Maldonado is a department located in southeastern Uruguay and is home to a number of seaside resorts, towns and unique natural settings. Its capital, San Fernando de Maldonado, sits next to Punta del Este.
Its more than 100 kilometres of coastline link the River Plate and the Atlantic Ocean, while its terrain is more mountainous away from the coast.
San Fernando de Maldonado was founded in 1755 by the then governor of Montevideo to halt the advance of the Portuguese empire. The remains of fortifications can be found in the bay, on Isla Gorriti just off the coast, and on the mainland, a sign of the city’s importance as a military base.
The neighbouring Punta del Este was founded in the late 19th century and was officially declared a town in 1907. Though both cities retain their own distinct characters, they became linked together as a result of significant urban expansion in the 1940s.
Punta del Este is an international tourist destination thanks to its luxurious houses and buildings, its shopping streets and five-star hotels and restaurants.
There is plenty to see and do in the city, with its pubs, nightclubs, stores, art galleries, museums, cinemas, theatres and open-air events, and it is also home to major exhibitions and festivals.
Punta del Este has grown in size to incorporate other seaside resorts, among them Punta Ballena, La Barra and Jose Ignacio, where fishing and watersports such as surfing, windsurfing and sailing can be enjoyed.
Since the late 19th century, the region has become more and more of a holiday destination, with tourism now the biggest source of income for its inhabitants.
Places to visit
Catedral de San Fernando, Maldonado
Built in the neoclassical style over the best part of a century, the cathedral is one of Maldonado’s most iconic buildings. Situated opposite Plaza San Fernando, it hosts a number of cultural and social events.
Cuartel de Dragones, Maldonado
Completed in 1797, this building takes up an entire block opposite the city’s main square and has much to offer visitors in terms of both history and culture.
Playa Brava and Playa Mansa, Punta del Este
The Brava and Mansa beaches are the best known in Punta del Este. Both live up to their Spanish names, with the placid waters of Mansa (which means “calm”) making it ideal for little ones, while Brava (which means “wild”) is better suited for watersports lovers.
Avenida Gorlero, Punta del Este
The main avenue on the Punta del Este peninsula, Avenida Gorlero runs for ten whole blocks and is lined with shops, restaurants, pubs, theatres, cinemas, art galleries and cafes.
The Casapueblo museum/studio/hotel is situated in Punta Ballena, 15 minutes from Punta del Este. Open 365 days a year, the striking complex, which features barely a straight line, was built by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaro in a style influenced by the mud nests of the ovenbirds that populate the area and by the mud homes built by local farmers.
This island lies just off Punta del Este and is one of the resort’s many treasures. Declared a National Historical/Heritage Site, it cannot be built on and retains its natural habitat of pines, eucalyptus trees, salt cedars and native wildlife, which happily coexist with traces of the island’s colonial past.
Football in Maldonado
Though the regional league has many followers, the people of Maldonado largely divide their loyalties between Deportivo Maldonado and Atenas de San Carlos, two teams that are Uruguayan second division regulars but which have also graced the top flight at various times.
Deportivo became a professional side in 1995 and have since spent six seasons in the first division, all of them between 1999 and 2005.
Atenas joined the country’s professional league system in 2002 and have spent three seasons in the top flight to date. The club won promotion again this year and will be the only team from the Uruguayan interior to feature in the first division in 2018. Deportivo and Atenas have faced each other more than 80 times in the local derby.