Along the Gold Trail

Along the Gold Trail

This fascinating self-drive tour will discover some of the ecological, colonial gems and historical hotspots of Minas Gerais state. Landing in Belo Horizonte, the road leads first to the Parque Natural do Caraça, known for its scenic lakes and mountains, walking trails and wildlife. From Caraça, it is onward to Ouro Preto, a town which came to prominence during the early years of Brazil’s goldrush, and offers a fascinating insight into the regions heritage and culture. Having explored Ouro Preto and the famous mines surrounding the town, the road leads to the village of Tiradentes; one of the finest, and best-preserved areas of colonial architecture and history. Tiradentes is the perfect base to explore the picturesque roads and cultural centres of the region, before making a final, cross-country journey to the small municipality of Brumadinho, known for the highly inspirational, accessible and cutting-edge art installations to be found in the open spaces of the Inhotim museum.

Highlights:
♦ The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ouro Preto and the Basilica in Congonhas.
♦ The famous Gold mine of Minas de Passagem.
♦ Discover Brazil’s layered history in Ouro Preto and Tiradentes.
♦ Charming towns in Minas Gerais.


Itinerary:

Day 1. From Belo Horizonte to the Parque Natural do Caraça
Collecting your hire car from Belo Horizonte Airport, begin the scenic 4-hour drive to the Caraça Natural Park, a 27,000 acre protected region of pristine wilderness, known for an abundance of trekking trails and adventure activities available for explorers of all abilities and interests. The wide-ranging hiking and biking routes around Caraça transcend cascading waterfalls, lakes, and endless natural flora, with many of the pathways ultimately leading past the ‘Santuário do Caraça’, an 18th-century sanctuary founded by brother Lourenço. The site had previously served as a school for some of the Brazilian elite, before a neo-gothic church of Nossa Senhora Mãe dos Homens, with its magnificent stained glass windows, was erected next-door, returning the Caraça Sanctuary to its more spiritual roots.
On arrival, check in to the ideally located Pousada do Caraça, part of the Convent, where you can witness the night-time feeding of local ‘guará’ (maned) wolves on the staircase of Nossa Senhora Mãe dos Homens; a tradition started by the late brother Tobias, who used to reside within the sanctuary. 
+/- 130km

Day 2. Full day in the Caraça Natural Park
Today, enjoy the trails, waterfalls, vistas and mountain walks in the Caraça Mountains. Overnight at Pousada do Caraça

Day 3. From Caraça to Ouro Preto with a stop at Mariana and the visit of the Gold Mines
This morning, set-off on a fascinating journey, ultimately heading toward Minas Gerais’s historical jewel, the gold mining town of Ouro Preto, and the first Brazilian city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the way, just 2 hours from Caraça, stop at the quaint town of Mariana, and the underground world of Minas de Passagem. Formerly at the centre of Brazil’s ‘Goldrush’, these 17th and 18th-century tunnels were home to fortune hunters for nearly 300 years, before opening up to tourists, and now forming one of the largest publicly accessible mines of its type in the world. An original mine cart will take visitors deep underground, before having the chance to walk the tunnels and get a feel for the life of those who (sometimes forced) worked here, before watching the sun set slowly over the mountains, and continuing to Ouro Preto for the night.
+/- 100km

Day 4. Exploring Ouro Preto
Located high in the misty mountains of the Serra do Espinhaço, the name ‘Ouro Preto’ comes from that given to a previously unknown black metal which was discovered in 1693 by a party of Bandeirantes (settlers from São Paulo, who, among other things, hunted native Indians to capture as slaves). The metal turned out to be gold mixed with iron ore, and caused an influx of fortune seeking immigration. The wealth which resulted from its extraction caused an unprecedented surge in prosperity and cultural expression. Consequently, great artists such as Manuel da Costa Athaíde (painter), and Antônio Francisco Lisboa (sculptor) emerged, making Ouro Preto home to one of the largest collections of Baroque art in the world. Today is best spent absorbing the timeless charm of this undiscovered cultural epicentre by wandering its cobblestone streets, and visiting Ouro Preto’s historical highlights, such as the the Museu da Inconfidência, and 18th-century churches of São Francisco de Assis and Nossa Senhora do Pilar, with the latter being one of Minas Gerais’ most opulent. Ouro Preto is also a vibrant and lively town, due to, among other thing, its population of students attending the University of Geology and Mining.

