Most people probably couldn’t locate it on a map, but the tiny, verdant, indomitably friendly Oriental Republic of Uruguay is one of the world’s underrated places. I like to consider its long virgin shorelines, burgeoning wine industry, and charming European coffeshops my little secret.
But that may soon change.
In early December a beautiful, dome-like new terminal designed by Uruguay-born, New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly opened, replaced the aging Carrasco International Airport and vastly increasing flight capacity. Here’s to hoping some U.S. airlines will finally begin to offer direct routes to Montevideo (currently passengers must first stop in Buenos Aires). Yes, I’m talking to you, Delta.
And in the capital, a striking new boutique property is all set to spiff up the city’s formerly rather drab hotel scene. The six-suite Le Bibló, housed in a Victorian mansion once owned by a president, features private whirlpools, diaphanous silk curtains (to maximize light from huge windows), L’Occitane amenities, and highly personalized service. The name derives from the Spanish for "library"—biblioteca—a reference to the house's impressive library room, which is a replica of the national congressional library. Le Bibló opens in early 2010.
And in Portezuela, on the Atlantic coast just west of Punta del Este, La Solana del Mar, a celebrated retreat built in 1945 for summering elites, has been rescued from neglect and reintroduced as a beachside boutique hotel. Featuring a four-mile swath of sand, architecture notable enough to make it a national monument, restored original mid-century furniture, and amazing sunsets over the ocean, La Solana is one of the country’s most exciting openings in a long time.
So when I say you need to go to Uruguay, it’s not just because I love the place, but because it’s true. Things are popping down there, and it won’t be long before everyone figures it out. (Oh, and for the record, on the map, Uruguay is that triangular wedge of land between Argentina and Brazil. Now, go impress your friends with your geography smarts.)
Catesby Holmes is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.