Ouro Preto is a UNESCO World Heritage town in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil that is known for its beautiful churches and colonial-era significance. Although, it’s not your typical sleepy colonial town, as it has 80,000 residents and a university. The historic center is built into the hillside, which makes for sweeping views around every corner. However, the steep, brick roads mean that you’ll have to put away your Havaianas for a few days.
Ouro Preto sits at 1,000 meters above sea level and it’s less humid than the coast. This makes it one of the few places in Brazil where you can take advantage of the hiking trails without suffering in the heat.
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How to Get There
The bus ride from Rio de Janeiro to Ouro Preto is about 9 hours. If you are traveling by bus from another town in Minas Gerais, you will likely have to switch buses in Belo Horizonte, which is 2.5 hours away.
Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of both buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!
What to Do
Inconfidence Museum – Located in the former town jailhouse, this museum details life in Ouro Preto under Portuguese rule and the failed independence movement. The entrance is free and it’s open from Tuesday to Saturday.
Visit the churches – Seemingly everywhere you look in Ouro Preto there is a 300-year-old church in sight. A common theme among churches here is an elaborate gold altar, but apart from that, they are quite unique. A few must visits are Basilica de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, Igreja São Francisco de Assis, Igreja Matriz de Santa Efigenia, and Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo. The entrance costs R$5-10 each.
Parque das Andorinhas – Just outside of town is a park with hiking trails and natural pools. Looking at the trail map of Las Andorinhas, it seems like there are enough trails to spend the day here. Unless you are willing to head down the trail with a warning sign for snakes, you’ll more than likely only spend a couple of hours here. It’s about a 45-minute walk from town to the park or you can take a taxi.
Morro São Sebastião Lookout – A nice spot for views of Ouro Preto and the surrounding landscape.
Spend a day in Mariana – Just 20 minutes away is the region’s oldest town, which also has a well-preserved historic center. It’s not quite as beautiful as Ouro Preto, but it’s certainly more colorful. The best thing to do here is a 3-hour round trip hike to Pico da Cartuxa. Buses run frequently between Ouro Preto and Mariana.
Where to Eat
Santa Matula Casa Bistrô – There is no signage and the door remains closed at this discreet restaurant. From the outside, it looks like just another house, and the only way to reserve a table is by sending a message via WhatsApp.
Seu José – Albeit with a limited menu, their regional plates are delicious.
Açaí Brasil Artesanal – Açaí is a necessity after any outdoor activity in Brazil and this is some of the best you’ll find.
Where to Stay
É Hostel – A hostel with a great location, friendly staff, and nice views from the terrace.
Buena Vista Hostel – Although it’s a 15-minute walk to the town center, the views are fantastic at this homely hostel.
How Long to Stay
3 days is a good amount of time to spend in Ouro Preto before heading elsewhere in Brazil.
Where to Next
Tiradentes (6 hours by bus) – A beautiful colonial town known for its fabulous restaurants.
Diamantina (9 hours) – A laidback, authentic colonial town with nearby waterfalls.
Rio de Janeiro (9 hours) – One of the world’s most iconic cities known for its beaches, viewpoints, and samba parties.