Atlántida – beachtown & UNESCO heritage site

Fine white sands, pines, 2 mysterious structures—an eagle head & a UNESCO Heritage church. The Uruguay beach of Atlántida is just 30 mins from Montevideo.
By Karen A Higgs
Last updated on July 27, 2021

Atlántida is a quiet, sleepy resort town, 30 minutes drive from Montevideo.

Even at the height of high season, when Atlantida is comparatively busy, it still has wide stretches of white sand to enjoy with less holiday-makers than other seaside destinations I could mention.

Wide pine-lined white sands

The beach is completely deserted in the winter months (and autumn and spring – think about visiting Uruguay off season) and is one of my favourite places to visit from Montevideo for a day.

Go for a long walk along the wide, white pine tree-lined beach. Walk west –to the right facing the sea*– until you get to a house in shape of a giant eagle head perched looking out over the water.

The water is still river estuary at this point however it mostly looks, smells and feels like the sea.

Atlántida coastline

World-class people’s architecture & now UNESCO heritage site

Architect from all over the world have travell to Atlántida to visit the Cristo Obrero Church which lies to on the opposite side of the highway from the beach.

The church was built by Eladio Dieste, a Uruguayan engineer and architect who built his reputation on producing every-day structures –grain silos, factory sheds, markets and churches– all in Uruguay and considered exceptionally elegant by his peers.

In an industry so often enamored by media-coddled superstars with trendy clients, Eladio Dieste stands out as a refreshing and inspiring figure,” says a book produced to celebrate his legacy on his death in 2000.

The church received UNESCO heritage status in 2021.

Cristo Obrero Church by Eladio Dieste
Nicolas Barriola, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Where to eat in Atlántida

Back in town, pig out at Restaurante Don Vito. Order the grilled lamb (cordero), the bife ancho (a melt-in-your-mouth beef cut usually reserved for export) or the pork ribs (pechito de cerdo). Amazing desserts too.

A meal for six with beer and two desserts to share (that was all we had room for!) set us back just over 20 USD per person.

And the waiters are so friendly (and cultured!) – ours (loosely) quoted Kant to an indecisive member of our party. ONLY in Uruguay (well, and maybe Mexico).

I’m not sure if Don Vito was serving when the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda vacationed here, but if they were it was surely one of the reasons he came back regularly to Atlántida. It’s one of the few restaurants that I find consistently good.

Family and power-down oriented

Unlike beaches further to the east, Atlántida appeals mainly to families and people looking for a relaxing, self-contained holiday. Most people rent houses for at least a week. There’s very little night-life, other than strolling down to the water front and along the waterline.

The proximity to Montevideo however makes it a great spot for people looking to kick-back and relax with occasional forays into the music and culture of Montevideo.

How to get to Atlántida

Atlántida is 45 km from the centre of Montevideo. That is just under 30 miles. It’s 20 km from the international airport.

Buses go from the Rio Branco bus station on the corner of Rio Branco and Galicia streets in downtown Montevideo.

If you drive, take the exit sign-posted to the “Águila” (the Eagle) which is before the main Atlántida exit and follow the winding road to the coast.

You can park on the side of the coastal road and walk down to the beach from there. The sand there is less crowded than in the centre of Atlantida.

Continue along the coast road (just a kilometre or so) to reach the centre.

* Technically the River Plate does not become the Atlantic Ocean until Punta del Este, another 80-odd kms away. But Uruguayans habitually refer to the River Plate as the sea (“el mar”), even in Montevideo.

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13 Responses

  1. How much does it cost for one person to live in Atlantica? With rent,food everything! I would like to get small house to rent to purchase.I want to bring my cars overtook!

    1. Hi, Patricia. You may want to check out this new series we’ve just launched: guruguay.com/live/
      While it does not specifically cover your question about Atlántida, you will certainly find answers there. Hope this helps. Best,
      Federico

  2. My husband and I want to visit – and possibly relocate – to Uruguay, and we have had a devil of a time finding local real estate listings. We would like to visit for a week and check into jobs/housing, then possibly buy a small lot to build on, or a small shop to run. We don’t care if we have to live in a tent or a tiki hut, but we are determined to leave the rat race in the US. We don’t have a lot of money, but we are hardworking and wish to learn to live more simply. I am unsure of the rules regarding immigrating foreigners – work visa, owning property, etc. Who should I contact to inquire about these matters? Do you have friends/business associates that you could refer me to?

  3. Thanks for reviewing Atlantida! It’s where I grew up, so I’m glad to see a positive review for my hometown. I plan on being there in a couple of weeks (I’m actually staying in Villa Argentina though), and I have to put in another plug for Baipa. My mom worked there in her youth, and although it has changed hands since then, it is by far one of the best bakeries in the area (ask any of the locals)! My favorite thing to do is get bizcochos from Baipa and walk down to la rambla and drink mate while watching the sunset. Also, the artisan’s street fairs on Saturdays are quite fun. Locals usually eat pizza at less expensive restaurants, or a chivito al plato, which they serve basically everywhere. Lots of great places to get homemade ice cream, too.

    I also want to point out that the church you’re referring to is technically in Estacion Atlantida, not Atlantida. It is a pretty low income town, very different feel from most of Atlantida. I say this because it matters, the architect purposefully built a beautiful and intricate church in a poor village to make a point about human dignity. My dad’s side of the family all live in la Estacion (and I attended that church as a child) so it’s very dear to my heart.

    Lastly, the nighlife in Atlantida may not be like Punda del Este but it certainty exists. There are many discotecas (one right by the bridge, for instance) and there’s a casino (but I’ve never been inside).

    Thanks for your blog, really useful stuff, I’m sending links to my husband to prepare him for his first trip (he’s American).

    1. Valentina, thank you SO much for taking the time to add this information. I love your detail about the church – so Uruguayan… hope to hear from you again! All the very best and the biggest compliment you can give me is that you as a Uruguayan are going to recommend my blog to your American husband 🙂

  4. First of all thanks for taking time on reviewng Atlántida the place where I lived half of my life. I came of visitng friend s yasterday and I went what here we call “carrito” (food wagon) in 26 street and Artigas street and a a “complete Chorizo” (It´s like hamburger made of chorizo and it comes with egg, ham and other stuff you can choose) for $70 (pesos) arround U$ 3 dollars and I ended up very satisfied very generous size.

  5. Hi, don’t mean to be contentious, but a meal for six with beer and two desserts to share at Don Vito did not set you back just over 20 USD. We rarely go to Don Vito anymore, despite our favorite waiter Daniel, because it has gotten so expensive. Bife ancho for one will set you back 20 USD by itself; forget the other five people, beverage, or dessert. Your bill was probably USD 120-150.

    As for nightlife, downtown clubs and streets are abuzz all night long in January, slightly less so in February. In the off-season, indeed there is very little night life, although Atlántida has become much more a year-round town even in the five years we’ve lived here.

    The beach you describe (the Mansa) is OK, but around the point the Brava is more like ocean (I have seen the Mansa with literally no waves at all). Venture a few km further to Parque del Plata and you find wide, less populated beaches and the fascinating, ever-changing mouth of the Solís Chico river. Even surfers at times.

  6. The next time you are in the Atlántida area, you should try La Cuchara de Madera in Parque del Plata. Quite different. The postres at Don Vito, by the way, come from the deliciously wonderful Biapa bakery on Avenida Artigas, a must stop on a visit to Atlántida. And, the next time you make a trek out this way, do come for a visit to Casa Inspiración.

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