LA PALOMA, Uruguay – In January, when the thermometer moves up and sunny days become a regular occurrence, Uruguayans escape to the coast to enjoy the austral summer.
However, if Punta del Este is the country’s best-known winter resort, the seaside city of La Paloma is where people go for peace and quiet.
And now foreigners are discovering it, too.
The town is the southernmost seaside resort in southeastern Rocha province and stands out for its 16 beaches along 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of Atlantic coastline.
There’s something for everyone here. Beaches like La Anaconda and La Balconada are the ones the young people flock to; El Cabito is ideal for kids; for those who want to windsurf or surf it’s La Aguada and Los Botes; and Solari, Playa Serena, Antoniopolis and Arachania are the best options for those looking for virgin coast and silence.
With their feet in the sand and cold drinks in their hands, two young men are enjoying the La Balconada beach under a sun umbrella. Chileans Tomas and Beltran Montt are cousins and decided to come to La Paloma for vacation.
Despite the fact that they already were familiar with other coastal cities, they came here for both the natural beauty and the town’s peace and quiet.
“I came from Chile to spend the (austral) summer in Uruguay and the truth is that I’m enjoying it a lot. Here, the people are really cool and it’s been super-great,” Tomas said.
La Paloma is the only seaside town in Rocha with an accessible beach, Bahia Grande, where there are facilities to allow people with physical disabilities to sunbathe and take a dip in the ocean.
Sports fishing is also available in La Paloma at the port, along the seawall and at the La Tuna lighthouse, and those looking for ecological tourism opportunities can hike at the Laguna de Rocha, a protected area separated from the sea by a band of sand.
Outstanding hotel facilities are also available, and – besides Uruguayans – Argentines, Chileans and Paraguayans are also streaming to the area, as Rocha tourism director Ana Claudia Caram told EFE.
Caram said that during the first two weeks of January, there were 20 percent more tourists in Rocha than last year at this time, and she also noted an increase in the number of Germans, Israelies and even Indians.
She said that the increase in tourism in Rocha began in 2007 and has continued since then. This year, local authorities are installing public baths at all the beaches, along with Wifi and handicraft fairs, and Uruguayans are learning to share their secret getaway with the rest of the world.