Carmelo + Colonia del Sacramento
Carmelo + Colonia
Inspire memories of yesteryear in the quiet cities of Carmelo and Colonia del Sacramento.
The city’s rustic charm gives travelers a true escape from the hustle and bustle of city. From horseback riding through the woodlands to fishing excursions and canoe trips, travel enthusiasts come here to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the countryside. Carmelo is also an up-and-coming wine region. The locally produced Tannat, made from a red grape from the southwestern France, is Uruguay’s signature wine.
Colonia del Sacramento, commonly regarded as the oldest city in Uruguay, has grown in size and population, but its original Historic Quarter, built by the Portuguese (and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) still forms the heart of old town.
We recommend visiting November through March.
How to Arrive
From Buenos Aires: 4 hrs 30 min by car and ferry
Good to know
Language: Spanish Currency: Uruguayan Peso (UYU) Visas/fees: Travel to Uruguay does not require a visa for US/US/EU/CAN/AUS travelers.
What to do in Carmelo + Colonia
HISTORIC CITY TOUR
The Barrio Histórico, or historic neighborhood of the colonial city of Colonia is one for the picture books. This UNESCO site, which for years flip-flopped between Spanish and Portuguese rule is one of the jewels in Uruguay’s crown, and is easily accessed either from Buenos Aires by boat, or from other parts of Uruguay such as nearby Carmelo, or from a bit farther away in the country’s capital of Montevideo.
In many “colonial” cities, it is only through careful cropping that you get the perfect picture postcard. Not so in Colonia del Sacramento, where over 16 hectares of cobblestoned streets laid out on a peninsula that juts out into the Río de La Plata, you can stroll and photograph this city of yesteryear to your heart’s content. Start your tour by walking through the gate of the city, the Portón de Campo, which dates back to 1745. Visit the lighthouse for an expansive view, and also the charming ruins of the Convent of San Francisco and the Basilica. To tie it all together and better understand the city’s history, visit the the Municipal Museum which explains the many twists and turns in the town’s past, and be sure to take a break in the main square under shade trees that bloom bright pink in spring and summer. Ice cream is optional, but recommended.
Wine Tour at Narbona Wine Lodge
Uruguay, unlike Chile and Argentina, organizes its wine regions by department as opposed to by valley. In the department of Carmelo, the Wine Lodge Narbona is one of the best-established wineries, with original construction dating back to 1909. They work mainly with Tannat, a grape that originated in South West France, and which is now considered to be the national grape of Uruguay. But of their 50-hectare property, only 15 of them are planted with wine grapes, and Wine Lodge Narbona also grows Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Syrah. Harvest here is in February and March, and careful pruning leads to low-yield production and handmade wines. Narbona also makes grappa, which is a fine bajativo, or digestif after a meal in their rustic but elegant restaurant.
A visit to Wine Lodge Narbona is to visit the Uruguayan countryside, and learn about culinary traditions, not just of winemaking, but also cheesemaking, and other pursuits from colonial times. Here from the sweet milk the dairy provides, they also make dulce de leche, and from local fruit, jams and preserves. The concept at Wine Lodge Narbona is old school meets new school. All the craftsmanship of yesteryear is ensconced in the comfort of today.
Biking in Wine Country
Get to know Uruguay on two wheels on a day trip on bike in Uruguay’s department of Carmelo. This area, renowned for its wine, is also the perfect place to take a spin. Uruguay is fairly flat, which means casual as well as serious cyclists can take their pick of places to ride here. For traffic-free rides among the vineyards or through a pine and eucalyptus forest, Carmelo has what you’re looking for. If you’d rather a longer road route with the ocean your faithful companion, then consider a ride starting or ending in José Ignacio, Uruguay’s understated beachfront town made for seeing and being seen. For example, you could start out on the hill in Punta Ballena, sweeping past Punta del Este with its giant hand reaching out of the sand, and continue on to José Ignacio, with the glorious Atlantic Ocean over your right shoulder the whole way. The department of Rocha to the northeast has a few notable hills you can mountain bike up and over (or just down), with views of Uruguay’s wildest landscape near Cabo Polonio.
Ready to go? Here’s what to pack
Though just across the water from Buenos Aires, time slows down in Carmelo + Colonia. We recommend you do too! Travel light and with layers, as the heat cools when the sun sets.
- Comfortable walking sandals
- Small backpacks or cross-bodied bags
- Sunblock (summer sun is strong)
Where to stay: Overnight Recommendations
Narbona Wine Lodge
The intimate five-room hotel at Wine Lodge Narbona, a Relais & Châteaux property is steeped in rustic charm. Rooms are luminous and filled with antique touches, though the appointments are completely modern. Three of the rooms overlook the winery, and two overlook the vineyards, and all of them have King-sized beds, and a private terrace, which is the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and a cheese tasting, all of which is produced onsite.
The pool at the lodge invites guests for a lazy afternoon splash, surrounded by gardens and paths that lead to the vineyards. Farther afield, guests can access Puerto Camacho for boat trips and a private beach, take mountain bike trips or tours of the vineyard. There is also a gym and spa services onsite.
Carmelo Resort & Spa
Located on the shores of Río de la Plata, in the charming Uruguayan city of Carmelo, a renowned wine region of Uruguay is the Carmelo Resort & Spa, a Hyatt Unbound Collection property. It is considered one of the top ten resorts in Central and South America. Carmelo Resort & Spa is furnished in a style best described as rural chic, with comfortable living spaces and well-appointed rooms with deep soaking tubs, all the amenities and views of the vineyards. The 44 rooms are distributed among 20 bungalows and 24 two-level suites, and each has a private balcony or terrace.
The resort is located within a 45-hectare forest of pines and eucalyptus trees. Guests can unwind near (or in) the outdoor pool with a splashy architectural waterfall, or at the resort’s private river beach. The restaurant relies on local producers for the gourmet meals they serve, and you can choose from tennis, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, yoga and spa services onsite, in addition to patisserie classes.