Valle de Lunarejo, Uruguay’s Patagonia

A local family of ‘lechuzas’

Once I read about this place, in an excellent Uruguay guide written by Tim Burford, I was ready to go, as it sounded like a wild region in the middle of nowhere, always a personal favorite. Asking about it, even friends who grew up in the Rivera region had heard of it but knew nothing. And there’s a solid reason of course, namely as it’s a day’s drive from Montevideo across some wide open empty grasslands. So we took Ruta 5 north out of funky San Gregorio de Polanco, and through profuse commercial forest before following some sketchy directions into the exalted valley, walled in by flat top mesas reminiscent of the Mogollon Rim country of Arizona.

Cerro Boqueron

Certainly one of the reasons for the scarcity of visitors is the distance and sketchiness of directions and side roads, and private interests controlling all, making for limited access. Not necessarily a negative, considering the amount of crap that clueless visitors tend to leave behind. So there are less than a dozen places to stay in the valley and pay for a guided hike, bike, horseback ride or motor tour. The two main waterways, the Lunarejo and Laureles rivers, each spawn several tributaries, and featuring lots of waterfalls and tight basaltic gorges. Huge swaths of planted biofuel forest divide the vast ranch pastures, and tightly protected sections of protected canyons and gorges are surrounded by the rest.

On the road to find out

We were lucky enough to find the Miradores del Valle, a real working ranch with lots of livestock and domestic animals and run by an especially hospitable family. We rented a sweet cabin bedroom with a decent kitchen and bathroom for 1200 pesos a night, around $30. Straight out the front door up the hill was wild territory, and we took a couple of good rambles checking out the adjacent woods. Juan and Paula led the way, with G on horseback as her feet were a little sore, and both locals know a ton about the local flora and fauna, especially ‘yuyos’ and assorted natural criolla remedies for various medical infirmities. After cresting the ridge up above the property, we dropped into a steep, tight basaltic gorge, or ‘quebrada’, featuring a splendid couple of waterfalls, along with the most gigantic wasp nest of my time. Fortunately, they stayed put as they most always do, and there were other notable sights along the way, including a birds nest as fine as a bee’s wing, thank you Richard Thompson.

Two toddlers and a yet to be born

Here we arrived at the lovely ‘Caida y la Cueva’, with an alcove recessed behind one of the falls, and the upper falls just as beguiling. Though the route into the gorge is steep, it’s short and not any problem for most. It’s a hike that provides a lot of payoff for a short wander, and is worth as much time as can be spent. A glorious green grotto, good as gold.

Chill, or what?

From the top it was a leisurely stroll back to the ranch, past a patch of criolla woods with a 600 year old Ceibo tree, one of Uruguay’s true totems and a national symbol. It looks like it will handle another 600 with no problem, and I had the sensation of being in the presence of a superior being, like a Sequoia. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating and relaxing, and bringing food with is a must here, as the accommodation provides no meals, but the kitchen is up to snuff so most anything can be prepared with no problems. One recommendation for light sleepers; earplugs to mitigate the abundant animal sounds, from the most pleasing, the distant frogs and crickets, to the closer, more boisterous calls of the sheep, cattle and roosters. The close sound of the horses munching grass outside the cabin, on the other hand, was a very pleasant one, an almost zen like ambience similar to flowing water. But the total serenade is quite a novelty for city dwellers like myself.

A champion example of Uruguay’s national tree , the Ceibo

One feature of this valley is that private landowners control almost all of the territory, so virtually every excursion requires paid permission and an accompanying guide. The prices are very reasonable, ranging from 300 to 1500 pesos, depending on the distance and mode of transportation. We were very eager to check out the celebrated ‘Catarata del Indio’ until finding out that the distance down a rough dirt road was 20 k each way, and actually on the Laureles River and not the Lunarejo here. But there are several other treks worth taking, including the Pozos Azules, Cascada de la Virgen, and Cueva del Indio and three or four nights would be enough to get to most of the featured garden spots. Stock up on groceries, take your time, and take in an exceptionally unique eco system.

