In 1865 the Liebig Extract of Meat Company located its pioneer South American plant near the river town of Fray Bentos, 35km west of Mercedes. It soon became Uruguay’s most important industrial complex. British-run El Anglo took over operations in the 1920s and by WWII the factory employed 4000 people, slaughtering cattle at the astronomical rate of 2000 a day.
Long a mecca for surfers, laid-back La Pedrera sits atop a bluff with magnificent sweeping views of the beaches stretching north toward Cabo Polonio and south toward La Paloma. In recent years, the town has also become famous for its Carnaval, which has grown increasingly raucous with the influx of out-of-town visitors.
Parque Nacional Santa Teresa
This national park, 35km south of the Brazilian border, is administered by the army and attracts many Uruguayan and Brazilian visitors to its relatively uncrowded beaches. It offers 2000 dispersed campsites (UR$170 to UR$220 per person) in eucalyptus and pine groves, a very small zoo and a plant conservatory.