Quiet Uruguay beach town booms with celebrities

On Uruguay's Atlantic coast, a beach town is booming with celebrities and high-rolling foreigners willing to pay millions of dollars for a piece of this bohemian but ultra-chic getaway.

In the past decade, Jose Ignacio - 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of Montevideo - has become a refuge for members of the jet set in the region who want to escape noisy Punta del Este, the old line resort 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

Colombian singer Shakira, Argentine television producer Marcelo Tinelli, Argentine magnate Amalia Fortabat and French actress Dominique Sanda own properties in the area.

This summer's visitors have included, among others, the son of Princess Caroline of Monaco and Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood.

The global economic crisis hasn't reached this corner of South America. Real estate sales in Punta del Este shot up more than 53 percent last year, with most of the increase seen in rural areas where celebrities have their spreads.

In tiny Jose Ignacio, with its lighthouse and scalloped beaches, the boom has been even more pronounced with a 157 percent jump in sales, totaling 263.6 million dollars.

"The trend in values has been up. Even during the financial crisis in 2008, prices rose," said David Gasparri, a partner with the real estate firm of Antonio Mieres.

A vacant 810 square meter (0.2 acre) lot in the historic center of Jose Ignacio costs at least $500,000, although a seafront property could go for twice or three times as much.

And five hectares (12 acres) of farm land more than two kilometers (over a mile) from the sea can fetch a million dollars.

Seventy percent of the buyers are Argentines - Uruguay's biggest annual contingent of tourists - and the rest are Europeans or North Americans attracted to the area by the combination of nature, beach and high quality gastronomy, said Gasparri.

"This is a paradise. The night is more peaceful. You live closer to nature. The kids can ride bicycles, go to the beach alone. You relax more," said a 43-year-old businessman, who bought a charming white house facing the sea last year.

He is one of many who didn't hesitate to fork out a million dollar sum to summer in a town with unpaved streets and handmade signs but with no lack of creature comforts, and where no house is the same.

And for tourists with the means to pay there are places like Playa Vik, a luxury residential complex built by a Norwegian millionaire and inaugurated in December.

Designed by architect Carlos Ott, it combines rooms painted entirely by artists with self-sustaining, environmentally sensitive systems, which the owner had used before at a country inn nearby.

The centerpiece of Playa Vik's design - an imposing titanium and glass cube that breaks out of the landscape - has aroused controversy among residents protective of the town's low key style.

But Augustin Leone, the general manager of the Vik country inn, said: "It's a venture that helps enormously to position Jose Ignacio as an international destination. It's the only high end luxury property here."

The town's authorities, meanwhile, are fighting to control growth.

A 1993 ordnance allows only construction of single family homes no taller than seven meters (23 feet). It also limits businesses to a small commercial area. Hotels and discotheques are explicitly prohibited, and permission has to be obtained for parties.

"We wanted a family oriented place, a place where people come because they like the beach, the sound of the wind, the breaking of the waves," said Javier Ruibal, a director of the Development League of Jose Ignacio.

"It should be a gastronomic hub, where people come to spend the day and at night goes back to being a quiet little town," he said, adding that following those rules has strengthened property values.

The town's original inhabitants, however, are not too impressed by the changes. Eduardo Techera was born in Jose Ignacio 51 years ago, and six years ago moved from the town proper to the countryside beyond it.

"From an economic point of view, the change is good, but I don't like it at all. I don't like the Jose Ignacio of traffic jams, of stress and craziness. I like the peace and tranquility of the old Jose Ignacio," he said.

About 800 people come every year to spend summers in the town, but barely 30 people stay on the rest of the year when, as a sign in the main plaza puts it, "Only the wind blows here."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world