Minas Gerais remains largely under the radar of Brazil’s tourist throngs, despite being home to beautiful natural landscapes, richly traditional Brazilian culture, and more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else in the country. The capital of Minas Gerais is Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third-largest city and a thriving hub of cuisine, culture and cosmopolitanism.
An area larger than France and composed largely of fertile valleys, soaring mountains and historic mining towns, Minas Gerais is also renowned nationally for its cuisine and musical traditions. The south of the state is home to a number of natural mineral springs, which visitors flock to for their supposedly restorative powers. Chief among these is Caxambu, formerly a favourite holiday spot of the Brazilian royal family, which has Asian-style bathhouses around the springs.
An anomaly in the otherwise conservative state of Minas Gerais is São Thomé das Letras, a hub for New Age mysticism. Those of a certain inclination believe that the town is a potent energy nexus and even welcomes regular visits from UFOs. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s a nice place to relax and take in the views of the surrounding fertile countryside from its high vantage point.
Three and a half hours by road inland from Rio de Janeiro, or an hour’s flight to Juiz de Fora airport, you’ll discover The Ibitipoca Reserve, an ambitious 3000 hectare private nature reserve and sustainability initiative. A stay here is all about exploring pristine rainforest, lush green valleys and tumbling waterfalls: it’s a truly stunning natural hideaway. At the heart of the reserve is the 18th century farmhouse of Fazenda do Engenho, one of Brazil’s finest small hotels, from which you can embark on daily guided excursions either by foot on or on horseback and make the most of your spectacular surroundings.