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Argentina’s Line of Lighthouses

Reading Jules Verne incredible story Around the world in 80 days, ever since I was a kid I dreamt of traveling to foreign lands for one of a kind experiences. I have always believed that living is intimately related to what one does of his existence while in this world, how much he or she is able to get out of each experience he or she goes through. My usual conclusion to this respect is that no matters how much time you live, but what you’ve done in that time… following your heart and soul into fulfilling you as a sensitive human being. Throughout my life I tried to keep up to my beliefs. I’ve traveled as much as I could, I’ve enjoyed sunrises and sunsets, ate to my pleasures and loved as much as my heart has allowed me to.

During the last years, I’ve rediscovered my passion for architecture and its development, and what has caught my eye ever since were lighthouses. They, to me, express the blend between functionality and art throughout time. I’ve always said that history has proven my love for lighthouses right, for the evolution of mankind has run through the countless rivers, streams, oceans, and seas of our planet. And the wheel has kept on spinning because there were friendly light signals bringing those intrepid voyagers home.

Recently I’ve discovered the gorgeousness of the lighthouses route along the coast around the Rio de la Plata. So I have read about it, and it happens to be one of the most historically rich places in South America, for its strategic location, this was a much coveted region for different powers such as Spain, England, France, and of course the local uprising nations in the continent. For its port location this area has been influenced more than others by foreign cultures, and therefore has blended in a particular way those influences with local trends, resulting to express an outstandingly
unique sense of belonging quite different from other South American countries.

As I said at the beginning, Jules Verne’s Around the world in 80 days has touched me significantly, and therefore, this new passion of mine has recently took a life of its own as I imagine a tour around the 14 most beautiful lighthouses of that southern Atlantic coastline the Verninan way… however there’s no rush in this adventure, for the prize is the trip itself.

I’ve repeated the journey on my mind over and over, and each time I think about it, I’m more exited about the possibility of doing it shortly…

The trip begins in Buenos Aires, the South American Paris as many have agreed to describe. To me the best place to begin a journey like this is no other than that the Sofitel. This luxurious five star hotel is a carefully restored landmark building dated form 1929 that resembles a lighthouse casting light over the city. The neoclassic splendor of its outside is perfectly blend with a contemporary design and Art Déco interior. The Mianovich Tower, originally was a immigrant gathering point when they first arrived to the city of tango. No other place is as perfect as the Sofitel to stay at the beginning of our incredible journey.

Located in the port area of Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires is the Buenos Aires Yacht Club’s lighthouse that was built during the late 20s of the twentieth century. This shall be the first stop. Its aesthetics had been marked by a world-wide architectural trend: Art Déco. One can see in its delicate straight lines how the architects in charge of building this lighthouse blend functionality and art, including many decorative inputs to
the basic construction, mixing up different materials to get the most out of each one of them.  The BA Yact Club is located in the Puerto Madero area that during the early years of the twentieth century was the city’s most important port, today it’s busy port days are over, it has become one of BA’ s most exquisite places.

While in Buenos Aires for a couple of days, and before heading off to visit other lighthouses, one can enjoy some of the best of this city’s tango, exquisite food and great fashion.

From Buenos Aires the next stop would be Mar del Plata. Flying to the silverscreen beach location of Argentina is the quickest way to get there. The most southern point of our journey is the Punta Mogotes lighthouse; its cone shape iron structure rises 32,5 meters from ground welcoming us to an amazing experience. Located at the 38° 06′ S, 57° 33′ W coordinates, this lovely lighthouse welcomes all sea travelers to one of the most beautiful beach resorts of South America, that’s become to be one of the hot spots to stay in during summer, when all beach parlors invite us to seat back and relax under the golden sun.

At this initial point of our journey I dream of fresh fish dishes by the sea, enjoying the noise of waves breaking on the coast rocks. A day in Mar del Plata, visiting the lighthouse, enjoying great food and of course, during our tea, delight ourselves with one of Mar del Plata’s delicatessens: Havana alfajores, this are mini cakes filled with dulce de leche, bathed with dark chocolate or sugar frosting. Nothing compares to this exquisite treat, and Mar del Plata is homeland to  Havana. When the night falls down, we’ll rest and relax after a great day.

