Minas Gerais is located in the center of the country, far from the beaches. Yet it is one of the top Brazilian destinations for tourists coming from around the world.
Situated inland, it is an excellent and popular destination for cultural and gastronomic tourism.
Thanks to the prosperity of the time of the gold miners, some small mining towns have become real architectural treasures that have been preserved until today. It is these monuments that testify to the glory of the past that we encourage you to visit through a tour between the cities of Tiradentes, Marianna and Ouro Preto, three highlights of the Baroque Mineiro. Ouro Preto for example, is now classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
As Stefan Zweig wrote so well, left fascinated by his visit to Minas Gerais ,
” we feel that a mystery is hidden under this earth, these stones, these streams” .
On your Minas Gerais vacation
you will visit :
The colonial towns of Ouro Preto and Mariana
São João del Rei and Congonhas
Minas Gerais – Itinerary at a glance :
- 2 nights in a double room with breakfast at Luxor Ouro Preto
- 1 night in double room with breakfast at Brisa da Serra pousada
- Private car with driver for 4 days for all trips as detailed in the itinerary.
- The services of an English speaking guide for the duration of the trip
- Entrances to all monuments and museums
A Minas Gerais vacation, a chance to visit the masterpieces of Brazil’s Baroque heritage
Minas Gerais translates as “General Mines”, that is to say gold mines, in reference to its mineral wealth exploited by Portuguese settlers.
They were what ensured the prosperity of the Portuguese crown between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 19th century. The accumulation of all these riches by the landowners has been the vector of an important cultural and artistic development , leading among other things to the construction of magnificent architectural treasures in a Baroque style specific to the region, at the crossroads between Portuguese heritage and the Dutch and German influence. Thanks to important measures implemented to restore and maintain all this historical heritage, Minas Gerais and its baroque cities today form a part of the memory of the Portuguese colonial empire of Brazil.
On the steep narrow cobbled streets of the historic districts or from the São Sebastian viewpoint above Ouro Preto , you will plunge into an atmosphere reminiscent of life in the glorious past of these cities. A perfect backdrop to admire the solemn beauty of churches like that of Santo Antonio in Tiradentes.
A prosperous history guided by the arts
With an important cultural and artistic heritage, Minas Gerais is an ideal destination for travelers interested in the history of Brazil.
Lovers of art and particularly baroque architecture will delight in following the route through the cities of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Congonhas, São João del Rei and Mariana. Contemporary art lovers will delight in the Imhotim Park, the largest outdoor museum of contemporary art in the the world! It is located 60 kilometers from the regional capital Belo Horizonte, which is also interesting to visit.
Belo Horizonte has a well developed intellectual and artistic side with many museums, a theatre with an annual festival, the FIT BH and venues dedicated to music of all styles. In the 1920s it was an important literary center and gave to Brazil some of its most illustrious authors such as Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the greatest Brazilian poet of the 20th century.
Ouro Preto, capital of the Brazilian Gold rush and Baroque gem
First capital of the state of Minas Gerais, the city owes its name, “Black Gold”, to the coffee that brought prosperity back to this city born of the gold mines.
Originally named Vila Rica, it was founded in the early eighteenth century after the discovery of gold in the region at the end of the previous century; this would be followed by exponential growth. Less than fifty years after its creation, Ouro Preto (Ouro Preto) was a bigger city than Rio de Janeiro!
The prosperity of the city has enabled its inhabitants to build many remarkable buildings including beautiful Baroque churches. After the depletion of gold deposits in the region, it quickly depopulated, but the magnificent buildings remained. Residents who chose to stay have maintained these buildings by occupying them over the years. Today you can admire the sculptures of Alejadinho, the most famous local artist in a state almost identical to the time when gold reigned supreme over this city.
