Brazil is a sizable nation, ranking sixth in terms of people and fifth in terms of area. Therefore, it should not surprise that distinct cultures, habits, and surprises await travelers in every region of the nation. And the state of Minas Gerais is undoubtedly one of the most stunning locations in the entire nation.
Yet hardly any foreign tourists visit Minas Gerais since they prefer to see the “big names” like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. But it’s undoubtedly one of Brazil’s top off-the-beaten-path destinations because of the region’s natural splendors, ancient cities, and friendly locals! Therefore, if you’re passing through Brazil, schedule some time to see this breathtaking area.
One reason is that it’s one of the biggest states in Brazil, which means there is a wide range both geographically and culturally. However, you’ll discover that a few things help to bring the area together. The architecture, their particular Portuguese accent, and their characteristics.
Minas Gerais is a state in southeastern Brazil, known for its rich history and natural beauty. It is the second most populous state in the country, with a population of over 20 million people. The state capital, Belo Horizonte, is a major cultural and economic center, home to numerous museums, parks, and landmarks.
Minas Gerais is also famous for its cuisine, which includes traditional dishes such as pão de queijo (cheese bread), feijão tropeiro (bean stew), and Doce de leite (milk candy). The state is also home to numerous natural wonders, including the Serra do Curral mountain range, the Canastra National Park, and the Lagoa Santa region, which contains numerous caves and underground lakes.
Overall, Minas Gerais offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that attracts visitors worldwide.
Minas Gerais has a rich and complex history closely tied to Brazil’s development as a whole. The region was initially inhabited by indigenous peoples, who the Portuguese later colonized in the 16th century. In the 18th century, the discovery of gold and diamonds in the region led to a boom in mining and the establishment of numerous towns and cities.
This period, known as the “Golden Age” of Brazil, saw the rise of a wealthy elite class and the construction of numerous churches, palaces, and other architectural landmarks. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Minas Gerais played an essential role in Brazil’s political and social history, with many prominent politicians and intellectuals hailing from the state.
The region also saw significant social and economic changes during this period, including the abolition of slavery, the growth of industry and agriculture, and the expansion of education and healthcare. Today, Minas Gerais continues to be Brazil’s cultural and economic hub, with a rich and diverse heritage that reflects its complex history.
The culture of Minas Gerais is a unique blend of indigenous, European, and African influences shaped by the region’s rich history and diverse population. One of the most prominent aspects of Minas Gerais culture is its music, which includes genres such as samba, forró, and the traditional music of the region’s rural areas.
The state is also known for its literature and visual arts, with numerous writers, poets, and artists hailing from the region. Another important element of Minas Gerais culture is its cuisine, which features a wide variety of dishes that reflect the region’s agricultural heritage and diverse cultural influences.
Some of the most famous dishes from the state include pão de queijo, feijão tropeiro, and the famous Minas cheese, which is used in a variety of dishes and desserts. Overall, the culture of Minas Gerais is a vibrant and diverse mix of traditions, reflecting the region’s rich history and cultural heritage.
Minas Gerais is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are well worth a visit. Here are three of the most notable:
This well-preserved colonial town is a masterpiece of baroque architecture, with numerous churches, public buildings, and private homes that reflect the region’s rich mining history. Highlights include the São Francisco de Assis church, the Aleijadinho Museum, and the Casa dos Contos, which houses a collection of historical artifacts.
Located in the town of Congonhas, this complex of churches, chapels, and statues is a masterpiece of baroque art and architecture. It is best known for its twelve life-size statues of prophets, carved by the famous Brazilian artist Aleijadinho.
While not technically located in Minas Gerais, this national park is a short drive from the state’s border and well worth visiting. It is home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art, with over 30,000 paintings and engravings that date back over 30,000 years. The park is also home to numerous endangered species of plants and animals, making it an important conservation site as well.
With its Swiss chalet-esque architecture, you could be wandering through a small mountainous town in Switzerland, yet, in fact, you’re in the south of Minas Gerais in a town called Monte Verde. Perched 1,500 meters above sea level, the charming town is part of the Serra da Montiqueira mountain range, exposing it to cold winters that can reach zero degrees Celsius. The town is ideal for a quiet retreat with many cozy restaurants providing an opportunity to try the famous Minas Gerais cuisine and visit nearby waterfalls and hiking.