Our tour from now on shall be done by car because the landscape in-between the other lighthouses is gorgeous.

After an incredible breckfast and a couple of hours drive north from Mardel is Villa Gessell, home to the Querandí lighthouse, surrounded by more than 6,000 hectares of shiny gold dunes and the everlasting blue ocean. Its six black and white stripes stand upon the virgin field to let us know the way to an incredible experience. 54 meters rising from the ground (plus the 11 height of the sand bank on top of which is the lighthouse’s platform) and 276 steps separate us from a one of a kind view of nature. The incommensurable ocean blending with a crystal blue sky feels like we’re inside a perfect bubble; to our back, the greenness of a deep pine, cypress, acacias, poplar and tamarisk trees forest arises to delight our eyes. All these natural beauties are part of the Querandí Natural Reservation, never to be spoiled by unconscious men.

I dream about the experience of direct contact with this unspoiled paradise were in the quietness of nature to be in deep contact with my inner self. When the day begins to be crowned, nothing better than a beach side meal to confort our heart.

After this incredible experience, one can head towards the closest town, Cariló, for a luxurious night at one of the best beachside hotels of the area, to relax and enjoy a good night.

Next morning after an excellent breakfast we’re ready to get back on the road to our next lighthouse stop: the Punta Medanos lighthouse. This cape side area was first discovered by Magallanes in 1520, during one of his many explorative expeditions through the Argentinean coast down to Tierra del Fuego, and it was such the impact its beauty had on them that they include outstanding remarks about it on their journals. This is a very special and cherished construction. It was built in France and transported and settled in Argentina between 1892-93. The main body of the building is a cylinder.
One can access the light room walking up the 298 steps. The lighthouse is located 36°53’ south 56°40’48’’ W, six miles north from Punta Médanos and 500 meters from the high tide line.

Just an incredible example of a beautiful lighthouse in one astonishing scenario of beauty.

The morning after, we’ll head up to Mar del Tuyú, to witness one modern lighthouse trend. The Mar del Tuyú lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be built with private funds in 1987. It was the Nautical Club of the partido de la costa who took over the construction of this lighthouse on top of this building located in 69 St. between 1st and Costanera Av.

One of the most outstanding marks of this lighthouse are it 90 red light flashes per minute, reaching more than 200 nautical miles. Coming through the sea one will find this lighthouse at 36° 34′ S, 56° 41′ W. The outcome to this 80s technique was a perfect real estate business as well as an innovation in architecture, for this coast side building holds one of the town’s most beloved possessions, their lighthouse… It wouldn’t be either way for a port side, fishing based town, bringing ships home is the most
important daily activity.

As the night falls down, this first part of the tour around the lighthouses of the Rio de la Plata area is over. We head back to Buenos Aires, to begin our journey to the northern lighthouse area.

Our first stop is at the gorgeous Martín García Lighthouse located at the 34° 11′ S, 58° 15′ W coordinates. The building shows clean and strong lines, inside, a snail ladder leads us to the highest point of the island from were we can enjoy an amazing view at a 32 meters height.

Built in the early years of 1880’s this it has lighten this island’s coasts for more than one hundred years. A good night sleep at the only lodge in the island, after an incredible out door day enjoying the island’s beauties, its flora, faune and of course, the incredible lighthouse and the nearby art nouveau town is the perfect end to a perfect day.

The morning after, we’ll say our farewells to the beautiful Argentinean lighthouses to head north to Uruguay.

Across the Rio de la Plata is Colonia del Sacramento, an outstanding colonial town home to one amazing lighthouse. Uruguay welcomes us openhearted, our brothers across the pond ­as we say- are very friendly people, who love indeed very much their land and are very proud of it. I’m sure they’ll be great to us. The lighthouse was built in 1857, on top of the ruins of the San Francisco Javier convent. Its cylindrical brick tower’s lower half  is square and the upper half circular, an  architectural innovation at the that expresses the blen of Arabic architectural trends with European ones. Located at the Lat. S Long. W: 34°28`22“// 57°51`06“ coordinates, this incredible building stands upon the gorgeous colonial city. What a perfect start for our trip through Uruguay.