Day 5. Onward to Tiradentes
This morning, the journey continues with a 5-hour drive to the picturesque colonial town of Tiradentes. Founded in 1719 as Vila de São José do Rio das Mortes, Tiradentes received its name in the 19th century from the martyred hero of the 1789 Minas Conspiracy against the Portuguese. Originally named Joaquim da Silva Xavier; he, and six conspirators, plotted to bring independence to Brazil, but the plan was exposed and Tiradentes himself was executed. As this drive passes along the way the UNESCO World Heritage site of Congonhas, we recommend to break up the journey here to visit the Basilica do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos with his worldfamous statues: The 12 Prophets, by Aleijadinho, also known as the Brazilian Michelangelo. Blending the quaint charm of historic houses, antique shops and wildflowers, against the backdrop of lush mountains littered with excellent hiking trails, the sleepy, small town of Tiradentes is one of the best-preserved examples of period architecture in the region, and in the most serene of settings. Undulating hills and forest reserves fill the horizon as the road snakes through the countryside.
+/- 160km

Day 6. Exploring more of Minas Gerais
The State of Minas Gerais is awash with historical jewels, culturally significant sites and picturesque towns. One particularly charming location to explore today, within easy driving distance of Tiradentes, is the colonial municipality of São João del Rei, which can be accessed aboard an old steam train on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This 18th-century town is known as a fantastic place to enjoy the tight cobbled streets, stone bridges, and European style colonial townhouses which characterise much of Minas Gerais. Wherever this day leads; an evening spent in one of the charming, traditional restaurants of Tiradentes is a perfect way to end it. This centre of gastronomy is particularly known for its excellent Mineiro cuisine.

Day 7. From Tiradentes to Brumadinho
As the tour draws gradually to a close, the final leg is a 4-hour drive to Brumadinho. This rural municipality has a vibrant and evolving art scene just a few kilometres from its centre, at the Inhotim museum. With sculptures lining the pathways and parks of this predominantly outdoor exhibition, and creative installations continually emerging in open spaces, many of these works are incredibly expressive, some abstract, and others are simply beautiful to look at. From multicoloured Volkswagen Beetles sheltering under the trees to polished marble sculptures and mirrored domes; the Inhotim museum is a fascinating exploration of Brazil’s cutting-edge art world in the most unlikely of places. Having checked into the hotel on arrival, enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. 
+/- 200km

Day 8. Full day tour of the Inhotim art exhibition
Situated within 87 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, Inhotim was the brainchild of local businessman Bernardo Paz, who had a life-long passion for art and sought to offer a platform for Brazil’s contemporary art movement, without the limitations of a traditional museum. The park is varied, and a joy to explore, with the gardens being punctuated by abstract installations and interactive art-pieces, as well as indoor spaces housing painted works and ‘mood-scapes’. Inhotim has the ability to create a dreamlike state as you wander the pathways and absorb the abstract, though highly sophisticated works throughout, making this a haven for those inspired by innovative architecture and contemporary art. The complex is spread out among a vibrant tropical botanical garden, with many native flowers and shrubs including over 1,400 palm species, making it one of the biggest collections of its type anywhere in the world.

Day 9. Homeward bound
From Brumadinho, this invigorating tour concludes back at Belo Horizonte airport, around a 2-hour drive, where you will return the hire car and continue your onward journey.
+/- 100km

Recommended travel period of the year: Possible year round, April – September are the cooler months. Most precipitation in December and January


Price Includes:
8 nights in hotels based on double or twin in the selected hotel category
Breakfast included throughout
Air-conditioned rental car including insurance
Self-drive information pack with itinerary and small route maps

Not Included:
International air fares and Domestic flights
Excursions
Lunch & dinner and restaurant recommendations unless stated
Transfers from restaurants unless stated
Tips
insurance and other personal expenses


Gallery


Along the Gold Trail (Rated 4.77 / 5 Based on 181 Reviews.)
Group Size
Min. 2
Reservation System Code
BRSELF
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