Not exactly typical of Uruguay

Miradores del Valle has a prolific quantity of domestic animals, including lots of sheep and cattle, several horses, hens and roosters, perhaps a dozen dogs and at least 3 cats. So animal lovers have a lot to love here, and the isolated rural setting is tranquil and peaceful as it gets. After lunch we were ready for out next outing, this time a drive to a nearby beauty spot with a swimming hole. Juan drove the Toyota pickup outfitted with bus seats in the bed, and we got a grand view of the countryside coming and going half an hour. Our destination was a creek that had cut a narrow channel in the rock, similar to Slide Rock at Arizona’s Oak Creek. Small waterfalls closed off each end, and we spotted a fine looking lizard while soaking up the scene. Pitangas, the small berries that resemble miniature cherries, were abundant here and we munched a bunch. A swim afterwards provided a cooling rinse, and we got a terrific close view of rugged Cerro Bonito, along with Cerros Boqueron and Peludo.

Vital Information

Miradores del Valle is 12 kilometers down a gravel road off of Highway 30, just north of Tranqueras on the road towards Artigas. They will provide explicit directions and plenty of Uruguayan hospitality.

Contact them at: or by cell at 098149294

There are several other lodging options spread out in the valley offering different services and excursions. A couple of these, El Caudillo and El Gavilan, seem very professional and accommodating. The link below connects to the park visitor center along with most of the posadas in the area:,-56.1119232,13z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m3!11m2!2sjbClzdMSldPsJJRWtC0uwytNqFqeJQ!3e3

Los Pozos Azules y Sierra de las Animas, wild Uruguay

Espejo del guardian

I had heard vague and mostly non informative reports about the ‘blue holes’ almost since moving to Uruguay. But though many locals had indeed heard of it, nobody had actually been there. And the scarce written information was uniformly negative, slamming the dried up, muddy pozos, the constant threat of poisonous snakes, and the insufferably anal woman in charge of admission and privileged entrance to her little slice of criollo Uruguay wilderness.

The trails’s not this obvious all the time

Therefore, after two separate trips, one last week, the first one year ago, I can finally comment on the mythic legend of this spot, just inland from Piriapolis and the prominent hill named Pan de Azucar. Being within two car hours from Montevideo, the close access allows plenty of folks in, and this brings us to the topic of the woman who operates the veritable checkpoint Charlie at the bottom of the trail. After dealing with this control freak on separate visits, her style leaves much to be desired, in terms of condescending and smug instructions and mandatory ‘advice’, and my first impulse was to tell her off and forget about her precious property.

The summit block of the High Sierra

However, upon further reflection and experience, I recognize that the wench has had to deal with some very trashy, clueless, and unworthy humankind, and so has naturally developed this patronizing personality to communicate her mindset to the paying customers. The requirements are quite rigorous, she will make you empty out any packs to see if there are prohibited items, such as any colored drinks or soda pop, along with a compulsory minimum of water per person. Footwear had better be adequate, along with socks and a hat or cap for the strong southern sun, along with a separate bag to place any refuse in to return to the bottom with. There are others, and the only way to gain entry is to register in advance through the website or whatsapp number, followed by a comprehensive personal info form and an extended legal release read and agree section. The station is usually open solely on weekends, and quite possibly start times will be regulated and assigned by the hour; welcome to the future.

Pan de Azucar front and center and Piriapolis beyond

So all that is the downer department, just dealing with the ultra annoying control nanny, and finally gaining entry to the plot. Her authoritarian approach does appear to be effective in terms of reducing garbage and other human pollution, and on that point alone I have to give her credit and semi endorsement. Just know that this is the way it is, a necessary hassle, and then get out on the trail.

If you get here when it’s this wet, thank the gods

Last year we lucked out the first week of November during a wet cycle and two days after a good rain. This made for a semi muddy trail but heaps of water in all 3 main pools, and a lush canopy of green kept it shady and cool. The trail runs straight up a ridge from the bottom but the slope is gentle past the 700 meters it takes to cross the small creek. The first of the 8 actual pools is here and I came across a spectacular Overo lizard stopped on the trail, a meter long, maybe 4 kilos and an absolute black and white beauty. Having spent lots of time in both Colombia and Costa Rica, I’ve laid eyes on many an iguana, but none could hold a candle to this ‘lagarto’. Seconds later he was off through the underbrush.

The higher the rockier

Another 15 minutes on is the trail junction to the pozos, with a right turn that traverses a broad hill with a series of short and easy ups and downs, keeping on the only real rout through all this vegetation. The arroyo is down to the right along this entire stretch, and 400 meters of elevation is gained, and almost that much lost. In less than an hour the creek is crossed and the first ‘blue’ pool is reached. Espejo de la Cuevita, a splendid petite pond enclosed in lush mossy rocks and in full flower on my visit. As previously stated, timing is everything, as these ‘mirrors’ can be mudpits during droughts. But here it was full enough to get doused and spend some minutes soaking up all the green glory. Linger a spell.

