South American towns like Cusco and San Pedro de Atacama lie buried under throngs of tourists. However, three of Minas Gerais’s colonial gems wait for foreign discovery.   

The settlements of São João del Rei, Tiradentes, and Ouro Preto belong to the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Thick green jungle hiding monkeys and coities surrounds these places. Waterfalls tumble from cliffs while parrots and toucans live close by.

The Serra do Espinhaço mountains surround Ouro Preto. A gold rush built this town in the 18th century. It housed more people than almost any other new-world city. The town’s tremendous wealth attracted intellectuals from Europe. Both philosophy and art thrived.

Built on hills, steep roads lead into small valleys. Your imagination and the white colonial architecture will guide you into the past life of this settlement.  

Local churches reflect their historic wealth. Antônio Francisco Lisboa’s ornate Church of Saint Francis of Assisi’s unique exterior and gold-laced interior remind one of the extreme wealth once present here.   

Some of the best Brazilian chocolate awaits your taste buds. Chocolates Ouro Preto serves excellent hot chocolate.    

Quiet Tiradentes, founded in 1702, lies at the end of still operating, at least for the tourists, the train line from São João del-Rei. The steam train runs between the two towns through a country full of cows and rusting mine shafts.   

Life congregates at the plaza at the centre of old Tiradentes. Streets lined by well-preserved colonial buildings radiate from this place. Like many such destinations, tourist-oriented shops and galleries line these roads.    

São João del-Rei rounds off this trio. Fewer visitors walk its historical streets. Stores catering to everyday life compete with bars and souvenir shops, lending a working atmosphere not found in nearby Tiradentes.