I went to Piriápolis in Uruguay because of the whisky. Not the drink, but the movie directed by Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll released in 2004. Part of the plot takes place here, in this beach between Punta Del Este and Montevidéo: the story of Jacobo´s lonely life and the troubled relationship with his brother Herman and his employee Marta, to whom he makes an unexpected proposal during the visit of a relative from Brazil. This mix of isolation, beauty and the possibility of knowing some film locations made Piriápolis the perfect getaway on Carnival.
The first impression did not let me down: few buildings, lots of houses without surrounding walls, some dirt streets and a long sidewalk by the beach set the scenery. It was early in the morning and the place still seemed a little lazy. Like everywhere in Argentina, the day starts late in Piriápolis, and everyone comes here to spend the summer. Besides the beautiful beaches with freezing water and lots of rocks, there are many tour options. You can go to the cerros (hills), visit the castles or even enjoy the view from the CABLE CAR.
HOTEL ARGENTINO is on RAMBLA DE LOS ARGENTINOS, the main avenue. It opened in 1930, and the movie Whisky used the hotel and its Casino as a film location. There are guided tours and the RAILWAY MUSEUM is near. Going for a walk on the avenue is a nice way to know the city – there is where you find most bars, restaurants and handcraft stores.
CERRO DEL TORO and its fountain, which are 250m above sea level, are a tourist attraction in Piriápolis. There is a life-size iron statue of a bull, and the water coming out of its mouth was considered to be therapeutic – according to Francisco Piria, the founder of the city. PAN DE AZÚCAR is another famous hill, with its stone walls and 380m high. In one of the squares there is the Fountain of Venus, a replica of a statue Piria saw in Italy. At the bus station you can catch a bus to the castle opened in 1897, where the founder of the beach used to live. Inside CASTELO DE PIRIA (Piria´s Castle), you can see furniture, objects and clothes from that time. You may rent an ATV for 30 minutes or 1 hour and visit the near beaches, like SOLÍS.
As the evening comes, the rambla (large street) and the stores get more crowded; lots of people inside and out the bars, drinking pilsens and norteñas (beers), waiting to cheer and applaud the sunset. Uruguayan food is based on chivitos (burger), mozzarella pizzas, media lunas (croissants) and seafood. The nightlife is in bars around the city and in gatherings by the sea shore.
Like everywhere else around the country, carnival in Piriápolis is a little nostalgic: couples dancing tango along the rambla, children in colorful costumes and groups of people walking to the sound of Brazilian samba and Gardel’s songs. These innocent moments, hard to see nowadays, are perfect for those who do not enjoy carnival and search for something different.
Take Note Piriápolis
There is accommodation for all budgets; Hostel Da Juventude (youth hostel) is near Rambla de Los Argentinos and Hotel Argentino, but it is not the best one. It looks like a summer camp, with lots of families and children.
How to get there: in Porto Alegre, take a bus to Punta Del Este and another one to Piriápolis (the whole trip takes about 9 hours). From Punta Del Este to Piriápolis it takes about 1 hour and the bus stops at several beaches along the way. You can also fly from Porto Alegre to Montevidéo and then take a bus to Piriápolis at Tres Cruzes Station.
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Translated by Lúcia Maciel