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Enjoy Sun in Our Winter in Casual Chic José Ignacio, Uruguay

The raucous South American resort of Punta del Este remains Uruguay's most popular beach destination—the year-round population of 7,300 swells to 500,000 in the summer months—and that crowding sent many jet set types searching for a low-key alternative. They didn't need to look far. Just a few miles east of Punta lies José Ignacio, a formerly sleepy fishing village that has become, according to The New York Times, "arguably the chicest spot in Latin America." While the town remains far less developed than Punta, several new hotels have arrived recently, including Playa Vik (above), the beachside offshoot of popular inland resort Estancia Vik. The ten-room resort sits on a private peninsula, with views down the beach to the lights of Punta del Este and a staggeringly beautiful design by Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott.

? Despite the popularity with St. Tropez types, José Ignacio still has a few affordable options for late arrivals, they're just not on the beach. This four-bedroom, four-bath house lies just 100 yards from the beach, and, thanks to a screen porch on the second story, still has peeks at the water. At $350K, with a pool, garden, and 2,100 square feet, this is one of the best deals in town.

? Bridging that 100-yard gap can be one seriously expensive proposition. This beachfront modern, built of Lapacho wood and stone, includes five bedrooms, five baths, a gym, sun-drenched terraces, and a large, dune-front swimming pool. All that luxury helps to justify, but can't fully explain, the $5.5M price tag.

? Some of these pricey modern villas like to keep their prices hidden from the average window shopper. One such spread is this contemporary retreat, done up in white and wood and situated on more than 12 acres of countryside, 1.5 miles from the beach. The property's most dramatic feature is a covered veranda that runs the length of the facade.

? For even more of a countryside feel, there's this classic hacienda on 12 acres just outside of town. There are distant water views and plenty of space to spread out, all for $1.4M. Better yet, when the town inevitably gets overrun with tourists, the fenced property would still make a tolerable getaway. Indoor/outdoor spaces and five bedrooms round out this rustic offering.

? Slick and modern and close to the beach, this recent build also has its price available upon request, which might be advantageous given the seemingly random pricing of some of the houses in town. One thing's for sure, the current owner is sure to get a pretty penny for this sleek three-bedroom spread with unobstructed ocean views.

· Chic but Not Famous: A Resort Named José [NYT]
· Playa Vik [official site]
· La Tucanita [Sotheby's]
· A natural Lifestyle [Engel & Volkers]
· Magnificent contemporary style house [Engel & Volkers]
· Pretty traditional style ranch near José Ignacio [Engel & Volkers]
· Outstanding property in Santa Mónica [Engel & Volkers]