Known for its colonial and baroque-style architecture, Tiradentes is a historical town with picturesque streets and dozens of restaurants serving regional specialties and traditional caipirinhas made with local cachaça. All of Tiradentes’ tourist sites are in its city center, inviting you to wander around leisurely and enjoy the town’s slow pace. One of the main features is the Matriz de Santo Antônio church, designed by Aleijadinho – one of Brazil’s most-celebrated sculptors – and decorated on the inside with hundreds of kilograms of gold.
Ouro Preto is one of Minas Gerais’ best-known cities, second only to Belo Horizonte, which is the state’s capital. Steeped in history that dates back to Brazil’s gold rush, there seems to be a striking landmark or architectural wonder around every corner, including dozens of baroque-style churches, fascinating museums, intricate artwork, and colonial houses. It’s known locally for the large university-student population, making for a fun (sleepless) Carnival.
Lavras Novas is a sleepy town in Minas Gerais, and the area’s main attraction is outdoor activities. Set in the middle of the mountains, the town offers far-reaching views over miles upon miles of rolling hills and grassland with plenty of things to do, such as hikes and abseiling. Basic eateries are dotted around, serving no-frills yet wholesome local cuisine and a few pousadas (simple hotels) to stay in.
Once a district of Carangola, searches on travel websites may still lump Alto Caparaó under another nearby region known as Caparaó Velho. However, the two areas are distinctly different. Alto Caparaó is ideal for those that love outdoor adventures, with the surrounding National Park of Caparaó providing days of exploring, including hiking the Pico da Bandeira, the third-highest peak in Brazil.
Other highlights include taking a dip in natural pools between 1,000 and 1,970 meters above ground level.
Many hidden gems in Minas Gerais are worth exploring beyond the well-known tourist destinations. Here are three hidden gems to discover:
This small Serra do Caraça mountain range town is known for its beautiful colonial architecture and stunning natural scenery. Highlights include the São Francisco de Assis church, which features an impressive collection of baroque art, and the Caraça Natural Reserve, which offers hiking trails, waterfalls, and opportunities to see local wildlife.
This city, located just outside of Belo Horizonte, is named for its seven lakes, surrounded by lush forests and beautiful hiking trails. It is also home to the Gruta Rei do Mato, a stunning limestone cave that features underground lakes, waterfalls, and unique rock formations.
This small town, located in the southern part of the state, is known for its bohemian vibe, mystical energy, and stunning natural scenery. Highlights include the Vale das Borboletas, a lush valley filled with waterfalls and butterflies, and the Ladeira do Amendoim, a gravity-defying hill where cars appear to roll uphill.
The town is also known for its alternative culture, with many artists, musicians, and spiritual seekers calling it home.
This sleepy town is popular among loved-up couples and senior citizens thanks to its peaceful surroundings and pleasant attractions that can be explored leisurely. The area is known for its hot springs, especially at Thermas Antonio Carlos, which offers several spa treatments and massages.
Other attractions include:
– Watching the artisan glass-makers.
– Taking the cable car to the Christ the Redeemer statue on the peak of a mountain.
– Wandering around the flower gardens.
– Visiting the Bridal Veil waterfall.
Brumadinho is a tiny town with a few simple hotels and local restaurants, and it’s most commonly used as a jump-off point to explore other nearby attractions. The most popular is Inhotim, a stimulating outdoor art gallery set inside an expansive botanical garden.
The art is interactive, such as the pipe that lets you hear the sounds of the Earth’s center and the speakers’ room, which gives the illusion of walking through a playing orchestra. Other popular tourist points include Topo do Mundo – ‘Top of the World’ – a 360-degree panoramic viewpoint.
The surrounding Serra do Cipó National Park makes Santana do Riacho worth visiting, especially for those who love hiking. The park is riddled with long hiking trails, providing days of exploring – however, they are not for the faint-hearted and require a good level of fitness to keep up with the demanding trails.
If leisurely hiking paths are more your thing, then head to Vila de Lapinha da Serra, known for its shorter, more accessible trails and stunning lakeside views.
