Uruguay – the understated South American paradise part 1: Carmelo and the wine region

We visited Uruguay in November 2018. It was part of 17 day trip from the UK that encompassed Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls in Argentina then over the small body of water to Carmelo, Montevideo and a stay on a ranch with gauchos in the north east of Uruguay.

Uruguay was by far the highlight of this trip and we are desperate to return to explore more.

Uruguay doesn’t have what many other South American countries have:

It doesn’t have colossal waterfalls, intrepid jungle, brightly coloured towns, inca trails, llamas, islands in the middle of lakes, colossal mountains, volcanos or ski slopes.

It does however have understated beauty, empty beaches, the greenest grass, the most delicious steaks, the most delicious wine, cute historical buildings, immense national pride, and the kindest friendliest people we have met.

Day 1

Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento – a pretty historical town only 1 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires. A company called Buquebus sells ferry tickets to colonia de Sacramento or Montevideo (3-4hours) or combined ferry and bus tickets, which we used on the way back from Montevideo to Buenos Aires and was really smooth and helpful.

Passport control went smoothly when we disembarked.

We could have hired a car but instead used public transport to reach Carmelo – roughly 1.5 hours on a very comfortable bus. A short taxi ride from the bus station took us to our accomodation for the next 3 nights (and boy we wished it was longer):

Posada Campitinto a beautiful boutique hotel with a delightful pool with its own vineyard in the middle of one of the smaller wine regions in Uruguay.

We arrived around midday and dived straight into a bottle of their own medio y medio (semi sweet sparking wine) perfect on a warm spring day with homemade gnocchi and salad, and burger for Mark in their oranagery style part of the restaurant. Included in our stay was a free wine tasting at their bodega but we put that on hold for tomorrow! Already in heaven!

The rest of day 1 was spent around the pool. Chilling with a book and pool side yoga.

Then: Wine at sunset and a walk through the vineyard and allotments where they grow all their own vegetables.

Then: an amazing meal of succulent steak and more wine – the traditional red from Uruguay – Tanat – heavy on the tannins but smooth and oh so rich and velvety; our first time trying this wine as we have yet to come across it in the U.K other than the sweet tanat as a different sweet red dessert wine as part of a Michelin star taster menu. What was great about Posada Campotinto was their relatively small selection- all of which were available by the glass, which meant in 3 days we could try it all! .

Day 2

After the most comfortable sleep in a huge bed, we rose early to the tranquil surroundings, had traditional Argentinian/Uruguayan breakfast of cakes bread dulce de leche (proudly very different to Argentinian dulce de leche) pastries and such with lots of coffee and relaxed for a couple of hours (until the bodega opened!).

A 5 minute walk down the dirt road from the hotel led us to a quaint cross roads, the bodega of campotinto to the left and ahead of us Almacen de la capilla – an old style shop type building like something from a Wild West film! We’d be coming back there later:

Pictures of bodega campotinto and our complementary wine tasting:

Then to Almacen de la Capilla where we legitimately spent the rest of the day;

So many wines. Unlimited meats and cheeses when we finished our plates – more came!! Oh, and the most amazing pickled mushrooms – different! We brought only one jar home and Instantly regretted this.

The owners were so friendly and sat chatting to us under the gorgeous bougainvillea covered bodega for hours – with their excellent English compared to our terrible Spanish. I was tipsy, we had been there around 4 hours!

There are around 6 or 7 outdoor tables and lots of inside seating areas too, we were first there but the outside tables filled up on our gorgeous spring day. It’s just the perfect size to feel in great company but for the owners or sommeliers and servers to give you the right amount of attention. The tasting platter was around $20 per person but was of course completely unlimited!

These guys don’t have a great website – that sort of stuffs not important! But google them, insta search them, look on tripadvisor and they also have a Facebook page if you don’t want to take my word for all this !

After purchasing most of the shop we headed home for a nap around the pool then dinner and more wine later.

Now, this might not be to everyone’s taste and some of you may think; you can do all this in France!, however it was one of Mark and mines favourite days ever: sunshine, adorable surroundings, delicious food, delicious wine and the most friendly people. We just felt so happy.

Day 3

Winery El leggero! This one a 20minute walk from Posada Campotinto but well worth it. Here they have much less variety – 3 simple wines they have worked on for years: a tanat, a Syrah and the third wine – their best- a blend of both. We were allowed to sample this out of the barrel and needless to say we have brought this home! Still on the wine rack for a “special occasion” as it’s just so good!

A lovely Canadian family with a hire SUV pulled over to offer us a lift as the sky was looking a little ominous. They were going to Almacan de la Capilla so we of course popped in there with them and bought more supplies!

More pool time and more sunset walks and sunset wine and more steak for dinner to finish that day.

Another perfect day. We REALLY didn’t want to leave this place.

We will return one day. In fact we think it would be a great place to bring our mums or families. Although you’re in a higher end boutique hotel it still has that cute small town feel to it. The Uruguayans were much more empathetic to our very imperfect Spanish than their brit-hating neighbours(!) and it made our time here so relaxing and blissful. We met a Canadian couple who have a travel blog too who said they were absolutely not going to write about Uruguay as it’s now their secret and it’s so great they don’t want to tell anyone else about it!!! I hasten to agree.

This place has a piece of our heart, as does Uruguay as a whole country. Our stay on a working ranch working with/ as gauchos near the Brazilian border just topped it off! See part 3.

Next: part 2 Montevideo.

Comments

  1. Mandy Thompson

    It sounds and looks like a wonderful place with tasty food and wine , friendly people and lovely weather .
    Beautiful photos

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