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Visiting Piria Castle: in the shadow of the Sugarloaf Hill of Uruguay

Updated on September 17, 2015
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
Uruguay's Piria Castle
Uruguay's Piria Castle | Source
Piriapolis and the Sugarloaf hill (right) looming beyond
Piriapolis and the Sugarloaf hill (right) looming beyond | Source
Map location of Uruguay's Maldonado department, where Piria Castle is situated
Map location of Uruguay's Maldonado department, where Piria Castle is situated | Source

History and the imagination come alive near Piriápolis

Uruguay has scenic, cultural and historical treasures which deserve to be well known.

One of these is Piria Castle (Spanish: Castillo de Piria ) dating from 1897, in the Maldonado Department, near the city of Piriápolis . Designed as an Italian-style villa by Aquiles Monzani , it is named for Francisco Piria (1847-1933), who lived in it, and who also founded and developed the nearby resort of Piriápolis . The castle, with its museum and grounds may be visited daily. I did so with great interest.

Going inside the castle, I was interested to come across a plaque commemorating the poet Julio Herrera y Reissig (1875-1910), who, more than a century ago lived for a while at the castle; his work is known widely in Spanish-speaking countries. The poet's uncle, Julio Herrera y Obes , is remembered as President of Uruguay. In this castle fit for a king, which in the passage of time has become a major cultural treasure of the once young republic, the imagination inevitably runs riot, and the opening words of Julio Herrera y Reissig's poem His Majesty Time resonate:

'The aged Patriarch

Is taking, just taking all in,

As the Assyrian prince's beard curls,

His snow-white head seems like a lily

The snow-white head seems like a lily, of the aged Patriarch.'

'His Majesty Time ', Julio Herrera y Reissig , tr. MJFenn

Joining Rio: Uruguay's own Sugarloaf — 'Pan de Azúcar'

You will know of Rio's Sugarloaf mountain, in neighbouring Brazil, which Brazilians call, in Portuguese, the Pão de Açúcar . Well, Uruguayans have their own Sugarloaf, too, which they call, in Spanish, the Pan de Azúcar , part of the Cuchilla Grande range of hills. Piria Castle stands almost in the shadow of the Pan de Azúcar.

Atop the Hill is a gigantic 55 metre-high cross monument, conceived by Uruguay's national poet, Juan Zorilla de San Martín (1855-1933) and built in 1933. (The Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro, with its gigantic Redentor statue, and views of Rio's Sugarloaf, comes to mind ... .)

I have climbed Uruguay's Sugarloaf Hill, and for me it was a most worthwhile exercise, for the view at the top of the River Plate. But be warned: the undergrowth can be quite thick in places, so make sure you are well shod and give yourself plenty of daylight (which I didn't quite...).

Also worth seeing:

Almost opposite Piria Castle is a nature reserve, known locally as the Estación de Cría de Fauna Autóctona del Cerro Pan de Azúcar, i.e., ' Sugarloaf Hill indigenous fauna reserve'. Here at the reserve, indigenous local species of animal may be seen, including the capybara (carpincho).

Piriápolis (distance: approximately 3 kilometers) is a quiet resort on the River Plate (Spanish: Río de la Plata ) Estuary, founded by Francisco Piria, which has been particularly popular with Argentinian visitors for many years. Indeed, this is borne out by the name of its largest hotel, the monumental Argentino Hotel , beside which a bust of Francisco Piria stands. The Hotel Colón , several hundred metres east of the Argentino Hotel , on Rambla (Promenade) de los Argentinos , is of particular note architecturally.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Mainly seasonal flights from Buenos Aires also operate to Laguna del Sauce International Airport, which principally serves the nearby Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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