A place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of life, São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras is a small town with a charming historic center hosting several small restaurants and accommodation options. The main appeals here are the dozens of nearby waterfalls, many of which offer quiet, refreshing pools to take a dip in, as well as the views of the Serra do Espinhaço mountain range.
Located between the Serra da Canastra (a region famous for the local Canastra cheese) and the Lago de Furnas lake, Capitólio is a picturesque town with dozens of outdoor activities. Its star attraction is the surrounding nature, with days’ worth of hiking, waterfalls, and lakes to explore. Some of the lakes are edged by rocky edges, inviting adventurous visitors to dive into the deep, crystal-clear natural pools below.
Minas Gerais has been home to many prominent personalities in various fields. Here are three famous individuals from the state:
Born in Itabira, Minas Gerais, in 1902, Carlos Drummond de Andrade is one of Brazil’s most famous poets. His works are known for their simple yet powerful language and for exploring themes such as love, death, and the human condition.
Antônio Francisco Lisboa, better known as Aleijadinho, was a famous sculptor and architect who lived in Minas Gerais during the 18th century. He is known for his intricate baroque sculptures, which can be seen in churches and public buildings throughout the state.
Born in Diamantina, Minas Gerais, in 1902, Juscelino Kubitschek was a prominent Brazilian politician who served as the country’s president from 1956 to 1961. He is known for his modernizing policies, including the construction of Brasília, the country’s new capital. His legacy continues to be felt in Minas Gerais and throughout Brazil.
Born in Belo Horizonte, Fernando Sabino was a prominent Brazilian writer and journalist. He wrote several acclaimed novels and memoirs, including “The Great Art of Living” and “The Enchanted Kingdom.”
Paulo Freire was an influential Brazilian educator and philosopher who developed a groundbreaking approach to adult literacy education. He was born in Recife but lived and worked in Belo Horizonte for many years, where he founded the Paulo Freire Institute.
This renowned Brazilian musician and composer was born in Rio de Janeiro, but he spent much of his childhood in the city of Três Pontas, Minas Gerais. Nascimento’s music often reflects his roots in Minas Gerais, blending Brazilian folk music, jazz, and rock elements.
Minas Gerais is known for its vibrant cultural scene, and several special events are worth attending throughout the year. Here are three:
Minas Gerais is known for its lively Carnaval celebrations, with cities like Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, and Diamantina hosting parades, parties, and street celebrations. The festivities usually occur in February or March, depending on the lunar calendar.
Inhotim is a world-renowned contemporary art museum located in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais. The museum hosts an annual cultural festival featuring music, dance, and other performances worldwide. The festival usually takes place in July or August.
This annual winter festival takes place in the historic cities of Ouro Preto and Mariana and features music, theater, and dance performances from both Brazilian and international artists. The festival usually takes place in July and is a great way to experience the region’s cultural richness.
This annual music and arts festival occurs at the Inhotim Contemporary Art Center, a world-renowned museum in Brumadinho, Minas Gerais. The festival features live music performances, art installations, and other cultural activities.
This traditional festival takes place in many cities throughout Minas Gerais and celebrates the Holy Spirit. The festival features processions, dances, music, and other cultural activities.
This food festival takes place in the charming historic town of Tiradentes and features cooking demonstrations, tastings, and other culinary events. Local chefs and restaurants showcase the best of Minas Gerais cuisine.
This winter festival takes place in the city of Congonhas and features classical music concerts, theater performances, art exhibits, and other cultural events. The festival takes place in the historic city center and at the famous Sanctuary of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos.
Minas Gerais welcomes travelers to discover its shopping areas and immerse themselves in the dynamic retail culture that captures the character of this alluring region with its wide variety of goods, traditional crafts, and regional specialties.
The largest mall in Belo Horizonte is the BH Shopping Centre. It includes four stories and a huge variety of shops of various kinds. The food court and various restaurants both offer a wide variety of meals. Since there is a taxi stop outside of Carrefour, getting a taxi from the mall is simple—an excellent and lovely mall.
This is a traditional mall with lots of dining options and delicious food. It boasts one excellent grocery and a fantastic movie theatre. Given its convenient location, you can certainly stroll to the diamond.
