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Ouro Preto

The masterpiece of colonial architecture in Brazil. Declared by UNESCO as a "Cultural Patrimony of Mankind". Its churches mark the culmination of Golden Age architecture, with carved works painted entirely in gold.

Discover more about Ouro Preto

The City

Ouro Preto is a treasure of details, gorgeous mansions, curved windows, with wrought-iron frames, grilled baroque balconies, antique street lanterns, and cobblestone streets that meander up and down the steep hillsides.
It is now a real univercity town with the bohemian flair that students bring.

TIRADENTES
It was the first settlement in the Rio das Mortes region when gold was found in 1702. Tiradentes, who was born here, became our national hero while participating in the lnconfidência Mineira (1789) , a republican liberation movement in Minas Gerais that was repressed by the Portuguese.

Other Historical Cities:
CONGONHAS
Congonhas contains important works from the Golden Age of Brazil. The main points of interest are Aleijadinho's sculptural masterpieces of the twelve Prophets, carved in soapstone and his sculptural representation of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross), done in polychromatic woodwork. The set of life-sized sculptures is Brazil's greatest artistic treasure.

MARIANA
The enchanted city, founded in 1696, was, for a short time the capital of State of Minas Gerais. It was originally called Royal Village of Our Lady of Carmel. In 1745 it received its present name which was in honor of Queen Maria Ana. A walk down its picturesque streets allows you to see houses which date from the beginning of the XVIII century, with their balconies of wood, iron and even soapstone.
In Minas Gerais Plaza, the churches of St. Francis of Assisi with its richly sculptured door, our Lady of Carmel, the City Hall and the Pillory can be found.

SAO JOAO DEL REI
The settlement was founded in 1703, when gold was discovered in the area. Being at the junction of the various roads that cut across the interior on the Capitania, Sao Joao always fulfilled important functions, such as the political centre and commercial axis. Significant urbane and religious architecture developed there, accumulating an excellent cultural collection.

nightlife

Ouro Preto is a university town therefore you will find a wide range of lively student bars to choose from, particularly around Tiradentes Square.

Tiradentes is a weekend hide away for many "classy" people from Rio and Sao Paulo. It is rather calm and gets a bit alive on weekends and during holidays. Don't look for your friends from Ibiza.

Restaurants

Le Coq d'or XXX $$ (Hotel Solar Nossa Senhora do Rosario) - R. Getulio Vargas, 270 (Lg. do Rosario), tel. 3551-5200; cc: all, 12h/15h, 19h/23h. French/Local.
Delicious meals enhanced by local spices, are served in a beautiful setting. Surubim (a sweet water fish) sauteed in red wine with cinnamon; duck brest fillet with pitanga sauce and pumpkin puree; pork´s loin with jabuticaba sauce. The menu changes according to the time of year.

general info

TELEPHONE AREA CODE
031

CLIMATE
The climate of Minas Gerais is characterized by two distinct seasons: the wet season (October to February) and the dry season (March to April). The rainy season is quite warm, but cooler than the heat of Rio, and has daily downpours,which luckily rarely last for long. The dry season , on the other hand, is cooler and from July to September it can actually get a little cold.

CLOTHING
The atmosphere in the historical cities is more relaxed and formal dressing is certainly not necessary. During the dry season it is recommended that you have a cardigan or jacket at hand for the cool evenings.

ELECTRICITY
110V

AIRPORT
There are two airports. Most flights arrive at the International airport, Confins, also known as Aeroporto Tancredo Neves. Other airport, Pampulha, is where the Rio and Sao Paulo shuttle flights arrive - better option for business passengers.

MEDICAL
Brazil has a number of internationally respected hospitals, clinics and doctors but treatment is expensive so visitors are strongly advised to take out medical insurance before travelling to Brazil.

how to get there

The city is 410km from Rio de Janeiro and 635km from São Paulo.
You can come flying to both airports in Belo Horizonte, Pampulha or Confins, and get a transfer to Ouro Preto.
If flight connections are late afternoon and you are not in a hurry, we recommend a calm journey first to Belo Horizonte and then you can continue the trip to the Highlands of Ouro Preto the next day. If you drive through the night, you will miss the beautiful landscape and, anyway, the main atractions in Ouro Preto don't open before noon.

Tiradentes lies towards Rio de Janeiro. It is to be preferred if you come from that side.

Night Life
history

At the end of the seventeenth century, an expedition formed by bandeirantes (inhabitants of Sao Vicente, now the state of Sao Paulo) and led by a sertanista (backcountryman) who became a legendary figure in Brazilian history, Fernao Dias Paes, penetrated the sertao in the direction of what is today the central region of Minas Gerais in search of emeralds.
Fernao Dias died in the region having found instead of emeralds only green tourmalines, but his expedition opened up a new route into the Brazilian interior. A few years later, alluvial gold was discovered in amounts never before seen in colonial Brazil by some original members of the Fernao Dias expedition.

