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Santa Teresa National Park and Fortaleza Santa Teresa - Other Activity Punta del Diablo - Uruguay

Just a few kilometers north of Punta del Diablo lies the 3,000-hectare (7,413-ac) National Park of Santa Teresa, a site of national importance in environmental conservation and the promotion of biodiversity, and part of the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP). The park is also host to a famous fort and is often thought of as one of the loveliest camping spots in all of Uruguay. The forest is home to around two million species of trees, as well as a spectacular variety of flora and fauna, both indigenous and imported. Once tired of exploring the fort and the 60 kilometers (37 mi) of hiking trails throughout the park, visitors can relax on the dunes of the four beaches that appear comparatively desolate even in summer. Popular with families, couples and groups of young people alike, a walk in the park and a visit to the fort is recommended as a daytrip, even if you do not intend to camp; start early.

The land that now makes up Santa Teresa was the site of one of Uruguay’s major battles for independence, which possibly explains why it is still managed by the military today. Sitting atop of a hill in the northwest of the park, the grand orange-brick fort is an irregular pentagonal shape with five bastions and has a perimeter of 942 meters (3,091 ft). Started by the Portuguese in 1762 and extended by the Spanish after their conquest of 1793, it continued to play a prominent part in battles between these two empires, then later between the Spanish and the Creoles, and in civil wars after Uruguay gained its independence. Eventually abandoned, the fort became a ruin and was largely covered by sand dunes. However, in 1927, the site was declared a National Historic Monument and the fort was restored a year later. It now hosts an interesting museum that tells its history. Admission is $1, open daily in summer 7 a.m.-7 p.m., winter 10 a.m.-7 p.m; toilets and café available.

The National Park entrance is at Kilometer 302 of the Ruta 9, where you will find army officials waiting to hand you a map and register you for $2; this is necessary whether or not you intend to camp. From here, you can walk to the Capatacia, where there is a visitors' center, a pharmacy, a small poorly stocked supermarket, a police station, an ATM and an ANTEL phone line. Approximate hours for all are December to February 10 a.m.-5 p.m., less for rest of year. There is also a parrilla and seafood restaurant with a bar showing sports and a pool table (open year round 9 a.m.-11 p.m). Nearby, there is a small museum with photographs detailing the development of the park (daily in summer 7 a.m.-7 p.m., winter 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; free).

Heading south, you can visit the Sendero de Interpretación (Interpretation Trail) or go north to find the Pajarera for bird-watching. The latter is a large lake with a boardwalk over it, and next to it is something akin to a small zoo: a set of cages holding species including cardinals and tucans as well as unfeathered animal friends such as baboons and capuchins. There is also a brightly colored but underused children’s playground. However, the most populated part of the park is in the northeast around El Chorro, a center that includes a pizzeria, another supermarket, a cyber café and a games zone.

Campsites are divided into eight zones. Zone H is to the south of the park near Playa Grande, but the rest are scattered in various parts of the northern end. All zones offer good facilities, including showers, toilets, BBQ areas and laundry. If you want to be close to the facilities of El Chorro or to the beach, be prepared for your campsite to be busier and filled with a younger crowd. However, if you would prefer to experience the quietness of nature, opt for a more remote zone. Camping is $4 per person, or $5 with electricity; children under 10 are free. Be sure to follow the park rules in terms of fire safety, noise limits and litter. Pets are not allowed.

In addition to the campsites, Santa Teresa has a handful of simple cabañas (bungalows) to rent. A six-person cabaña costs $7.50 per person per night. To book in advance, call Servicio Parques Ejército (Park Services) at 4477-2101.

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

Other Activity, National Park

Getting There
To get here from Punta del Diablo, take any bus heading for Chuy. There is a bus stop at the park entrance ($1.75 from Punta del Diablo, 10 min), or ask to be dropped at the Fortaleza (5 min further on). To return, either go back to the bus stop or flag down a bus by the Fortaleza. If you’re able to access a bike or motorbike, you can instead ride the 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) along the road. Alternatively, if you’re feeling really energetic, you could walk northwards along the beaches for seven kilometers (4.3 mi), arriving at the coastal side of the park on foot. Additionally, you can book one of the horseback riding tours that
pass through the park.

Here are other activities in and around Punta del Diablo that may be of interest: The Beaches Of Playa De La Viuda, Playa Del Rivero And Playa De Los Pescadores, Cerro Verde And Karumbe, Laguna Negra and Paseo Del Rivero.

By Emma Jones

Emma Jones, 30, is from London, and recently spent nine months enjoying travelling and writing in South America.�Her favourite...

04 Jan 2012

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