The beautiful city is quite small, so it can be toured walking. As our day comes to an end, we begin to plan the following adventure to Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. There’s a myth over this city’s name. According to many of my Uruguayan friends, its name has its origin in 1520 when one of Magallanes’ crew as sailing by the coast of what would be Uruguay said in an Ancient Portuguese “Monte vide eu” (I see a hill), and latter on, the wordbegan to evolve to Montevideo. It’s one of South America’s oldest lighthouses: built during the Spanish government, in 1801, the Cerro de Montevideo Lighthouse was built on top of the highest hill, at a height of 135 meters over the sea level, ­the one after it was named- of the area, the Spanish government set a rustic house where they had an oil lantern at the Lat. S and Long. W: 34ª53`18“// 6ª15`34“coordinates. In the early days of the 20th century the somewhat rustic construction was replaced by a concrete building.

Montevideo welcomes its visitors to all its greatness ­in spite of being a truly small place-, so I hope to enjoy an outstanding Uruguay style asado and a good night sleep.

Early in the morning we’ll drive to one of the worlds hottest spots: Punta del Este. This is one of the most sophisticated beach destinations in the world.

The Punta del Este lighthouse is just as beautiful as the city that hosts it, for its class and great taste. The tower was built in 1870 with volcanic rock material specially brought from Rome. The crystal focal lights were specially crafted in France for Mr. Tomás Libarena ­who was in charge of the construction of this outstanding tower. Located at the Lat. S Long. W:34ª58`08“// 54ª57`05“ coordinates, this lighthouse is still active, and open for visitation all year round.

The surrounding area of Punta del Este hosts two beautiful lighthouses that we’ll visit: Isla de lobos y Jose Ignacio. For Punta has all you can wish for this would be our home base for this two other lighthouse trips.

Just in front of Punta ­as locals call it- we can witness an awesome lighthouse in the Isla de de lobos. Althought we can’t enter the island for it’s a seal natural reservation, after a 40 minute ship ride we’ll see a beautiful spectacle: the 194 feet trapped concrete tower is painted in white the tower’s white light flashes every 5 s. plus the tower also carries a continuous red light at a focal plane of 174 ft surrounded by virgin nature.

A short car ride away from Punta is Jose Ignacio; there has been a careful development in the area, trying not to disturb the natural ambiance. One of the most beautiful attractions is the brick lighthouse. Located in the Lat. S Long. W: 34ª50`46“ and  54ª37`57“ coordinates.  The pretty tall tower of 32.5 meters presents a clear look that combines unpainted red bricks with three narrow white lines. A must when in Jose Ignacio is to have lunch at one of those traditional fisherman pubs where food is just excellent and people is very friendly.

After a few days in the surrounding areas of Punta del Este we’re ready for our next adventure. Heading up north is the Rocha department, where paradise and unspoiled area are the perfect description. Located in the very end of the bay were the east and west side of this pretty village converge, the Cabo Santa María Lighthouse stands out to indicate those in the sea the route to an outstanding getaway resort: La Paloma. It was firstly built in 1874  and is working to our days. The tower is painted in white, and the lantern and watch room are painted with red and white vertical stripes. This lighthouse is still active: focal plane 137 ft; white flash every 60 s.

For its history and importance, this building was declared a national historical monument in 1976.

The wonder attraction to this place are two, one of them product of men’s grandiocity, its lighthouse; the other has been touched by god, for La Paloma’s sunsets are without a doubt perfect. Such is their perfection that during summer people gather on the beachside to contemplate this spectacle, and when the sun begins to blur down into the ocean, everybody applauds as a way to thank for this incredible scene.

Our last stop ­not for that least- is Cabo Polonio, the beauty of the seaside area with undulating coasts, sandy shores and rocky paradises and seals islands, is not an easy sailing coast, therefore the importance of this lighthouse. This is the most eastern lighthouse of the Uruguayan coast. In this area, tides run south to north.

In  1881 a private company built the Cabo Polonio Lighthouse. This 39.7 meters height tower lights up to 19.5 nautical miles. This very simple building tower is unpainted, except for three white stripes and the red light room nonetheless its beauty is patent.

As everything that has a start has an end, this trip ­though for now is imaginary- must come to an end. Montevideo is our last stop before heading back home.

What an incredible trip! I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing with me this fantastic dream itinerary. Hopefully it’ll soon come true.

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