects and decoration.Among the materials used were plastic bottles of different colours, wood, textiles and some broken items of many kinds of materials. This was really a remarkable and very useful experience!
Last we visited the lighthouse, from which the view is breathtaking, and we strolled along the other side of the coast, much more stony, where the sea lions were enjoying the summer sun.
This is the only place in Uruguay with this unique characteristic of nature preservation, and the magic and energy of it have no comparison.
We were really happy to discover it, although we only stayed for the day. It is necessary to book in advance during the high season if you plan to stay overnight or for a few days. I have heard the nights there are unique, and the sky is so pure and bright, the stars are perfectly visible and the atmosphere is extremely relaxing…
This is a good reason though, to come back to this charming site where Nature wins the battle against technology and business