Ruta 21, km 262, Dpto. de Colonia, Carmelo, Uruguay
A step back into simpler times, this laid–back Carmelo Resort & Spa (formerly Four Seasons Resort Carmelo) is a serene escape from Buenos Aires or Montevideo. Set along the shore of the Rio de la Plata, this countryside resort is nestled in a eucalyptus and pine forest and surrounded by world-renowned Tannat–producing vineyards.
Though this luxury resort is just a two hour car and ferry ride from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires or a 20–minute flight via small plane from Jorge Newberry Aeroparque airport, Carmelo Resort & Spa guests are guaranteed to feel worlds away from fast–paced modern life. Jetsetters looking for the razzle–dazzle of Punta del Este should go stay in Punta del Este, as there are definitely more cattle in Carmelo than there are paparazzi. This is a place not to see–and–be–seen, but instead to be in nature in peace and quiet to fully recharge.
Formerly operated by Four Seasons, the hotel is now part of the Hyatt hotel group who has reiterated their commitment to upholding resort's impeccable reputation for unmatched service and pampered experiences. Guests can request to be picked up from the Carmelo airport or the ferry landing in historical Colonia in a Mercedes Benz or vintage car. If flying in, complementary shuttle service from the local airport is included with use of the resort's private plane. Though of course some guests arrive from Montevideo, a four–hour drive away. To check–in, you will be ushered through a massive, intricately hand–carved door imported from Bali into a four–level reception area and lobby with a soaring granite fireplace and impressive wrought iron chandeliers.
Although it is a little unclear why there is so much heavy Asian influence in the design elements, especially for a hotel tucked deep into the Uruguayan countryside, it is hard to deny that the end result is visually stunning and very warm and welcoming. With a construction based on beautiful Brazilian walnut, this Carmelo resort has 44 guestrooms housed in 20 private bungalows (some of them duplexes). The six River–View Bungalows each come furnished with hand–carved king beds, private terraces, and an exterior shower in a lovely private garden area, with plenty of L'Occitane bath products to keep even the most demanding guest happy. Iced tea, apples, and a bowl with nuts and dried fruits are left in each room to greet each guest. The bi–level suites are tucked into a eucalyptus forest and come furnished with four–poster Lapacho beds romantically draped in mesh curtains. These curtains conveniently double as mosquito netting for those guests who forget to keep their door closed. Remember, this is a true countryside experience, and even the Four Seasons can't accommodate requests to stop the bugs from existing.
While it would be easy to spend long, lazy days lounging on the cushioned window seats with a good book borrowed from the hotel library, or soaking in the large bathtub with a glass of local Tannat, the resort offers what seems to be a never–ending list of enticing activities both on and off the hotel property. The Four Seasons Carmelo has two lit outdoor tennis courts available for practice, match play or lessons with a local tennis pro — racquets and balls are available on a complimentary basis. Golf lovers will appreciate the hybrid Bermuda fairways, meticulously maintained 1/8 inch putting greens, challenging white sand bunkers, and expansive lakes. The 18 hole, 72 par course was designed by Randy Thompson and Kelly Moran.
Other activities include working out in the 8,600 square foot gym or signing up for a free yoga class, taking a dip in the dramatic, double–cascade 75 foot long heated outdoor pool (open October through April) or the enjoyably warm indoor pool (reserved for adult guests after 7pm). You can also channel your inner gaucho with horseback riding, work on refining polo skills with lessons, or take a tour of nearby Colonia: a picturesque UNESCO–protected town with cobbled streets and crafts shops housed in 16th–century buildings.
This country resort provides the space for a quiet getaway for couples, but it also caters well to families. There are simple activities like simply skipping stones or building sand castles at the river's edge, taking a bike or canoe out to explore the nearby port, or playing foosball or table tennis. There are organized activities as well though, like getting creative with arts and crafts at the kid's club or taking cooking lessons in the Four Seasons very own kitchen. What parent doesn't want their child going home knowing how to make traditional alfajor cookies for them?
All of the activities offered can make a person hungry, and the Four Seasons Carmelo certainly does not disappoint when it comes to food. The Balinese–decorated Pura Restaurant offers authentic Uruguayan countryside food, with a wood–burning clay oven and an indoor barbecue pit where traditional Uruguayan asado is prepared. For utmost privacy, reserve a corner table which has batik curtains that you can close off to make the dining experience more intimate. Mid–afternoon is the perfect time to enjoy a high tea in the Shiva Lounge surrounded by somewhat funky, original art pieces including animal print chairs.
Whatever you do, do not miss the chance at a private dinner for two to twelve with traditional folkloric guitar music in the Gazebo. You can enjoy a personal chef and have the best seat in the house as you watch the sun set over the Rio Plate River.
This particular luxury hotel has a decidedly casual vibe, and those guests who come looking for a relaxing experience will have a hard time leaving disappointed.
Web Address: Carmelo Resort & Spa
Total Number of Rooms: 44
Published rates: From US $550 per night
Review and three photos by Cathy Brown. Pool and lounge shots courtesy of Four Seasons Carmelo.