This baroque city has many buildings, squares and sculptures scattered on the steep slopes of the surrounding hills. In the middle of this labyrinth, you wander through narrow, cobbled streets, admiring the surrounding landscape as you pass by rooftops with the sensation of having gone back in time. It is this extraordinary architectural heritage, practically intact, that has earned this small town the honour of being the first site in Brazil classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
In Congonhas, discover Aleijadinho’s masterpiece
Nestled in a small valley 70 km from Belo Horizonte, Congonhas is a small town also born from the Mineiro Gold Rush.
However, unlike cities such as Ouro Preto, it bounced back when the precious metal ran out thanks to the large iron deposits nearby. The city is best known as the Cidade dos Profetas, the city of the prophets, in reference to the sculptures of the 12 prophets of the Bible installed in front of Santuário do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. These works are the result of the work of Aleijadinho, the greatest master of Baroque art in Brazil, who also decorated the entire sanctuary. Between September 7th and 14th of each year there is an important Catholic pilgrimage to this sanctuary attracting millions of faithful, so it is better to avoid this period for a tourist stay. It is classified as World Heritage of Humanity since 1986.
Visits to Congonhas consist mostly of visits to the many religious sanctuaries from this period of Baroque prosperity as well as for the rustic beauty of its landscapes. But it is also a stop on the gold route from Ouro Preto to Paraty on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Complement your trip in Minas Gerais
Belo Horizonte, the “Garden City”
The capital of Minas Gerais is a relatively new city since it was founded just over a century ago. It is in fact a city resolutely turned towards modernity.
It is the third most prominent economic center of the country and the third largest city in number of inhabitants after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with 4 728 059 inhabitants in 2010 according to the IBGE , the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Nestled between the mountains that protect it from the hot northern and cold southern winds, the city enjoys a temperate climate with a dry and cool winter and a hot and humid summer with frequent showers.
With no less than 27 public parks reinforced by more than 500 tree-covered squares, Belo Horizonte is one of the greenest cities in Brazil, earning it the title of “Cidade-jardim” literally the garden city. We would especially recommend a visit to the Municipal Park Américo Renné Giannetti the oldest park in the city, modelled on the French gardens of the “Belle Epoque”.
Inhotim contemporary art museum and botanical gardens
Located about sixty kilometers from the capital of Minas, Inhotim is the result of the crazy project of a rich local entrepreneur, Bernardo de Mello Paz.
He chose to install a huge landscaped park in the small town of Brumadinho, in which he has been exhibiting works of contemporary art from around the world since 2004. The site has been open to the public since 2006. It is located on 800 hectares, 140 of which are open to the public today, composed of more than 450 works by contemporary artists, such as Chris Burden and Paul Mac Carthy, in 11 galleries. Every year sees the appearance of new works and galleries, and the park continues in a state of constant expansion.
You can also enjoy the botanical park which is part of the facilities of Inhotim. Here, you can admire a large collection of rare plants from around the world including a specimen of the largest flower in the world, the Arum Titan, which can weigh up to 75 kilos!
A park, museum and artists’ residence, the Inhotim is an extremely unique place that offers you the opportunity to take a step in the artistic direction in a more artisanal Brazilian tour!
Detailed Itinerary :
DAY 1: Belo Horizonte / Ouro Preto
Once you arrive at Belo Horizonte airport, you will meet your driver and your English speaking guide waiting to take you on the first leg of the trip, to the small town of Ouro Preto (2 hours).
Depending on the arrival time of your flight, the guide will offer to take you on a short tour of Belo Horizonte so that you can enjoy the regional capital.
During this short visit to the capital of Minas Gerais, you have the opportunity to discover “Israel Pinheiro,” renamed Pope’s Square after the visit of John Paul II in 1980, from where you will enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
You walk around the vast and elegant Liberty Square with its pond and tree-lined walkways, surrounded by old Reformed buildings which became museums and cultural centers. Finally, you cross the architectural complex of Pampulha conceived by the greatest of modern Brazilian architects, Oscar Niemeyer.
Arrival in Ouro Preto.
Check in at hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 2: Mariana / Ouro Preto
You start the day with a hearty “Manha Mineiro,” the local breakfast.
