Minas Gerais and Ouro Preto
Minas Gerais is Brazil’s fourth largest state and with more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other region of the country. Rich in history, colonial gems and stunning architecture, as well as boasting a varied and stunning topography made up of lush mountain ranges, hidden caverns and crystal clear waterfalls, Minas Gerais is a captivating region to explore.
The charming colonial towns of Minas Gerais captures the history of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th Century when under the Portuguese rule. Home to copious amounts of iron, rich in gold, emerald, aquamarine, and other gemstones, the name Minas Gerais literally means “general mines”. Still today Portuguese influence remains and can be seen through the towns’ architecture, music and literature. Some of the finest examples of Baroque architecture and some of the most sublime Baroque style churches of Latin America can be found in Ouro Preto, Mariana, Tiradentes and the other gold mining towns of Minas Gerais.
The main attraction is the colonial town of Ouro Preto, at the heart of the gold rush it holds historical significance and remains one of the most charming towns in the state. It still appears as it was in the 18th century and is now a national landmark and world monument as declared by UNESCO in 1980. A glance at this past town, with its narrow cobble stone streets, is a legacy of Brazil’s colonial past and a must see for architectural enthusiasts.
Another colonial gem set in the heart of Minas Gerias is Tiradentes. It has the perfect blend of natural beauty and impressive colonial architecture; the mountainous topography scattered with wild flora immersed between charming, picturesque buildings. You can easily while away a day wandering around the abundance of quaint trinket and antique shops or venturing one of the many trails through the surrounding mountains.
In the shadows of Ouro Preto and Tiradentes, lies the oldest mining town of Minas Gerais: Mariana. This small colonial town has a beautifully preserved historic centre full of 18th century architecture and cobbled streets. So small it can easily be explored in a couple of hours and is a short car ride away from Ouro Preto.
Stepping away from the colonial charm you are rewarded with numerous hiking trails, horse riding, serene mountain lodges, spa getaways and peace and quiet. The mountains of southern Minas Gerais have a lot to offer. The Ibitipoca state park is found here where one can go on long trails and explore the beautiful waterfalls, rock formations and caverns. The park is limited to 300 visitors a day so it will never be crowded, giving you peace and quiet to enjoy the lush green surroundings. One of the peaks, Pico da Lombada, has a 360° view of the horizon and it’s definitely worth the hike!
To add to the mix, Minas Gerais is also Brazil’s favourite culinary state, well-known for its delicious cuisine made from local produce; the Brazilian cheese rolls or "pão de queijo" are their best-known dish. They are the most traditional producers of cheese in Brazil and their food festivals attract thousands of people each year.
Minas Gerais captivates the essence of ‘traditional’ Brazil. Rich in history, intricate architecture, delicious cuisine, and stunning natural wonders; it ticks all the boxes!!
When to go
The best time for travel is December through March.