Planning a Brazil vacation? A local’s guide to Minas Gerais – visit for its stunning landscapes and welcoming culture.
The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is a hidden gem for the international traveler, but nationally known for its culture, history, and beautiful landscapes. The state is located in the Southeast region of the country along with famous Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. As a mineira (how the locals are called), here are my recommendations to make the most of your trip. Bear in mind that these are just a few of my choices in a myriad of options, but they are exciting and informative enough to get any traveler started.
Let’s get to it!
Culturally speaking, Minas Gerais is an incredibly rich state. The capital of Belo Horizonte is a hub for the visual arts, theatre productions, and live shows. In addition, it has an active and varied nightlife, appealing to all preferences both in terms of atmosphere and music genre.
If you’re the capital and looking for a place to contemplate art in nature, head to the Inhotim Institute, in the Belo Horizonte district of Brumadinho, the largest and most important collection of contemporary outdoor art in Brazil and Latin America. The Institute hosts more than 450 pieces of art, many of international influential artists such as Portinari and DiCavalcanti. Brazilian artists also expose their artwork there, with names like Cildo Meireles and Ernesto Neto.
To enjoy the cultural scene in the more metropolitan area of the city, head to Praca da Liberdade. Imperial palm trees will welcome you to the conglomerate of museums and outdoor murals with urban art. It is hard to choose the best place to visit with nine large spaces hosting expositions that cover a wide range of themes.
If you’re short on time and wish to see a little bit of everything along great architecture, head to Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil. If you would like to have a bit more understanding of the local history and don’t have a hard time choosing, some of the options include the Museu Mineiro, Arquivo Publico Mineiro, Memorial de Minas Gerais Vale, Museu das Minas e dos Metais or… the destination below!
Nestled in the Minas Gerais’ mountains, the city of Ouro Preto stands out for the history it carries. The name literally translated means “black gold”. As the name suggests, this precious gem was found in abundance in the region and more than 800 tons were sent to Portugal, the former Brazilian crown. Therefore, walking Ouro Preto’s irregular streets, one can still feel and even picture the colonial times that were so detrimental to shape not only the state, but Brazil as a whole. For this reason, the city was formally recognized in 1980 as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Ouro Preto is an experience in itself, but some of the spots to check out include the oldest operating theatre in Latin America, called Casa da Opera. Besides the theatre, don’t miss out on the historical churches like the Sao Francisco de Assis church and the Matriz do Pilar build on gold and painted by nationally renowned artists like Aleijadinho and Ataide.
As an insider tip, ask a local guide to take you around the city and tell the stories that only the locals know! You will be surprised!
When talking about Brazil, it’s basically mandatory to mention the country’s natural beauties. Minas Gerais, as many other states, has its nature wonders, but it specially has what’s called the Brazilian canyon, in the municipality of Capitolio. This little town has a privileged location between a national park called Serra da Canastra and a big lake called Lago de Furnas. The Canion de Furnas therefore is the combination of the two. The native vegetation and the plethora of beautifully untouched stone walls and waterways is granted to make the tourist fell small and mesmerized.
When visiting Capitolio, there are plenty of waterfall options to choose from depending on your preferences. One of the most sought after is the Lago Azul since it’s the postcard of the city and has pristine turquoise water. Another impressive waterfall is the Diquadinha that, due to its rock formation, provides a landscape different from all the others found in the area. Instead of a pristine blue, the tourist will find a slightly orange coloration to the water. For those who love adventures, the Lost Paradise is a sequence of waterfalls surrounded by the canyons and more than 18 natural pools. The spot is the perfect place to practice rapel, ziplining, diving, and hiking.
Lastly, before leaving Capitolio, make sure to the head to the Mirante dos Canions (Canyon Observatory), which is granted to give you one of the best panoramic views of this natural wonder. To get there, you will need a car ride of approximately 30 minutes and then a short walk to the top of the observatory.
If you’re tired of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo or simply just want to visit an off the beaten path place in Brazil, don’t hesitate to put Minas Gerais in your travel plans. You will forever remember the culture, the history, and exuberant nature found in the estado diamante.