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Brazil: Ouro Preto and Minas Gerais

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The open, rolling hills in the historically important state of Minas Gerais, north of Rio, are dotted with delightful colonial towns, founded to service the mining of gold, precious stones and latterly iron. Nowadays they enchant those visitors with an interest in colonial culture and history: the region is the birthplace of Brazilian independence. The university town and arts centre of Ouro Prêto is the best known, with 23 baroque churches crowning the hills. Other historic towns of interest are the less-developed but equally lovely Diamantina, Mariana and arty Tiradentes with its horse-drawn carriages and little steam train.

Minas Gerais embraces 21st century Brazil with equal enthusiasm: its capital Belo Horizonte is a regional powerhouse with a thriving cultural scene. Nearby is the vast open-air contemporary art museum and botanical park of Inhotim, unique in Brazil.

What our experts say

In my opinion, Ouro Preto itself is by far the highlight of the area.  Located just 12 km away from Mariana, the city is stunning - you do feel like you are being transported back in time.  The government, and also the EU, is awarding grants to those willing to restore the derelict buildings to their original state. This means that much of the city is restored to its 19th-century aspect. There is plenty to keep you occupied for two days.

Hannah

Hannah Donaldson

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