After a long drive from São Paulo we arrived in Minas Gerais. The district is about 10x the size of Switzerland and full of hikes, big cities, cute towns, spelunking and more.
Beyond Brazil’s most famous waterfall we found smaller but more beautiful pieces of nature.
Brazilian people have been some of the kindest we’ve met on the trip, even though we don’t speak Portuguese. When we meet someone that does speak English/German/Spanish, they’re so warm and helpful. And then the Pão de Queijo…..
Our first stop was to check out the Furnas dam. Then behind the Furnas dam is a giant resovoir with waterfalls and canyons you can explore by boat. It hadn’t rained much recently so the waterfalls were pretty small. In spite of that the tour was enjoyable and finished off at a bar only accessible by boat.
Serra da Canastra
This National Park is close to Capitólio and offered up more waterfalls and some hikes. We only allotted ourselves time for one hike, so we went to the beautiful waterfall Casca D’Anta. We took the backroads out from there hoping to loop around to where we started. After about 2 hours on rough roads and just km shy of our goal, found an impassable spot of road. Well, maybe passable, but after our off-road adventure in Ecuador, we didn’t want to tempt fate and turned around. Sunlight was running out so we pulled over along the road and camped among shrubs and cows.
Minas Gerais is the birthplace of Brazil’s greatest culinary invention – Pão de Queijo. It’s a chewy cheesy bread ball that Rachel may be a bit obsessed with. In Belo Horizonte, we found the epicenter of great PdQ at a restaurant that serves burgers, sandwiches and more on the bread. That and a beer tasting at a great brewery were the highlights for this big city.
Gruta Rei do Mato
Minas Gerais has a lot of cool caves, but we definitely found the coolest. We’ve checked out a lot of caves at home and on the road so we consider ourselves experienced in tourist spelunking and can say with confidence (and no authority) that this cave was awesome. You quickly go down a steep staircase until 30m below ground and marvel at the huge stalagmites and stalactites.
Lapinha da Serra
This was a nice hike to a low peak with views towards Serra do Cipó National Park.
Cachoeira do Tabuleiro
One of the largest waterfalls in Brazil was more of a trickle.. Is It still a waterfall if the water evaporates before reaching the ground? The trail was short hike down steep staircases followed by climbing over large rocks. Fun and beautiful, even if a bit dry.
Hilly Ouro Preto full of beautiful baroque colonial buildings. This town was the center of the Brazilian gold rush and that abundance of wealth is clear in the abundance of churches. It’s probably the cutest town we’ve visited since Guanajuato. It is the most famous of the many colonial towns on the Estrada Real. We would have explored more if we had the time.
Our last stop in Minas Gerais was another adorable baroque town along the Estrada Real, Tiradentes. We met Brazilian Land Rover campers at the camp site outside of town and enjoyed the cute town.
An old steam locomotive takes tourists for a ride on weekends and goes right past the campground. We got to watch it pass by a few times during our stay!