Thus began both the history of Minas Gerais and the gold chapter in colonial Brazilian life, the so-called "Golden Age of Brazil."

When the news spread that gold had been discovered in territory then belonging to the Captaincy of Sao Vicente (Sao Paulo), garimpeiros (prospectors) poured in from all the coastal regions of Brazil, as well as from Portugal.

The early years of the gold rush in Minas were difficult ones. Hunger, violence and social conflict were endemic in the territory. Contributing to the unrest was a long-standing dispute between the Paulista bandeirantes, who saw themselves as owners of the mines they had discovered, and the outsiders, or "emboabas," who had come from other regions.

In 1708, after a conflict of several years, the emboabas who were already more numerous than the Paulistas appeared to be victorious, but the Portuguese governor of Rio de Janeiro, Antonio de Albuquerque, intervened and exiled the emboaba chief, Manuel Nunes Viana, to the Sao Francisco river region.

Population growth and the economic importance of the new region led naturally to the creation, in 1709, of the new captaincy of Sao Paulo and Minas do Ouro, with Antonio de Albuquerque as its first governor.

The gold-mining area of colonial Brazil encompassed an area greater than 2 million square kilometers, including not only the center of Minas Gerais but also parts of the current states of Goias and Mato Grosso.

The exploration for gold was a monopoly of the Portuguese crown, though it conceded mineral rights to individuals who then were required to pay taxes on the gold they mined. Production between 1700 and 1800 was estimated at 1000 metric tons. By today's standards, this may not have been a large figure, but the Brazilian gold which arrived in Europe during the eighteenth century at the beginning of the lndustrial Revolution was of enormous importance in the economic history of Western Civilization.

In 1702, the Portuguese crown, though it had not yet instituted a governmental system, created an Intendencia das Minas (Department of Mines) whose purpose was to collect taxes on mineral production, though the methods of collection varied considerably through the course of the 18th century.

In 1720, a rebellion broke out in Vila Rica, in opposition to the creation of the Casa de Fundicao (Foundry): henceforth, according to the crown, gold could circulate only after having been smelted and registered in the official foundry, which immediately collected 20% (the quinto or "royal fifth") of the total smelted. The leader of the revolt, Felipe dos Santos, was quickly defeated and condemned to death by the metropolitan (Portuguese) authorities, who also ordered that the houses of the outhers accused be burned. One can still see in Ouro Preto the Morro da Queimada (the Hill of the Burned), the area where the rebels lived.

The aggressiveness of the Mineiros, along with the smuggling and general lack of order in the region, finally persuaded the Portuguese to create, on September 12, 1720, the captaincy of Minas Gerais, which in turn stimulated further urban growth in the region.

An additional source of wealth were the diamonds (the mining of which, like that of other precious stones, was a monopoly of the crown) which were discovered in the Diamond District, created in 1734 in the region whose principal towns today are Diamantina and Serro.

Portugal refined its system of collecting tributes and taxes in the region still further by prohibiting, in 1725, the circulation of gold dust. it was stipulated that the treasury receive a minimum of 100 arrobas (around 1,500 kilos) per year, which would require an annual production of around 7,500 kilos. If that total were not reached, the local population whould have to pay an additional "derrama" (levy), an event which actually happened in 1762 and 1768.

Meanwhile, from 1762 on, the mines were showing signs of exhaustion, and the royal fifth never again reached 100 arrobas. In 1773, during the administration of D. Rodrigo Jose de Menezes, the Junta da Real Fazenda (Royal Treasury Committee, responsible for tax collection) sent a representative to the king to indicate the impossibility of reaching the figure of 100 arrobas. Despite this, the cities of gold grew, the population put down deep roots in the region and the colonial arts (music, painting, sculpture, architecture) took on forms and characteristics which would give them a distinct identity.

In July, 1788, a new governor - Luis Antonio Furtado de Menezes, Viscount Barbacena - arrived in Minas Gerais with special instructions to bring order into the Captaincy in which gold production was declining and social unrest increasing.

A new levy was required to satisfy Portuguese demands; but times had changed and the Mineiros planned to resist. The governor learned of the plot and the Inconfidencia Mineira (Rebellion) was aborted - but the tax was not levied. Not many years later, the old absolutist colonial system collapsed. But from the Golden Age remained the legacy of beautiful cities such as Ouro Preto, their churches and the Baroque art of Brazilian interior. And it is this legacy which we are going to see and experience.

Text from: Visiting Ouro Preto, Mariana and Congonhas; Ouro Preto Turismo.

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