Carmelo: Carmelo is perhaps Uruguay’s best-kept secret with its golden, riverfront beaches, rich cultural offerings, and up-and-coming wine region. The city and surrounding areas offer a wide range of outdoor pursuits from horseback riding through the woodlands, boating along the Rio de la Plata, paddling on a canoe trip, or even taking polo lessons. Jesuit history is found at Calera de las Huerfanas, a complex of ruins from the mid-18th century, includes a chapel and an estancia. Around 250 people worked and lived on the site, which in its heyday spanned a total area of 140,000 ha/345,947 ac. Materials from the war between the Spanish crown and the Portuguese of Colonia del Sacramento have also been located at the site. The atmospheric peace of the chapel and lime kilns offers great opportunities for photography.
Colonia Del Sacramento: This charming and lively town was originally founded by Portuguese settlers arriving from Brazil in 1680. The old town is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town was originally used as a smuggling post, but today this colonial center has narrow, cobbled streets and fine architecture. It is a charming and interesting place to explore. The small historic center has nine small museums, which can be visited with only one entrance ticket, as well as many good quality restaurants.
La Barra & Jose Ignacio: Just minutes from the glitzy resort area of Punta del Este, the expansive golden beaches and low headlands stretch northeast along a single coast road connecting a ribbon of beach settlements such as La Barra and Jose Ignacio. Small shops and seaside restaurants sell floaty dresses and Gucci sunglasses, dulce de leche ice cream, the local Chivito sandwich and Japanese sushi. This area, including Punta del Este, is to Uruguayans as the Hamptons are to New Yorkers, a chic retreat from city life that exudes barefoot elegance with a distinctly South American, bohemian charm. Jose Ignacio began as a humble fishing village but today this South American destination has become a favorite for its proximity to Punta del Este.
Montevideo: The southernmost capital city in the Americas is also the largest city in Uruguay, home to roughly one-third of the country’s 3.3 million population. It was established in 1724 by a Spanish soldier, Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move in the Spanish-Portuguese dispute. It was under brief British rule in 1807. Montevideo has consistently been rated as having the highest quality of life of any city in Latin America, and has held this rank every year during the last decade. It has a vibrant, eclectic cultural life and an active hub of commerce as well as its chief port, which includes the city’s oldest buildings, several museums, art galleries, and nightclubs, with Sarandí Street and the Mercado del Puerto being the most frequented venues of the old city. On the edge of Ciudad Vieja, Plaza Independencia is surrounded by many sights, including the Solís Theatre and the Palacio Salvo; the plaza also constitutes one end of 18 de Julio Avenue, the city’s most important tourist destination outside of Ciudad Vieja. Apart from being a shopping street, the avenue is noted for its Art Deco buildings, three important public squares, the Gaucho Museum, the Palacio Municipal and many other sights. The avenue leads to the Obelisk of Montevideo; beyond that is Parque Batlle, which along with the Parque Prado is another important destination. On the coast,13 km/8.1 mi. of sand beaches and Punta Gorda attract visitors. Solis Theatre is Uruguay’s most important and renowned theater. It opened in 1856 and the building was designed by the Italian architect Carlo Zucchi. It is located in Montevideo’s Old Town, right next to the Plaza Independencia.
Pueblo Eden & Villa Serrana: The small villages of Villa Serrana and Pueblo Eden are nestled in the hills of Lavalleja. Villa Serrana is 25 km/15 mi. northeast of Minas and was established in 1946. It has fewer than a hundred permanent residents. Pueblo Eden is just 40 km/25 mi. from Punta del Este, 30 km/19 mi. from the Atlantic Ocean, and in the other direction 40 km/25 mi. to Minas. The rolling hills of Pueblo Eden are home to Vina Eden winery. The vineyards sit on Pueblo Eden’s mountains slopes. The winery was designed in three levels to use gravity to contribute to the movements of grapes and wine in the different production stages. The process starts at the highest level where grapes are received and processed, and finishes with wine maturing and aging in the cellar. The mineral character of soils along with the oceanic influence have created ideal conditions for the sustainable production of unique wines. The area is just minutes away from Punta del Este, founded in 1907, which has been compared to Miami and Cannes, and called “the Monaco of the South,” the “Hamptons of South America,” and the “St. Tropez of South America.”
Rocha Natural Reserves: This scenic region boasts an outstanding and beautiful landscape with significant ecosystems containing a great variety of birds, including the endangered black-necked swan. Santa Teresa National Park is a seaside forested area in Rocha Department, which is an important national park. Rocha Lagoon is separated by a sand bar from the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the lagoons, including Rocha, on Uruguay´s coast, have the status of “Biosphere Reserves designated by Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) of UNESCO.” Though natural waves and artificial dam projects that failed, the water of Rocha mingles temporarily with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. The lagoon is known for its richness of fish, crab, shrimp and molluscs that provide a rich food supply to more than 200 species of breeding and migratory birds including the black-neck swan, the endemic Coscoroba swan, and the threatened Chilean Flamingo. It is well known for its beach resorts that are filled in the summer. Inland, the primary economy of Rocha is based on large cattle ranches (estancias). The natural areas encompass native scrublands, shifting sand dunes, marshlands and wetlands. Outdoor activities range from trekking to bird watching to exploring a traditional estancia.
Best Times to Go
The best time to visit Uruguay is in Autumn (March-May) and Spring (September-November) particularly lovely times weather-wise. Days are mild, around 20 degrees and there are frequent Indian summers.
Day 1: Colonia Del Sacramento / Carmelo, Uruguay
Carmelo is perhaps Uruguay's best-kept secret with its golden, riverfront beaches, rich cultural offerings, and up-and-coming wine region.
Days 2/3: Carmelo
The Jesuit ruins of La Calera de las Huerfanas are where Uruguay’s wine history begins. Wine visits include harvesting, bottling, manual grape selection and tastings.
Day 4: Carmelo / Montevideo
Montevideo’s most prized assets include the distinguished Solís Theatre, Ciudad Vieja, Art Deco buildings, museums and a vibrant market.
Day 5: Montevideo / Punta Del Este / Jose Ignacio
This area, including Punta del Este and Jose Ignacio, is to Uruguayans as the Hamptons are to New Yorkers, a chic retreat from city life.
Day 6: Jose Ignacio / La Barra / Jose Ignacio
Spacious golden beaches and low headlands stretch northeast along a single coast road connecting a ribbon of beach communities.
Day 7: Jose Ignacio / Depart
Pueblo Eden & Villa Serrana (3 Days)
The small villages of Villa Serrana and Pueblo Eden are nestled in the hills of Lavalleja. Mountain trekking, hiking, horseback riding and wine tasting are among the experiences to be discovered.
Rocha Natural Reserves (3 days)
This scenic region boasts an outstanding and beautiful landscape with significant ecosystems containing a great variety of birds, including the endangered black-necked swan.
$600-$900 per person, per day. Land only.