Uruguay is a beautiful, exciting country with a varied landscape and good government, where the cows outnumber the people by a ratio of 10:1. My good friend Cecilia greeted us upon our arrival in Montevideo during Carnaval and immediately introduced us to a traditional murga in a lovely open-air theatre. Below is a murga I would like to share with you. I hope you will enjoy this as much as we did.
Cecilia also took us to the Carnaval Museum (see papier mâché figures below), a small, fascinating museum near the market and the Waterfront Promenade near the Río de la Plata.
Our itinerary in Uruguay included:
- Montevideo, Sheraton Montevideo, a lovely urban hotel near the Waterfront Promenade
- Colonia, Charco Hotel, charming boutique hotel on the Río de la Plata
- Carmelo, Narbona Wine Lodge, set in a working winery with a beautiful vineyard (see introductory photo above)
- Jose Ignacio, Estancia Vik, a magnificent ranch outside the beach village of Jose Ignacio, 40 kilometers from Punta del Este Peninsula
Colonia is a charming UNESCO World Heritage Site on the banks of the Río de la Plata, accessible by ferry from Buenos Aires or by road within Uruguay. The old buildings and lovely squares provide a beautiful setting for the Charco Hotel, opened a year ago in an old building with a well-designed contemporary interior and an excellent restaurant. Our room had a commanding view of the river, which was rushing the day we were there exposing to the sounds of nature.
The Narbona Wine Lodge (see introductory photo), located outside the town of Carmelo, is a member of the Relais et Chateaux family and is situated in a 15-hectare vineyard with its own dairy and restaurant. Their signature wine is a delicious Tannat. There is also a dairy, which produces a variety of yogurt and homemade cheese, including Parmesan, Provolone, Camembert, and Brie served in the marvelous restaurant and sold in select markets throughout Uruguay. They also make the best dulce de leche. We bought some of their dulce de leche as a gift for our friend Cecilia, who lives in Montevideo, and the manager insisted on having it hand delivered to her so we could save the cost of shipping.This reflects the extraordinarily high service level throughout this outstanding resort.
José Ignacio is a charming village in Maldonado facing the Atlantic Ocean, with little streets, art galleries, restaurants, and two magnificent VIK hotels.
Situated on 4,000 acres, Estancia VIK is one mile from the Atlantic Ocean, with its beautiful beaches and two other exquisite VIK retreats, Playa Vik and the magnificent new Bahia Vik (family portraits adorn the lobby, see below), with the lovely La Susana Restaurant on the beach.
Estancia Vik is located 20 miles from Punta del Este, with La Marra along the route. The approach to the estancia is on a long winding dirt road off the main road. It is an exquisite hotel and offers polo, horseback riding, kayaking, and swimming. The dining room is intimate and charming and serves outstanding food. From time to time there is a big asado, a fantastic Uruguayan barbecue. A very nice feature is reciprocity for guests among these three luxurious hotels, each with distinctive ambience and characteristics. The Vik family collects Uruguayan art, which adorns their hotels and offers an extensive introduction to many prominent and new artists.
There are wonderful shops in Maldonado, LaBarra, Garzon, and Montevideo with beautiful clothing and blankets made from the wool of the Merino sheep for which Uruguay is well known. I particularly like: Allium in Garzon, Lanas del Este in La Barra, El Canuto in Jose Ignacio, and Don Baez in Montevideo. Ponchos are a specialty in these shops, and blankets are soft and luscious. Don Baez made the lovely ponchos offered to guests at Estancia Vik on cool evenings.
Typical of Uruguayan hospitality, the two sisters who inherited the shop from their father brought several ponchos for us to see at Estancia Vik because we did not have time to get to their shop. Fortunately they have a farm about half an hour away. There are marvelous restaurants in the area, including La Huella on the beach in José Ignacio. Francis Mallman, the famous Argentinian chef and author of Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, has a small hotel and an excellent restaurant, La Cocina, in Garzon, a remote village with a beautiful central square.
We highly recommend Odile Travel in Montevideo, Uruguay, which arranged our travel: Alejandria Varela, firstname.lastname@example.org, managed our trip.