Transfer of about twenty minutes by car to reach the nearby city of Mariana, the first city of Minas Gerais.
There, you take a tour of the city to admire its picturesque streets and squares and visit the Cathedral da Sé. You will also see, among other monuments and local museums, the Minas Gerais square, perched on the side of the mountain and bordered by Casa da Câmara and Cadeia, the church of São Francisco de Assis and the church Nossa Senhora do Carmo (entries not included). Note, everything is closed on Monday. As an option it is possible to visit a gold mine outside the city.
Around noon, you return to Ouro Preto where you can have lunch (not included).
In the afternoon, visit Ouro Preto.
During this walk in the steep and cobbled streets of the Baroque city you visit the Museum of Mineralogy, and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi among other known places. It is a true journey through time to which you are invited while strolling between small places and paved lanes. The dreamiest will have no trouble imagining the time of gold seekers and Bandeirantes, private militias who imposed the law at the service of the powerful. A nice getaway to experience Brazilian colonial history.
Overnight at the Luxor or Solar do Rosario hotel in Ouro Preto.
DAY 3: Ouro Preto / Congonhas / São João Del Rei / Tiradentes
After a good breakfast, you join your driver and your guide waiting for you at the reception.
You take the road early in the morning to reach the city of Congonhas (about 1 hour of travel).
Once there, visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus Matozinhos and the Chapel of the Prophets. This is the true masterpiece of the greatest sculptor of the Brazilian Baroque era, Aleijadinho. A real must for all visitors passing through the region.
Then you continue your journey along the gold route to reach the city of São João del Rei a little over 100 kilometers from Congonhas.
During this journey of about an hour, you can admire the landscape of the countryside of Minas Gerais which is not unlike that of Europe; valleys covered with successions of pastures, crops and forest, but with a tropical touch.
At your destination, you will visit the Church of St. Francis of Assisi with its impressive moldings foreshadowing the Rococo style. You complete the discovery of São João del Rei by panoramic tour to see the highlights.
After the tour of the city, you take the road, this time to reach your stop for the day, the city of Tiradentes a few kilometers away.
This is named after the revolutionary of the same name who was killed for encouraging an attempt to bring independence to the region. This village of 7000 inhabitants has both the charm of old stones and the interest of a particularly well preserved historic site. It invites the visitor to walk between the immaculate facades with colorful shutters that characterize its virtually unchanged streets for nearly 300 years. Do not miss a visit to the famous Matriz Santo Antonio church, built in 1710 and fully covered with gold leaf inside.
Arrival in Tiradentes and free time.
Overnight at the Brisa da Serra pousada in Tiradentes.
DAY 4: Tiradentes / Belo Horizonte
You will begin your last morning of this journey with an excellent traditional breakfast at the restaurant of the pousada.
Leave with your guide to visit the city.
During the walk you will pass by the famous church of San Antonio but also the museum of Father Toledo and the fountain of St. Joseph which has faithfully provided spring water to the village for almost three centuries!
After the visit, it is time to take the road for the transfer back to Belo Horizonte (about 2:30).
Arrival at the end of the afternoon in view of the capital.
Transfer to the airport and end of our services.
Note: it is also possible to reach Rio de Janeiro by road, the journey takes 5 to 6 hours depending on the traffic. You can also consider making a stopover in Petropolis, once the resort town of the Emperor of Brazil, to spend the night there and visit it the next day before going to Rio.
Accommodation in Minas Gerais
Hotel Luxor Ouro Preto (standard)
The Luxor Hotel offers a journey back in time with its 19 simple rooms furnished with replicas of colonial furniture giving them a very local rustic charm. This small hotel is housed in a beautiful 18th-century building conveniently located in the historic center of Ouro Preto, a 5-minute walk from Tiradentes Square and Matriz Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church. A nice restaurant and free parking complete this beautiful offer. Without doubt one of the best value for money to stays in the center of a historic atmosphere.
