So… after reading about the fabulous boutique wineries and the charms of The Uruguayan Tuscany, you’re ready to spend a few days in Carmelo, am I right?
If you have the time I would recommend spending at least three days and two nights and visit just one or two vineyards a day. Cycle lazily out to each winery, savouring the hours-long wine-tasting sessions. Splash around in the river or in your hotel pool. Or have a picnic on a red-checked tablecloth under a shady tree in the dusky afternoon.
The most gorgeous accommodation in Carmelo is located in the vineyards themselves. Most are in a rural neighbourhood called Colonia Estrella, a ten-minute drive from the centre of Carmelo.
As a local said to me:
You have to get as far away from the (city) centre as you can, to be at the centre of everything.”
If you have the budget, then stay at a vineyard. The beauty and peace are priceless.
Just beyond Colonia Estrella lies Zagarzazú, a tiny riverside beach town. Zagarzazú is the nicest beach in Carmelo on the River Uruguay. This village with unpaved roads is a 10 minute bike ride from Colonia Estrella and 15 minutes from Narbona Wine Lodge. The city centre is a ten minute taxi ride.
If you are on a budget, there are still ways that you can experience Carmelo wine country. Stay in the centre of town and bike out to the vineyards in thirty minutes. Good accommodation will provide (sometimes free) bikes to guests.
Stay in the vineyards
Entre Viñas – The cabaña among the vines at Almacen de la Capilla
A romantic wooden cabin for two in the vineyard of winemakers Cordano, whose fine wines are marketed under the name of Almacen de la Capilla. The cabin is a two-minute walk through the vineyards to the Almacen, so it’s very private. It has an enormous king-size bed (very rare to get these in Uruguay, outside of a five-star hotel), a very smart bathroom with the trappings of a five star hotel – robes, slippers, – a squishy sofa set in the picture window and a deck overlooking the vines. There’s a kitchenette and of course wine glasses and a bottle opener. Breakfast appears magically each morning on the doorstep in a red-checkered picnic basket. Word of warning: despite Diego and Ana Paula’s best attempts, they have not been able to provide internet in the cabin, so bring your own or be prepared to head to the store to sit under the vines and send your emails from there. How big a problem is that?
Rates 200-220 USD per night
Guru Deal Almacen de la Capilla is offering 5% off accommodation to Guru’Guay readers. Reserve via email at Almacendelacapilla@adinet.com.uy mentioning offer code: Guru’Guay.
Narbona Wine Lodge
Señorita Vino declared Narbona Wine Lodge one of just of three of the world’s most romantic wineries. The wine lodge, restaurant and bakery is the pet project of a millionaire Argentine property developer and his Uruguayan wife born and raised in a well-known local dairy farming family. The stone building was loving restored during the 90s and nowadays houses Uruguay’s only Relais & Chateaux hotel. There are just five guestrooms though the largest two are huge, each almost 500 square feet. The lounge and restaurant are just as exquisite. There’s a small pool with a view of the vineyards. I’ve had a bunch of guests do their romantic splurge stay at Narbona and everyone has sworn that it was more than worth it. Narbona is out in the middle of the countryside so your own transportation is advisable.
Rates Suites 240 USD, superior doubles 200 USD
The charming old farm-house in Colonia Estrella with an interior designed by a top Argentine architect is warm and vibrant. There are four generous-sized suites – two overlooking the gardens and two overlooking a picturesque colonial chapel. Eighty percent of CampoTinto’s guests come to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and it’s easy to see why – you can easily get to CampoTinto and not set foot outside for the entire weekend. There’s a pool in rolling gardens reminiscent of Provence where horses graze in the distance. Picnics and wine-tasting can be arranged. On site there’s a restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor vine-covered patio serving Uruguayan favourites with gourmet twists without the gourmet prices.
Rates Suites 240 USD, superior doubles 200 USD
Guru Deal CampoTinto is offering 10% off accommodation to Guru’Guay readers. Reserve via email at email@example.com or on the CampoTinto website mentioning offer code: Guru’Guay
Hotel Puerto Dijama
Puerto Dijama is a small recently-built hotel with modern motel-style rooms built around a central pool. Dijama’s decor is eclectic with the elements of pop-art -including pimped-out antique furniture- combined with restful wood panelling. There’s an onsite restaurant serving all day (unusual in Uruguay where most close between 4-8pm) with an extensive local wine list. There’s a splash pool and Jacuzzi. The best thing about Dijama is the manager, Pablo, who relocated from Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. Jovial and dynamic, he’s can’t do enough for guests. The second best thing are the six kayaks available for guests to use on the gentle River Uruguay. Bikes also available. The hotel is currently perhaps a little overpriced as its not located in a vineyard and the rooms are fairly small. Prices may come down.
Rates Suites 220-280 USD, superior doubles 160-200 USD, standard doubles 120-160 USD.
Guru Deal Dijama is offering 10% off accommodation and a free glass of wine on arrival to Guru’Guay readers. Reserve via email mentioning offer code: Guru’Guay
Carmelo town centre
Ah’Lo Hostel Boutique
Run by a young local couple, Ah’Lo started out as a hostel but has found its real home catering to the family-market offering six large cheerfully-painted private bedrooms all with elegant en suite bathrooms. The historic building has high ceilings and is full of air and light. There’s a stylish living room with an open fireplace. The lovely shady patio at the back of the house houses the six Dutch bikes that the owners were given as a wedding present to offer to guests to get back and forth to the vineyards. The old-fashioned kitchen is well-equipped and guests are welcome to cook there for themselves. Tatiana the receptionist is extremely friendly and helpful. The writer of a famous guidebook told me that the two spotless shared rooms (one for men, one for women) with their pristine white duvets and bathrooms and ultra-modern fixtures were of the “classiest” in the hostel category he had experienced throughout Latin America.
Rates Ensuite doubles 70-110 USD on weekends, 60-90 midweek. Shared room 20-25 USD per person
All vineyard accommodation and Puerto Dijama provide free transfers from the city centre which is 4 miles away (6km).
Guru’Guay’s hearty thanks: My visit to Carmelo wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Sylvana Cabrera of ComeryBeber.com for scouting out wonderful locations for Guru’Guay readers, Diego and Ana Paula Cordano of Almacen de la Capilla for providing me shelter in their wonderful little cabin amongst the vines and Mariño Sport, the most trusty rent-a-car in Uruguay. As always all opinions expressed in this article are my own.