The little port of Colonia is the oldest town in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fought over by the Spanish and Portuguese for a century, sturdy fortifications suggest Colonia’s history has been as turbulent as it is long. The old part of town is a faded clutter of terracotta roofs and narrow cobbled streets, shaded by sycamores, reminiscent of old Lisbon. For a few hours daily, Colonia springs to life as a modern army of day-trippers arrives from Buenos Aires. The rest of the time, it’s a typically peaceful Uruguayan backwater.
Even sleepier Carmelo, an hour from Colonia, has long been a popular spot for a game of golf or relaxation by the River Plate. Nowadays, Carmelo is also being discovered by gourmet-seeking visitors as it awakes to its new-found reputation as a centre of Uruguay’s burgeoning wine industry.