Just an hour’s flight away from cities like Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, São Paulo, Brasília and Salvador, Minas Gerais – the fourth largest Brazilian state in terms of its physical area and the second largest in population – is a destination with multiple possibilities: there are 853 municipalities that combine history, culture, heritage, natural attractions, flavours and incredible experiences that only the state has to offer. Not to mention the hospitality of Minas Gerais, a unique plus that can be experienced in every corner of the state.
A poll carried out by the Datafolha Institute identified the State of Minas Gerais as being the best historic destination in Brazil and the best nature destination in 2019. In the same year, Belo Horizonte was awarded the title of Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO, placing the state in a select international group composed of 250 cities spread across every continent.
The creative economy of the State of Minas Gerais and its entire production chain, which involves innovation, culture and entrepreneurship, also got a significant boost with the launch of the Creative Cities Network of Minas Gerais, also in 2019. In the same year, the National Survey of Sample of Households (PNAD), from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, revealed that Minas Gerais is the second most popular tourist destination in Brazil.
The state also stands out in the tourism economy. Minas Gerais was the state that registered the greatest growth in the sector last year, with a turnover of R$ 3.78 billion, according to a Demand Survey undertaken by the State. The tourist flow in Minas also posted significant numbers in 2021, with a flow of more than 6 million people, guaranteeing even greater figures than the period prior to the pandemic.
Its tradition, culture and cuisine along with the unique characteristics of its people make Minas Gerais one of the world’s ten most welcoming destinations, according to the Travellers Review Awards 2021’s global ranking, produced by the online booking platform Booking.com. It was the first time ever that a Brazilian location had been included in the list of the Most Welcoming Regions in the World.
According to the same award from Booking.com, Minas Gerais is also home to three of the 10 most welcoming regions in Brazil. According to the list that was published this year by the platform, Monte Verde, in the south of the State of Minas, appears in second place. Lavras Novas, in the Ouro Preto district, in the central region, is in seventh position. The region that rounds off the list of the most welcoming places in the country, in 10th place, is that of Serra do Cipó, which is comprised of the municipality of Santana do Riacho, and which is also located in the central region of Minas Gerais.
What to check out in Minas Gerais
With an exuberant nature, a rich historical and cultural heritage, and a unique gastronomy, Minas is the right destination for those who want to recharge their batteries, mainly because it offers a very wide range of outdoor activities. One of these is a moment of relaxation at one of Minas Gerais’ various hydro-mineral resorts, which are true natural spas: the medicinal power of the waters of Araxá, São Lourenço and Caxambu are the best known.
If your preference is for giving your mood a boost in a high adrenaline climate, how about venturing onto trails in the most beautiful mountains or abseiling in the refreshing waters of one of the thousands of waterfalls that are spread across the state?
Minas is home to 17 outstanding natural parks for tourist activity, with significant records that offer true spectacles of nature: the third, fourth and fifth highest peaks in Brazil, in the following order, Pico da Bandeira, in Caparaó National Park, Pedra da Mina, in Passa Quatro, and Pico das Agulhas Negras, in Itatiaia National Park; the state is also home to Brazil’s third largest waterfall, Cachoeira do Tabuleiro, which is located in the Municipal Natural Park of Tabuleiro, which is part of the Serra do Intendente State Park; It houses Brazil’s third largest system of lakes in the Rio Doce State Park and the largest stalactite in the world, the Perna da Bailarina, in Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park.
From a visit to a farm that produces specialty coffees to a balloon flight through Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range.
From the calm of the countryside to the cultural attractions of the state capital Belo Horizonte. From eating good Minas Gerais food in traditional bars and restaurants at night to tours to the icons of world architecture, ranging from baroque churches to Niemeyer’s modernism. Visiting Minas Gerais is to experience history in the open air in each of the centuries-old cities.
Minas Gerais is the only Brazilian state that has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Pampulha Modern Complex, the historic centres of Ouro Preto and Diamantina and the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Sanctuary, in Congonhas. 60% of Brazil’s historic heritage is in the state. Ouro Preto, Mariana, Tiradentes, São João Del Rei, Diamantina, Congonhas, Sabará and Serro, along with many others. Strolling through the streets of these cities is like stepping back in time to enjoy important works of baroque architecture, such as those by Aleijadinho and Master Athayde.
For those who enjoy nature and culture, a world-renowned attraction is the Inhotim Museum of Contemporary Art and Botanical Garden. Elected one of Brazil’s best tourist attractions for three years in a row by the Brazilian publication “Guia 4 Rodas”, it is located in the municipality of Brumadinho, in the Paraopeba Valley, just 51km from the state capital. Its botanical garden combines landscaping and environmental preservation and was nominated by an English magazine as one of the 40 most fabulous places to visit in the world.
In Belo Horizonte, there are many options in terms of cultural spaces, parks, restaurants and bars. Visiting the Central Market is a mandatory stop. There, visitors can try the famous liver with gilo, cheeses, special coffees, cachaças (Brazilian sugar cane spirit), in addition to many other specialties, which the people of Minas do so well. In Circuito Liberdade, which is located in the Praça da Liberdade, it is possible to visit 15 cultural spaces, between museums and culture and education centres, such as the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB), the Minas Gerais Memorial, the Museum of Mines and Metal, the UFMG Knowledge Space, the FIAT Culture House, the Popular Art Centre, the Mineiro Museum and BDMG Cultural, all with free exhibitions and special programs.
In July 2016, the Pampulha Modern Ensemble, a masterpiece that bears the signatures of Oscar Niemeyer, Roberto Burle Marx and Cândido Portinari, became a World Heritage Centre (Unesco). It includes the buildings and gardens of the São Francisco de Assis Church, the Pampulha Art Museum, the Ballroom and the Yacht Tennis Club, which were built almost at the same time between 1942 and 1943, in addition to the reflecting pool and the edge of the pond.
And finally, the gastronomy. The pleasure of experiencing the richness of flavours is a feeling that also attracts the tourists. The cheese bread, the feijão tropeiro (Brazilian bean dish with sausage and collard greens), the chicken in a blood sauce and the sweets and all the things that go with coffee are already famous. The largest producer of traditional cachaça in Brazil, the state’s image is linked to the typically Brazilian drink. Craft beers and olive oils have also gained greater visibility, winning international competitions. But the great star of Minas Gerais’ cuisine is, undoubtedly, its cheese. It won Gold and Super Gold Medals at France’s International Cheese Salon in 2017, and also won three bronze medals and seven silver medals. In all, Brazil won 12 medals. Since 2008, the typical way of preparing artisanal cheeses from the Serro and Serra da Canastra regions has been recognized as a Brazilian cultural heritage by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Iphan).
Local travel agencies and in-bound tourism operators
Minas Gerais’ State Department of Culture and Tourism (Secult) articulates and encourages, by means of Minas In-Bound Tourism Program, partnerships with local travel agencies and in-bound tourism operators. One of the results of this action are itineraries designed with the aim of making the tourist’s experience more profitable and increasingly safe.
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