Pondering the imponderable at Espejo de la Cuevita

Soon, curiosity drives us up towards the second mystical pool, and a rock wall on the left necessitates a short retreat back 30 meters to cross the creek and wind back left uphill on a fainter trail. At a big stone slab with a fallen tree a brushy route leads to the upper view of the pool below, and just further, the Espejo del Guardian, named after a fuzzy figure in the rock beneath the wee waterfall. These two bottom pools are the best looking of the chain, but another short spur trail, steep and narrow, leads to another view of the Guardian, and finally the smaller and not so atmospheric Espejo de la Luna. This one is still well worth the quick scramble, though not as conducive to sitting around, listening to the water and the bountiful bird calls.

Wet season is high season here, and prime time

The round trip to these pozos is in the 4 to 5 hour range, depending on pace and motivation, about the same as the circuit to the top of the sierra. The two features can be combo-ed too, ideally doing the summit first and then the pozos on the way back to the bottom. This makes for a full day, 6 to 8 hours, and I recommend it for anybody with sufficient juice.

Bring your binoculars and look over yonder

On my most recent visit, we shared the summit trail with several dozen hikers taking advantage of the excellent weather. This route is well trod through the lush criollo woods for a half hour past the turnoff to the pools, before emerging onto the rocky grasslands with the peak destination in full view the whole way. A wire fence is paralleled the rest of the way to the top, and the panorama is kick ass all the way from Punta del Este in the distance to Pan de Azucar and Piriapolis front and center. The summit block is a slab of rocks where a seat and snack are compulsory, taking in all the scenic splendor. An easy two hour shuffle back to the bottom is all that’s left, and this is a hike that every nature lover should take, despite the bossy bitc*’y business at the beginning. This stretch of land is about as wilderness as it gets semi close to Montevideo, Just make sure you meet all the requirements to make it through the checkpoint, and process all the essential details ahead of time at

After doing this trek you’ll forget all about the bother at the bottom, and only remember the best of the rest..

48 premium hours in Montevideo

Selfie seekers repent

The capitol and only major city of Uruguay doesn’t get the acclaim of some neighbors, notably Buenos Aires and Punta del Este, but it’s a vibrant and fascinating place, and if time is short, it’s good to have a plan. Since most international flights arrive early in the morning, let’s map out the best use of that two days and nights.

The Sarandi pedestrian walkway in the old city

After that early arrival, getting down to the city center and the old ciudad vieja is on the docket. The old barrio has some rough edges, but three splendid plazas, all totally different, and close enough to walk. Plaza Independencia is more open and less shady than the others, and affords a grand view of the classic Salvo Tower, looking like an Atlas rocket ready for launch. When it was  built it was the tallest skyscraper in South America. The plaza is at the portal into the old city, and the pedestrian walkway Sarandi is loaded with  street vendors, shops, and food options galore. 

Ready for takeoff

Two blocks away is lovely Plaza Matriz, with big leafy trees and  the majestic Metropolitan Cathedral, built here in 1790 and the site of many big weddings and such. An easy three blocks west of matriz, also know as constitucion, lies my favorite, Plaza Zabala. Inaugurated in 1890, this square was designed by Parisian Eduardo Andre, and it definitely has a French flair. Covered with a collection of trees including Magnolias, Zabala is an easy place to spend lots of relaxing time. Directly across the street is the stately Taranco Palace, a national historical site and art gallery also worth some precious time.

Leafy Plaza Matriz

Turning north onto Perez Castellano, this pedestrian street leads to the quirky and bustling Puerto Mercado, where a dozen or so restaurants offer meat on the grill with all the trimmings. After wandering a bit, get on the Montevideo  hop on, hop off double decker tourist bus which hits 10 notable sites, including Estadio Centenario, where Uruguay won the inaugural World Cup.

Montevideo is a city loaded with fine trees

An hour and a half after boarding, hop off at Punta Carretas to check out one of the  finest hoods and a hot bed of food, drink, and retail shops with the latest and coolest. And I know that real travelers never want to get on an actual tourist bus, but this is a pretty efficient use of 2 hours.

