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Minas Gerais is a landlocked state in Brazil that often eludes tourist itineraries. This is a pity as it has lush rolling hills, is Brazil’s center for homemade comfort food, produces the best cheese and cachaça, has proper winters, and is home to endearing towns and cities. Here are some of the most beautiful towns in Minas Gerais.
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 lots of cozy restaurants providing an opportunity to try the famous Minas Gerais cuisine, and visit nearby waterfalls and hiking trails.
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 leisurely wander around and enjoy the slow pace of the town. 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, which makes for a fun (and sleepless) Carnival.
Lavras Novas is a sleepy town in Minas Gerais and the main attraction of the area is the 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. There are basic eateries 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.
This sleepy town is popular among loved-up couples and senior citizens thanks to its peaceful surroundings and pleasant attractions that can be explored at a leisurely pace. The area is known for its hot springs, especially at Thermas Antonio Carlos, which also 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, and visiting the Bridal Veil waterfall.
Brumadinho is a tiny town with a few simple hotels and local restaurants, and it’s mostly common 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 center of the Earth and the room of speakers 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.
It’s the surrounding Serra do Cipó National Park that 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, easier trails and stunning lakeside views.
A place to relax and get away from 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 famous region 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.