Piriapolis is one of the most attractive of the seaside towns along the southern Uruguayan coast and in the summer season it attracts plenty of visitors. We visited Piriapolis out of season in September, which meant the weather was fairly cold and visitors were few. However, the beach was still very attractive, though it wasn't quite warm enough too go swimming. It was great fr nice for long walks in the day and the early evening sunsets were impressive.
Reserva de Fauna Autoctona
Below Cerro Pan de Azucar is Reserva de Fauna Autoctona, a small zoo/animal reserve, where you can see a small selection of native species such as Nandu and Capybara. Also on display is a collection of snakes, many of which have been found on the slopes of the mountain. One or two of these species are venemous so I was glad I left seeing these until after the climb.
There is no entrance charge to the reserve and the easiest way to get here is on the bus from Piriapolis. A trip to the reserve combined with a climb of Cerro Pan de Azucar makes a good half day trip from Piriapolis.
Cerro Pan de Azucar
Uruguay's third highest mountain, Cerro Pan de Azucar, overlooks the town of Piriapolis and climbing it was the main purpose of our visit to the town. It looks much closer to the town than it actually is and you'll need to catch a bus to the start of the trail, which is in the Reserva, 5km north of Piriapolis and about halfway between it and the village of Pan de Azucar.
It´s a fairly straightforward climb to the summit and takes about 2 hours up and down. There are fine views of Piriapolis and the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see Punta del Este, a popular beach town further east, and towards Montevideo in the west. The summit is marked by a 30 metre high cross which you can also climb. The mountain is only 390m high, though by climbing the cross you get to 420m.
A noticeboard at the start gives you information about the climb and warns you, amongst other things, about the possibility of encountering vipers on the walk. After the walk we explored the Reserva and saw some of these vipers in the reptile section - if I had seen them before I might not have done the walk!
Cerro San Antonio
Cerro San Antonio overlooks the beach and it´s a fairly easy climb to the top. If you´re not feeling energetic you can drive up or take the chairlift (though this wasn't going during our trip so it´s probably for summer only). We tried to find a shortcut up alongside the chairlift but ran into a cul de sac. Another likely path ended in a dead end too, though we did pass an interesting looking old hotel, abandoned and shut-down (or at least I hope so), which reminded me of Bates Motel in Psycho.
So we couldn´t find a short cut up and had to take the circular road. There were great views along the way of Playa Francisco and also of Cerro Pan de Azucar in the distance. It took about 45 minutes to get to the top and we were rewarded with fine views over Piriapolis. There is a shop and restaurant at the top and a statue of St. Anthony in a shrine overlooking the town.
Historical Hotel & Casino
Visit the Argentino Hotel and Casino that Francisco Piria had built back in 1930. At that time it was the largest and plushest hotel in South America. It is still considered large and is in excellent condition. The hallways have pictures taken in the 30's on the walls.
You can eat in the restaurant, the food is very good. You can still stay in the hotel which has a spa.. The casino is open at 3pm.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Historical Travel
Castle by the sea
Located in the center of Piriapolis, is Piria's first castle. It was built in 1910 with views of the beach and sea. I was fasinated by its beauty but it was closed when we were there. Posssibly it is only open during the high season.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Beaches of Piriapolis
While going around the 25 km coast of Piriapolis you will see one beach after the other. All are different but all beautiful. The beach of the Rambla is probably the most visited because it is in the center of the city. It is a wide light sand beach with calm water and not very deep.
At the east of Piriapolis is Beach San Francisco, it has white sand and is a favorite of surfers.
My favorite was probably Punta Colorado which is the next beach after San Francisco.
It was named for the red colored rocks that are in the water there. The rocks attract many seabirds and fishermen.
Pan de Azucar hill
Pan de Azucar hill is the third highest hill near Piriapolis. This hill you have to climb because there is no road just a foot path. At the top there is a large cement cross. You can climb the spiral stairwell inside the cross for a better view from the top.
It takes about 2 hours each way to climb the hill.
This hill is a landmark because it can be seen from miles away.
- Hiking and Walking
Castillo de Piria was where Francisco Piria had his private residence. It was designed by architect Monzani in 1897. The castle was constructed in red brick, like Italian villas of that era.
Flanking both sides of the entrance to the castle, are statues of Great Dane dogs. This breed was a favorite of Piria.
Upon entering you are escorted up a flight of stairs to the second floor. There you will see the parlour with balcony, dining room, library, reading room, and two bedrooms. The rooms are filled with beautiful furniture from Italy and floor coverings from Turkey.
The basement has a kitchen, items taken from the Argentinio Hotel, and many photos.
The grounds of the Castle are very pretty .
The Castle is open every day except Mondays and admission is free of charge.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Replica of famous fountain
On your drive into the city you cannot help noticing this beautiful fountain. Take the time to stop or go back later for a better look at the Fuente de Venus. It is an exact replica of the fountain in Villa Paravicini, Italy. It is in a park like setting with beautiful trees and benches.
When we were there we kept hearing birds that sounded like parrots. After looking about the trees we finally spotted them across the highway. There were several "condos" full of Monk Parakeets.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
You can drive up the north side of the second highest hill in Piriapolis. There you will see a park like setting.
Walk up some steps and you will see the life-size bronze statue of a bull spouting water from its mouth. The bull was shipped to Piriapolis from Paris and it weighs 3000km.
Up several more steps there is an area with several trees and bushes plus a large jungle cat.
- Hiking and Walking
Go up San Antonio hill
Drive up to the top of San Antonio hill, the highest in Piriapolis. You can also go up on a lift from the marina, if you prefer.
On the way up to the summit, you will see a statue of the Fisherman's Virgin, looking out to sea.
At the top you will see some excellent views of the city. You will also find a restaurant and two souvenir shops.
Stay and watch the sunset.
The beaches are located a few blocks from many cheap (depending which currency you carry) hotels. The "beach life" is pretty much the same for all these types of towns.
I spent the mornings between 10 - 12pm at the beach. Since the sun is pretty strong, we would head back and cook lunch. Very inexpensive if you buy food and cook (highly recommend milanesas). Sleep from about 2pm until 4 or 5pm. Then shower, eat again (haha) and spend the nights wandering around drinking Pilsen and checking out the beautiful nightlife. People walking around near the beach, young people hanging out, little shops and markets come to life at night. Repeat, again and again until you leave.
More Native Fauna
The Native Fauna Reserve has not only animals... the whole park is beautiful, and it is the gateway to climb Cerro Pan de Azúcar. It also has a restaurant and entertainings for kids.
The picture shows another native animal: that is me among the plants.
La Reserva de Fauna Autóctona no sólo tiene animales... el parque todo es hermoso, y es la puerta de acceso a escalar el Cerro Pan de Azúcar. También tiene un restaurante y juegos para los niños.
La foto muestra otro animal autóctono: esa soy yo, entre las plantas.
There are different kind of stags in Uruguay; the "country stag" (Ozotocerus bezoarticus) is a threatened species; another stag is "guazú-birá" (Mazama gouazoubira), a cute little animal that lives in the woods and has crepuscular customs.
Hay diversas especies de venados en Uruguay; el "venado de campo" (Ozotocerus bezoarticus) es una especie amenazada; otro venado es el "guazú-birá" (Mazama gouazoubira), un animalito precioso que vive en la espesura de los montes y es de hábitos crepusculares.