A Candombe troupe getting ready to march and wail

Perhaps a break is in order after this campaign, and for the evening shift, we head to Palermo for dinner and drinks, and if we’re lucky, live Candombe on the streets. This particular variation of music was born here centuries ago, and features an avalanche of drums and accompanying dancers and followers. The troupe, sometimes numbering triple digits, shuffle through the streets at a very casual pace and are easy to catch up with anytime. They can be heard a kilometer away, at least, and if your timing is right, these energetic musical displays can be downright invigorating.

Live music at the Mingus

Whether Candombe is happening or not, a worthy stop on the road to utopia is El Mingus, a restobar at the corner of San Salvador and Jackson. Food, drinks, music and clientele are all first rate, and this leisurely stop will fill the tank for the rest. Which is live music in the classic basement of Emigrantes, another luminary in the local music scene. The bands play late, the crowds congregate and everybody goes home, or hotel, happy.

The street scene is always lively at night

Day two begins with renting a bike and covering some beauteous ground, as the plan is to ride as much of the sublime Montevideo rambla as possible. The rambla is a wide sidewalk that parallels the mighty Rio de la Plata for over ten miles, starting in the old city and ending in the swank suburb of Carrasco. The vast majority of coastline in Uruguay is open to the public, a huge difference from many other developed countries. So there’s a ton to see and it’s not very demanding as the path stays flat with just two small hills. There are dozens of places to stop for some sustenance, especially in the neighborhood surrounding the elegant Carrasco Hotel and Casino.

Chillin’on the rambla at Pocitos beach

Passing through the fetching beach communities of Malvin and Punta Gorda, the quantity of architectural marvels is stunning, and there’s a lot to see besides beach and buildings. The rambla offers a birds eye view of a range of development from decades past to yesterday and is the best method to learning the lay of the city.

Malvin is kite surfing central

Upon arriving in Carrasco, wander the streets immediately surrounding the casino and behold some very unique dwellings. Arocena Avenue is the main business artery here and home to dozens of refreshment selections. The most celebrated is the venerable Bar Arocena, open 24/7 and boasting one of the finest chivitos in the land. This is the national icon, a variation of the gringo steak sandwich, and if the stomach needs fuel, fill it up here. Afterwards, an easy return back into the city center or home base will be the perfect lead in to a siesta.

Everybody is up for a live concert anytime

Tonight we experience the prized culinary tradition of the barbeque, known as asado in these parts. The venue is La Pulperia, a hallowed spot worshipped by carnivores for its’ merit and nothing fancy setting and service. The go to dish on the menu is the Ojo de Bife, a Rib eye steak, but they whip up all the cuts of meat and several side dishes, along with the finest local red wines. It’s a neon meat dream that will be relished for moons and recalled eternally.

Montevideo is an architectural hotbed

Once again tonight we seek a sotano, a basement with live music, so the next stop is just a five minute walk away. Bar Tabare has it’s own highly regarded kitchen, but we’re here for drinks and music, and both are delivered with gusto. Much like the culture of cooking on a fire here, many establishments sport a basement bar where live music is the draw, and Tabare, like Emigrantes, has a beauty. Sit and savor the sounds of a culture in full bloom, and raise a glass to your good fortune in getting to such a metro gem.

Keep your eyes on the hotizon and your nose to the wind

Cabo Polonio, Bona Fide Best of Uruguay

There may well be other places like this, a scruffy village of dwellings on a cape which seems like it’s from another time, but I haven’t seen any. Most locations remind you of some other place that has some similarities, but I have yet to ever meet anybody who’s been able to name one for here. It has a vibe all its own in a site that provokes photo frenzies and futile attempts at worthy descriptions. Hard to get to, harder to leave, and always generating plans for the next return trip. This is the effect this cape produces, and not many are immune to the spell.

Beasties basking beneath the beacon

It started off long ago, like many on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast, as a fishing village. There were, and still are, multitudes of Sea Lions here, which resulted in thousands being slaughtered for their pelts. The shipwrecks off this treacherous point are many and legendary, so the history of the place is bountiful. The blonde bombshell and animal rights activist Bridget Bardot was instrumental in ending the sea lion slaughter, and now there are, once again, loads of the beasties, often barking up a storm.

A view from the classic lighthouse

Now it’s an actual national park, protected  territory, and all visitors are encouraged to do their best to keep it clean and semi pristine. There’s a modern visitors center, with excellent historical information and a colossal map on the floor to illustrate where you’re bound. After paying to board a whopper of an all terrain vehicle to roll 7 kilometers through sand dunes and coastal forest to reach the village. The option to walk is available, but very few do, as most can’t wait to get there.

