Punta del Este is a thriving seaside resort in the province of Maldonado, a two-hour drive from Montevideo. The peninsula was long the haunt of pirates and explorers, but today it attracts international jet setters, who come for the calm turquoise water, the white sandy dunes, and, above all, the beaches.
With such beautiful beaches (Playa Brava and Playa Mansa, in particular), avant-garde galleries, excellent restaurants, and first-rate lodgings, it's no surprise that this cosmopolitan resort area attracts the rich and famous.
Visit the extraordinary Mediterranean villa of the painter Carlos PáezVilaró, which has been converted into a modern-art museum. Take a detour to the trendy fishing village of José Ignacio before passing through the quieter town of La Barra on your way back to the capital.