Very close to Carmelo we visited:
*Calera de las Huérfanas, which used to be a limestone quarry and estancia run by the Jesuits. The ruins of the chapel are impressive. I also particularly enjoyed a nature trail which winds through dense native vegetation and made me feel like I was miles away from civilization.
*Conchillas, a town built by a British company for its workers, which still has all the historic buildings. We sat on the pier and watched the sun setting behind the islands on the Rio de la Plata.
*Puente Castells. Loved this historic bridge and mill, one of the first to be built in the country. An egret was at arm's distance. Idyllic.
*Estancia Narbona. This is probably the oldest civil construction in the country, unfortunately in need of restoration but nonetheless very interesting.
*Capilla San Roque. About 150 years old, surrounded by vineyards. Another great spot where we drank mate and watched the sun setting on one side, and the moon rising on the other. To our surprise, several tourists arrived on bicycles.
Carmelo is not really a touristy town, certainly in comparison to its better known neighbour, Colonia del Sacramento.
While Colonia was packed with tourists on day trips from Buenos Aires, Carmelo was far quieter. We were the only gringos on the bus and the only gringos in town. Our guide book had about 2 lines on Carmelo, and the museum they mentioned seemed to be now used for Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.
But we found our way to the tourist office, and the friendly lady there gave us a map and suggested a few things for us to do. There were a few nice buildings on the main square, including the standout church and some impressive stone figures. At another small square nearby we ate lunch below a statue of a Uruguayan military hero.
Carmelo's beach is about 20 minutes walk from the town and as it was such a fine day we made our way out to see it. In this weather in Ireland the beach would probably be crowded, but there were only a handful of people here and no swimmers. It's a great spot though and I remember thinking it would have been perfect had we been here a few months later during summer. We walked all the way along the beach and then out on a pier from where we could see across the Rio de la Plata to Argentina.
After exploring Carmelo we stopped in Fay Fay for a quick coffee and ice-cream before catching the bus back to Colonoia. Fay Fay was one of the few restaurants/cafes we came across in Carmelo. It's in a good location on one side of the main square, and offers simple, straightforward Uruguayan dishes at very good prices.
There are a number of daily buses between Colonia del Sacramaneto and Carmelo. The buses leave from the main station in Colonia, and the journey to Carmelo, 75km west of Colonia, takes about 2 hours.
This was our first bus journey in South America, and also our first opportunity to see the Uruguayan countryside. Which was very green and reminded me a lot of Ireland. We were the only tourists on the bus and also the only people not carrying mate, the hugely popular drink of Argentina and Uruguay.