PSST! SECRET BEACHES

Lose Yourself in Uruguay's Beach Towns

  1. Until 2001, visitors to Cabo Polonio arrived in horse-drawn carts pulled across the dunes. These days, 4x4 vehicles ferry travelers across the sands, though some locals still use horses to get around. (Remy Scalza)
  2. Local fisherman still ply the waters off Cabo Polonio in wooden fishing boats. Village restaurants serve their catch, including shrimp, squid, mussels, and whitefish. (Remy Scalza)
  3. A fishing village turned rustic retreat, Cabo Polonio is on a rocky bluff that extends into the waters of the Uruguayan Atlantic. Cut off from the highway by miles of dunes, Cabo has been spared the development of other coastal towns. (Remy Scalza)
  4. The islands off Cabo Polonio are home to one of the largest colonies of sea lions in South America. Males lounge along Cabo's rocky coast. (Remy Scalza)
  5. Modest rental cabins dot Cabo Polonio's rocky coastline. They offer front-door views of the Atlantic and the sea lions that sunbathe on the rocks below. (Remy Scalza)
  6. Shaped by the wind, movable dunes on the outskirts of Cabo Polonio grow to 75 feet tall. "You'll come back in a week, and the dune won't even be there," says lifelong resident Daniel Machado. (Remy Scalza)
  7. Horses remain a preferred means of transit in Cabo Polonio. (Remy Scalza)
  8. Diablo's brightly painted cabañas come outfitted with an array of amenities, from full kitchens to flat-screen TVs. This simple cabaña, with a great ocean view from the upstairs bedroom, rents for $60 a night. (Remy Scalza)
  9. A cluster of cabañas on a sandy hillside, Diablo is only an hour from the high-rises of Punta del Este, South America's swankiest beach resort. "The contrast really sticks out," says Brian Meissner, owner of El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel & Bar. "It's just so unpretentious here. (Remy Scalza)
  10. Sunbathers jockey for position with weathered fishing boats on Diablo's main beach. Back in the '70s, some of the same boats smuggled Uruguay's freedom fighters to safe havens in Brazil. (Remy Scalza)
  11. Real-estate developer and mystic Francisco Piria patterned the layout of his resort city, Piriápolis, after symbols from the occult religion Kabbalah. These days, Piriápolis attracts thousands of mystical pilgrims every year. (Remy Scalza)
  12. The ruins of Piria's cathedral sit on a hilltop overlooking Piriápolis. (Remy Scalza)
  13. Though Piria spent decades building the church, it never received a Christian consecration, and Catholic services were never performed there. (Remy Scalza)
  14. Built in 1897 by mystic and real-estate baron Francisco Piria, Piria's Castle was allegedly once the site of Kabbalah rites and alchemy experiments. "A lot of negative energy converges here," says mystical tour guide Carlos Rodriguez. (Remy Scalza)
  15. Developer and alchemist Francisco Piria laid the foundational stone of his dream city, Piriápolis, at the site of the Fisherman's Virgin, which looks out on the Atlantic. True to form, Piria embedded a riddle in the statue itself: From the front, the features belong to the Virgin Mary; from behind, to Jesus. (Remy Scalza)
  16. Founded in 1890, the resort city of Piriápolis, Uruguay, boasts a rugged coastline, blue skies, and a secret past straight out of The Da Vinci Code. Founding father Francisco Piria was both a real-estate baron and a mystic, and built his city according to principles from occult religions and alchemy. (Remy Scalza)
  17. When it was completed in 1930, Piria's Argentino Hotel was among the largest in South America, with space for more than 1,200 guests. Part entrepreneur, part mystic, Piria incorporated hidden symbology from occult religions and alchemy into the hotel's design. (Remy Scalza)

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