There used to be a route linking the Minas Gerais state to the city of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro’s state. It is nowadays called “The Royal Route” or the “Golden Route”. Paraty was an important outlet for the gold and precious stones brought on horseback from Minas Gerais to be shipped to Portugal.
Minas Gerais is a large state of Brazil and it has extremely varied relief and vegetation. Its valleys and mountains reveal historic-baroque towns inhabited by warm-hearted and hospitable people. The second state in Brazil in terms of its economy is also known for its good and rich culinary art, famous for its tasty dishes like pão-de-queijo (cheese bread) tutu (beans prepared in the Minas Gerais style) and chicken with dark sauce. Minas Gerais occupies 588 000 km2 of Brazilian territory, an area greater than like France or Japan.
Minas Gerais has no beaches, but therapeutic waters that spring from its mineral-rich soil. With its hydro-mineral and thermal resorts it forms the water circuit, an ideal tour for the winter months of June and July.
The discovery of gold and precious stones attracted many explorers. Today, there is no longer an abundance of gold, but unforgettable landscapes remain, with buildings from the period, mountains, woods, pure air, lakes, caves, stories and legends.
Since the colonial era, Minas Gerais has stood out in Brazil because of its culture. Music, architecture, literature and the plastic arts are some of the sectors successfully developed by artists from the state.
The historic cities of the time of gold exploration are among the biggest tourist attractions of Minas Gerais. A tour through the historical part of Minas Gerais may commence with São João del Rei, with its churches, bridges, museums, monuments and colonial residences, in addition to rich craftsmanship, with items like candelabra and tea services fashioned from tin. São João del Rei preserves a railway built in 1881 which connects the town to nearby Tiradentes, an ecological haven with lakes and waterfalls in addition to monuments, museums and churches built in colonial times.
In Diamantina, in addition to churches with magnificent interiors, one will also find the only remaining example of muxarabi, a closed porch typical of the region.
Another of the towns on the circuit, Congonhas do Campo, is the site of the remarkable soapstone complex consisting of the twelve prophets and the Stages of Holy Week, masterpieces by Aleijadinho.
Created in 1711, Ouro Preto was the first capital of the state of Minas Gerais and nowadays is the city that brings together one of the most homogeneous and complete collections of baroque art in the world. Its architecture faithfully reflects Brazil’s colonial past. Its churches include São Francisco de Assis, whose architectural and artistic splendor is the work of Aleijadinho, and the Mother Church of our Lady of the Pillar, one of the richest in the country with 434 kilos of pure gold and 400 kilos of silver in its ornaments. Also in Ouro Preto is the Opera House, dating from 1770, the oldest theatre in use in the Americas, and Casa dos Contos, architecturally remarkable and serving as a prison for Tiradentes and the other members of the Inconfidência Mineira. Ouro Preto has been recognized by the UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Mankind.
The main port of entrance to Minas Gerais state is the city of Belo Horizonte. Minas Gerais can be visited all year round.