This mall is relatively modest but well-designed, offering a variety of activities, including food, shopping, movie theatres, and kid-friendly attractions. The aça bowl with banana and honey is a must-try, as is the sweet pizza with goiabada and chocolate on a thin crust.
Minas Gerais is known for its delicious cuisine, with dishes that reflect the state’s rich history and cultural influences. Here are three food items that you must try when you are in Minas Gerais:
This iconic Brazilian cheese bread originated in Minas Gerais and is a state cuisine staple. It is made with cassava flour and cheese and has a crispy outside and a soft, chewy inside. Pão de queijo is often served as a snack or breakfast food and is best enjoyed warmly in the oven.
This hearty dish is a staple of Minas Gerais cuisine and features beans, sausage, eggs, and other ingredients mixed with cassava flour and seasonings. Feijão tropeiro is often served with rice and is a popular dish for lunch or dinner.
This traditional Brazilian dessert is made by cooking sweetened condensed milk until it thickens and caramelizes. In Minas Gerais, doce de leite is often served with cheese or bread as a breakfast or dessert item. It is also used to fill cakes, pastries, and other sweets.
This dish is made with chicken cooked in a rich sauce made with pig’s blood, onions, garlic, and other seasonings. It is a traditional dish from Minas Gerais and is often served with rice and farofa (toasted cassava flour).
This dish features mashed beans mixed with cassava flour and seasonings, topped with fried pork sausage, and served with rice, farofa, and greens. It is a popular dish in Minas Gerais and is often served for lunch.
This soft, mild cheese is a specialty of Minas Gerais and is often served as a snack or breakfast item. It is made with cow’s milk and has a creamy texture and mild flavor.
Minas Gerais, a state in southeast Brazil, has a range of lodging choices to accommodate various spending limits and tastes. The following are some examples of lodging choices in Minas Gerais:
Hotels in Minas Gerais range from five-star resorts to reasonably priced lodging. Numerous hotels in cities like Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, and Tiradentes can accommodate various needs.
– Belmond Hotel das Cataratas (Belo Horizonte)
– Hotel Solar do Rosário (Ouro Preto)
– Pousada Villa Bizuca (Tiradentes)
Pousadas are traditional Brazilian inns or guest houses that can be located in rural or historical places. They give visitors a more personal and cozy experience.
– Pousada do Mondego (Ouro Preto
– Pousada Solar da Ponte (Tiradentes)
Eco-lodges give nature enthusiasts an immersive experience in Minas Gerais’ beautiful natural surroundings.
– Serra do Cipó Eco-Lodge (Serra do Cipó)
– Pousada Pico do Itambé (Serra do Espinhaço)
Visitors can enjoy traditional farm life and activities at farm stays in rural Minas Gerais.
– Fazenda Engenho da Serra (São Lourenço)
– Fazenda do Anil (São Thomé das Letras)
Apartments, villas, and cottages are just a few of the several types of holiday rentals that are offered in Minas Gerais. Depending on your tastes, you may select from various lodging options in Via del Mar on websites like Airbnb and VRBO, including condos, homes, and apartments.
These are only a few illustrations of the types of lodging offered in Minas Gerais. Every traveler’s taste and budget may be accommodated in Minas Gerais, whether they like five-star hotels, inviting pousadas, eco-lodges, farm stays, or vacation rentals.
Minas Gerais has a variety of transportation services to help you get around the state. Here are three options to consider:
Many major car rental companies have branches in Minas Gerais, making renting a car easy and exploring the state on your own. Be aware that traffic can be heavy in some cities, especially during rush hour, and driving can be challenging in some areas.
Taxis are widely available in Minas Gerais, especially in major cities like Belo Horizonte and Uberlândia. Taxis can be a convenient way to get around if you don’t want to drive, and many taxi drivers also offer private tours and airport transfers.
Minas Gerais has a bus and train network connecting cities and towns throughout the state. Buses are the most common form of public transportation, with several private and public companies operating routes. Trains are less common but are available on some routes, such as the Vitória-Minas railroad. Public transportation can be crowded and uncomfortable, especially during peak hours.