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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.

Our insider tips for Ouro Preto and Minas Gerais

Laura

Laura Rendell-Dunn

Wandering the crooked steeply-cobbled lanes of Ouro Prêto, browsing the jewellery and gem shops for a bargain.

David

David Nichols

Gazing up at the Church of São Francisco de Assis, masterpiece of Brazilian colonial baroque art, by the renowned Aleijadinho. It’s in Ouro Prêto’s main square, Praça Tiradentes.

Chris

Chris Rendell-Dunn

Riding the little train down into the Mina de Passagem museum outside Mariana, where the machinery is still proudly labelled “Made in England” (the mines were under British control in the 19th century).

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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