Playa Vik José Ignacio, Uruguay: another amazing destination to lust after
When it comes to It destinations then Uruguay is definitely having a moment. It first came on the radar back in 2009 with the opening of Estancia Vik, a beautiful, state-of-the art ranch in the glitzy hotspot of Punte del Este, in the south of the country. It turns out that Latino lovelies and their millionaires have been holidaying in this so-called St Tropez of South America for years, attracted by its pristine beaches and upscale hangouts. While the rest of the world has just discovered the area, the Latino glitterati have already moved on. 12 miles northeast to José Ignacio, to be exact, attracted by the cool, bohemian vibe of the place (the likes of Shakira, Argentinean polo stars and Latin film-makers all have homes here). And here’s you’ll find one of the world’s most stunning hotels.
It’s called Playa Vik – a Modernist retreat you’d usually come across in a cool metropolis somewhere. Here it is set against the rustic whitewashed cottages of the tiny fishing village of José Ignacio, and it is a jaw-dropping contrast. It is the sister property to Estancia Vik, both owned by Norwegian-born financier Alex Vik. This time he collaborated with renowned Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott (best known for the Opéra Bastille in Paris) to design a beachfront property consisting of six casas, a central ‘sculpture’ building which houses a further four suites, an underground playroom, spa and wine cellar, as well as a stunning, elevated infinity pool.
It’s hard to say what will impress you the most (as this place has the wow-factor oozing out of every one of its stylish walls) but the central building’s entrance certainly had us at hello. You enter the 55-foot inclined façade of the building through a monumental bronze door, created by celebrated artist Pablo Atchugarry, and you’ll be immediately struck by the elegant communal space flooded with light.
There’s precious Malachite and Lapis Lazuli stone tables dotted around, oversized B&B Italia sofas to sink into, not to mention the luxurious floors made of Patagonian ebony. This is serious, grown-up luxe but with a laid back attitude. The whole vibe is lifted by wonderfully laid back with friendly service. The owners themselves – Alex and Carrie – spend the majority of the year here and are wonderfully hands on.
To make the most of your time in this part of the world, a chat with one of the Experience Concierge is a must. Whether you want to dance the salsa till the early hours or browse the boutiques in nearby Punte del Este, they can sort out your every whim. It has to be noted, however, that you’ll probably be more than happy with the homemade dulce de leche and alfajores, local caramel cookies, which will appear in your room each day. The simple things…
The ethos here is all about bringing the outside in and so therefore the central building has a vast, sliding wall of glass, which opens out onto an expansive terrace and the resort’s highlight – the Absolute Nero pool, which juts precariously over the Atlantic. It’s quite possibly the most dramatic swim you’ll ever have, especially when you discovered the magical celestial map on the pool’s black granite floor at its furthest end (at night it’s illuminated by tiny fibre optic lights, reflecting the night sky above).
Inside the attention to aesthetics continue, there’s art everywhere, the likes of which you’d normally have to visit a museum to view. One minute you’re brushing past a sculptural bench which looks like an iceberg by Zaha Hadid, the next you’re dining against a wall of pulsating light by James Turrell.
On the money is the mix of ultra-modern design crossed with an eco conscience. Solar technology, water recycling and use of natural resources all add up to minimum energy use. While the individually-designed casitas feature ‘living roofs’ strewn with hot pink bougainvillea, retractable glass walls and wooden terraces. One of the casas has slightly mad, scribbled murals on the walls, but the sumptuous beds, lovely stone fireplace and the stand-alone oval Jacaranda wood bath were more than enough compensation for that one design flaw.
While many hotels these days feature Michelin-starred destination restaurants, dining at Playa Vik is by contrast very low key. That’s not to say there are not tasty offerings to be had. For casual dining, the nightly barbecue is fantastic – freshly caught seafood and fish, such as black drum fish and calamari, are all griddled and shared around with other guests, with sides of fresh vegetables and homemade breads., all with the ocean lapping beside you.
It may not be for the shy and retiring, as there is encouragement to mix with other guests in the communal spaces, but after you start on the second Christiania Caipiroska, you’ll be sold on the sociable vibe. For something more formal and private, the Parillero dining room inside the Pavilion focuses on Uruguayan beef dishes and the country’s famed wines, 5,000 of which are housed in the 40-foot cellar that stretches under the casitas.
Best of all are the evenings huddled in a blanket around the outside fire pit. Here, you can breathe in the sea breezes from the ocean that gently lap just a few feet away and be awe-struck by the endless views of the majestic coastline. This is the ultimate spot to watch what is considered the best sunset in the world. Now that’s a moment to remember.
A version of this article was written by me and published in Stylist in October 2011