These big shuttles are how most visitors get to Polonio nowadays

And there is something else: an ultra rustic village with no electricity that’s not generated from solar panels, wind turbines, or gas generators. Besides the well worn track that the giant shuttles roll in on, there are really no streets, just sandy paths and passageways. Quite a few multicolored cabins, houses, and other structures, and many absolutely ramshackle, as if put together out of a scrap bin. The funkiest community of houses and cabins in one place ever seen, with dogs, chickens, horses and hippies running wild.

Horses run free here, along with everything else

And what a lighthouse, one of a network on this coast that are situated every 20 miles or so.

Vintage, great looking and still kicks ass

This beauty offers a stupefying  360 vista of the cape and everything this side of the horizon, including the expansive lair of the sea lions. To the north lie the lofty dunes that border the woods and stretch for kilometers to the closest settlement of Valizas. Southward, miles of immaculate empty beach for many miles. Cabo Polonio has become the preferred getaway for urban dwellers in 3 countries, and fills up with them every January. Vacancies are meager and lodging rates as high as they get. Nevertheless, it’s the best place you could possibly be at that time of year.

South Beach in low season is a gem even if empty

The rest of the year it usually only gets bustling on warm weekends, and during the cold winter months, it’s a virtual ghost town. The hamlet has 3 named neighborhoods, though I visited for years without hearing any mention of them.

The serene Playa de los Huevos just up the coast

I prefer to order them by geography: Calaveras Beach, extending towards the dunes to the north; South Beach, on the other side of the peninsula reaching in the direction of the next town, La Pedrera; and the grassy peninsula between these two which is filled with granite boulders. The actual ‘town’, more of a hamlet than anything, is situated in this middle area. This is where most of the commercial businesses are, the hostels, cafes, shops, and now, 3 small grocery stores.

This is the main commercial drag

Calaveras Beach, facing east, has the strongest surf while South Beach facing almost due south is much more gentle. Most of the dwellings above South Beach are painted white and appear to be more solid and upscale than the rest, with a few exceptions. Many of these pads are available for rent and are among the most expensive and swank in the area.

These white cabins are some of the choicest on the cape

The village center sports the most accommodations and without doubt the cheapest. There are also a few hostels and B&B’s facing Calaveras Beach. Many of the places to stay close up in the low season, which lasts from May through November, and for the ones that stay open, this is the economical season. Hostel World lists just 3 places that are operating in the off season, but this number probably triples during the summer. Rates that are $10 per bunk can easily triple in January, when Cabo is full blast.

On the rocks, with hammock of course

There are some extra funky digs back away from the beach situated close to the dunes, and some of these can be rented as well, although the methods of contact are usually word of mouth. Those dunes are great fun to wander around, offering sensational views of the entire cape, and I’ve found sizable pools of fresh water here after rainy days, a special, ephemeral treat. One of the popular diversions is to hike the trail from Cabo to the neighboring town of Valizas, first starting on the beach and then winding inland through the dunes. This can take 2 to 3 hours depending on energy and time demands, and a 2 mile longer route follows the coast line the entire way, past a superb beach called Playa de Los Huevos (egg beach), directly below the prominent rocky overlook known as Buena Vista. This ramble as a round trip day hike will probably be too much of a physical challenge for most people to enjoy, but there are plenty who do it.

Buena Vista hill between Cabo and Valizas

I’ve gone to Cabo for just a day, and I’ve made the trip to stay just a night, and neither of these are what I would recommend. Two nights even seems a bit rushed, and I have friends who won’t even consider staying less than two weeks. Generally speaking, the longer the better, as the state of absolute relaxation and disregard for time is enhanced by the day. Four nights is quite de-stressing, and this provides enough time to do everything desired. It used to be the rule to bring as many supplies, food and drink with you as possible, but besides a few essential items, Cabo this is no longer the case. With 3 grocery stores that sell most items at a reasonable cost, including wine and liquor, specialty products now make the most sense. Because of the absence of electricity, locals rely on candlelight for lost illumination, so long burning candles serve a practical need. When there is rain, there are mosquitoes, so repellent is exceedingly valuable at times as well, although most places have nets. Another essential commodity is suntan lotion, as the big light in the sky is powerful and relentless. One of the features of  Cabo Polonio is the lack of trees, so getting out of the sun is not so easy in hot weather. Therefore a hat is an important thing to have, and sometimes the only shade around. I would advise anybody to bring what they can comfortably carry, and I have made the trip toting several bottles of wine and specialty snacks. If you’re a fan of marijuana, now legal in Uruguay, definitely bring your own, as it is scarce and expensive.