Hotel Solar do Rosario (superior)
With 41 rooms and suites set within a former 19th century hotel completely renovated in 2009, the charming hotel Solar do Rosario offers a very pleasant stay.
It is best equipped for the comfort of its guests and offers a garden, two swimming pools, one outdoor and one indoor, as well as an excellent restaurant. The decor is elegant and plunges you into a colonial atmosphere with emphasis on comfort and antique furniture. This is the best address in the city. An establishment for all travelers looking for superior services and an authentic setting for a stay where comfort rhymes with tranquility.
Pousada Brisa da Serra (Standard & Superior)
The pousada Brisa da Serra is without a doubt the finest hotel in Tiradentes and maybe even the Minas Gerais Package that we offer. Set in a large garden on a hill with a beautiful view of Serra Sao José, beautiful stone buildings and a swimming pool await you for a stay of charm and comfort.
In an atmosphere at the crossroads between colonial spirit with furniture and architecture and modernity using bright colors, waxes and lazures, the 16 beautiful suites of this hotel will make you fall in love with their charms. A step in this pousada is a wonderful opportunity to finish this trip in beautiful Minas Gerais! An imperative stop for all travelers!
Top Minas Gerais FAQs
When is the best time to travel to Minas Gerais?
The best time to travel to Minas Gerais is between April and October when there is least rainfall. June and July are the most pleasant months to be in Minas Gerais in terms of weather – it is dry and sunny with average temperatures between 20 °C / 68°F and 25 °C / 77°F. It is warmer during the rainy season, with the warmest month being January, which means the scenery is lush, green and extremely beautiful, but if you would rather stay dry, then go outside the months from November to March.
What are the top places to see in Minas Gerais?
Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais and known for excellent cuisine. Apart from taking enough time to sample the local gastronomy you should stop off at “Pope´s Square” (originally Israel Pinheiro but renamed after the visit of John Paul II in 1980). Here you can enjoy one of the best landscape views of the city. Take a walk around “Liberty Square” and bask in calm ambience among walkways lined with trees, beautiful ponds and old buildings that have been refurbished and reformed into cultural centers and museums.
“Pampulha” is the area that boasts extensive and impressive architecture conceived by Oscar Niemeyer, the world – renowned Brazilian architect, definitely worth a look! If you are interested in contemporary art then you must take some time to visit Inhotim Park, about 60km outside Belo Horizonte, it is the largest outdoor contemporary art museum in the world! Look out for “FIT – Festival Internacional de Teatro Palco e Rua de Belo Horizonte” the theatre and arts festival that happens every two years.
When in Minas Gerais, Mariana is an essential stop. Mariana is the oldest city in Minas Gerais, so it attracts national and international visitors. Its streets are “picture postcard Minas Gerais” and have a very colonial feel. “Catedral Sé da Mariana” is the cathedral in the city and one of the top tourist attractions. Head over to Minas Gerais square, perched on the side of a mountain, the “Casa da Câmara and Cadeia”, an important colonial historic site is nearby. Also in the area, you will find “São Francisco de Assis” and “Nossa Senhora do Carmo” churches. They are beautifully decorated on the inside and for a small visitor´s fee, you can go in and look around. Remember, most of these tourists sites are closed on Mondays.
It is worth traveling to Congonhas so you can see the famous work of sculptor “Aleijadinho.” The “Basilica de Bom Jesus Matozinhos” and the “Chapel of the Prophets” are highlights and truly show the extraordinary talent of the renowned Brazilian. Famous works include the sculptures of the 12 prophets of the Bible in front of Santuário do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. São João del Rei is about 100 km away from Congonhas and is worth visiting to see “The Church of St Francis of Assisi.” It features grand decoration in a rococo style with baroque features sculpted by Aleijadinho as well. Finally, we recommend visiting Tiradentes, a charming and welcoming village where you can learn the story of Brazilian rebel after whom the town was named. This colonial town gives the impression that time has stood still for 300 years and you will be amazed at the gold leaf covered interior of the local “Matriz Santo Antonio church”.