This stretch of the Uruguay coast is pristine and primo

Driving to the entrance station is no problem, but cars are not allowed on the road through the dunes to the village. This absence of traffic is another of the positive attributes of the park, both for the lack of noise and relaxed surroundings. Parking is available and there is a daily charge. Since there are few vehicles allowed, and almost all either ‘grandfathered in’ or work trucks, it makes sense to take a bus and just get dropped off, saving the parking fee. Rutas del Sol makes three arrivals and pick ups each day, more in high season, and they can be booked and boarded at the main bus terminal at Tres Cruces in Montevideo. The cost is around US$40 for the 270 kilometer, 4 1/2 hour ride.

No matter  how you arrive, just make sure you do. Cabo Polonio has been my favorite place in Uruguay since I first visited, and years later, it still is. I make it every year regardless, and it’s a must see for every foreign visitor who comes here. I can’t recommend it when the weather is wet and stormy, but any other time it will be worth the effort. It’s a word that’s frequently overused, and almost a cliche, but Cabo Polonio is one of the rare places that is, no question, MAGIC.

One of the best places in the world to do absolutely nothing

The Montevideo Rambla

Rambla is the equivalent of promenade, a walkway or pedestrian pathway that would be called the ‘strand’ if it was in Southern California. The Uruguayan version was created by popular vote back in the 1950’s, when the other choice on the ballot was building two battleships for the navy. Needless to say, the people made the right choice.

              The kite surfing at Malvin beach is full blast

This long stretch of coastline on the Rio Plata is an ecological treasure trove, with miles of undeveloped areas separating the dozens of beaches. Birds are the principal residents, and it’s a superb rarity to have so much wild terrain so close to a major city. In many other countries this coastline would be relentlessly developed and overrun with businesses, but in Uruguay, virtually every bit is open to the public. Many of the residents consider it the number one feature and attraction of Montevideo, and the entire length is bikeable in a day, an extraordinary activity.

   Just about every section of the rambla offers a stellar sunset view

For all practical purposes, the Rambla starts at the edge of the massive port of Montevideo in Ciudad Vieja. Sarandi is the heart of the old town, bustling with tourists, cafes and sidewalk vendors, and it’s western end extends out onto the kilometer long jetty that frames one side of the harbor.

Nice smooth surface on this stretch of the Rambla through Barrio Sur

This is kilometer zero as the Rambla stretches east and is just a few blocks from Puerto Mercado and the heart of the old town’s commercial center. Here the surface is grainy light brown granite slabs, smooth and durable, and this part of the slab is mostly empty except for fishermen and locals. there are many sites of interest, like the ‘the stack’, a tall brick chimney atop an ancient oven just above the waterline. This first landmark is just 300 meters from the point zero jetty. Another 400 meters on is a staircase down to a broad shelf of rocks and a popular sunbathing spot.

Rising up over a short slope here, the surface is more irregular and beat up, but passing the fort evens out again and is smooth enough to skate. This surface of large diagonal slabs lasts for miles now heading east. at 2800 is another large platform shelf below the Rambla on the river, affording easy access for swimmers and fishermen.

The Rambla wraps around Playa Ramirez in across from Parque Rodo

Across the road is a large grassy area with a statue of the liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar, astride his horse. 3300 is the site of another stone plaza platform beneath the Rambla, and at 3600 sits the ugliest embassy of all in Montevideo, that of the US. This imposing structure overlooks its own plaza, and is adjacent to Tinkal, renowned for tremendous chivitos, the national sandwich. Two more grassy plazas follow, the second of which is presided over by Yemanja, the celebrated Yoruba and Santeria goddess of mothers and the sea.

                                    This must be the place

At 4600 meters is a sensational viewpoint and famous statue on the left beneath the college of engineering. Teatro Verano, a sublime outdoor concert venue is situated at 4700 across from the other end of Ramirez beach.

Saw the Black Keys here at the Teatro Verano on a rainy night…excellent

4800 marks the entrance to the Paseo de los Pescaderos that can be ridden with special care and offers more fine views and benches, along with four different fishing clubs with their own restaurants. Just past this is a wall directly above the water and another prime fishing location. Across the road the far eastern edge of Parque Rodo is visible with a pretty lagoon, some cliffs and paths. this area borders the magnificent Golf Club of Uruguay, designed by the legendary Alistar McKenzie in 1928. Parts of the course are visible through the border vegetation along the fence. It’s a classic track.

Number 14 has the only water hazard on the course, Golf Club of Uruguay

6300 is where the Ancap gas station is situated, at the bottom of Avenida Artigas, one of the major thoroughfares in the city. Just beyond is the road that goes out to the lighthouse at Punta Carretas, with a huge parking area and a popular restaurant. The turnoff is overlooked by a statue of Juan Zorilla San Martin. Immediately past the road on the right sits a newer addition to the features, a striking huge stone and steel sculpture which is even more interesting from the water side. More grass fields follow, some used for rugby and soccer games. Across the street is the Zorrilla Museum tucked between the tall buildings and this neighborhood holds some of the best hotels and restaurants in the city. At the end of the fields a barely marked path leads out to an old concrete jetty that is very popular as a swim spot.

Pocitos beach is frequently very crowded and care should be taken passing along this stretch of the Rambla. At the far eastern end the sidewalk narrows to just a few feet wide, and this choke point can be a concern on busy days. At 8400 meters pretty Gomensoro Plaza sits just across the road, a serene oasis surrounded by tall buildings. 100 meters further is the major intersection where Boulevar Espana and Avenida Brasil converge at the beach, both super busy traffic arteries.

The wide Rambla at Pocitos Beach can get a lot fuller than this, believe me

A little east of here the Rambla veers to the right around a skatepark and follows the coast past a large parking area before meeting the jetty at this end of Buceo harbor. Here the path loops back to the main road, past the Montevideo yacht club and the complex of fish markets next to El Italiano restaurant, a Sunday tradition in these parts. Buceo harbor is full of boats, and though bikes aren’t allowed on the jetty, usually the security guard will keep an eye on them so you can walk out to the end and look around.

After a really big storm a few years ago, several boats were thrown out of the water

14300 is where a grassy point is marked by an old stone monument which divides this fine beach into two sections, and just beyond a rock and grassy area favored by surfcasters and secluded sun worshippers. This next rocky point separates Malvin Beach from it’s eastern neighbor Playa Honda, where, as the name implies, the drop off from the shore is more abrupt, which attracts those that enjoy deeper water close by.

Here a small cafe on the Rambla is the last place to get food or drinks for a while. Near 15000 the surface briefly switches back to the nice smooth red and white pebble finish for a short distance before reverting back to the concrete blocks all the way past Punta Gorda.

Slow down here at Playa Mulata to buy some fish or drink a cold beer

17000 marks the beginning of Playa Verde, a favorite of many, separated from the Rambla by taller coastal pines and grassy dunes. Soon the surface changes again to a small red tile effect, and the sidewalk gets tight as it passes two seafood markets and restaurants directly on the Rambla. These actually sit on Playa Mulata, bordering Playa Verde to the east, and just as pretty. Just beyond 18000 the surface once again changes to the best surface of all, a golden pebbletech that runs all the way past Carrasco Casino. Here is the Rambla at its’ best; very smooth, even, and wide as it parallels long Carrasco beach.

                                A major stop for selfies

19500 marks the magnificent Carrasco hotel and casino, the center point of downtown Carrasco, Across the road the Rambla runs by a nice paved plaza, again with exercise equipment and a meeting place for many. Shortly past here the surface reverts back to smaller concrete squares but is still smooth and easy rolling . Carrasco beach is big with both surfcasters and kite surfers, dog walkers, and beach people looking for a little more elbow room that those to the west. Once again the vegetation changes somewhat, with lots of Tamarisk trees, small, broadleaf bushes, and heaps of coastal pine trees. The dunes that separate the Rambla from the beach flower gloriously in the spring.

          Montevideans always gather to watch a good sunset

21000 is the site of the naval school across the road and along here Playa Carrasco becomes Playa Miramar with no visible difference between the two, just fewer people the further east one goes. Long needle short pines predominate here, and 22000 marks almost the absolute end of the Rambla as it crosses Carrasco River. This is the turn around point to head back west and enjoy it all from the other angle, and it seems different heading in the other direction. When the weather is good, the Rambla is calling.