For the first time since Latin America’s borders reopened, nonstop flights from the United States to one of the region’s most beautiful yet least-visited destinations are finally being reinstated.
Minas Gerais is one of Brazil’s most culturally-wealthy and diverse states, home to breathtaking natural vistas, towering peaks, majestic waterfalls, centuries-old colonial towns, and best known for its mouth-watering cuisine.
As the local saying goes, ‘Minas doesn’t have an ocean, but the ocean doesn’t have Minas’, and from this summer onward, Americans can once again reach without long, unnecessary layovers:
What Makes Minas Gerais A Great Vacation?
Minas Gerais is a state in Southeastern Brazil, bordering the coastal states of Rio de Janeiro, where the ‘Marvelous City’ is located, and Sao Paulo.
A territory as large as a country, it stands among Brazil’s most traditional and culturally-charged places, with the native mineiros being proud of their distinct identity, History, and defining lingo.
The more sing-songy, melodious Portuguese spoken here is not the only major difference you will notice upon landing in Belo Horizonte, the state capital, especially if you’ve been to the tourist hotspots of Rio or Sao Paulo before:
A World-Class Foodie Destination
Mineiro cuisine has often been described as Brazil’s best regional variety, and it was recently proclaimed an intangible cultural heritage by the local Government.
From pao de queijo, the small, round cheese bun, to feijao tropeiro, a cassava flour and bean-based dish, countless of Brazil’s most famous culinary exports in fact originated from Minas, making it a world-class foodie destination.
Walking the vibrant streets of Belo Horizonte, the state’s largest metropolis and financial center home to over 3 million inhabitants, you will find an abundance of traditional restaurants where you can sample the rich cuisine, as well as Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean-style eateries, reflective of the city’s multicultural character.
Underrated City Breaks
As a city break, Belo Horizonte is probably Brazil’s most underrated, what with its extensive list of museums, leisure centers, underground jazz clubs, catering to a reclusive elite and shrouded in secrecy, night bazaars lined with pubs and quirky cafes, and electric nightlife.
Whether you’re more the introvert, cultural type, or a social creature, Belo Horizonte and its many facets will not disappoint you.
Minas’ true beauty lies outside its bustling capital, though.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
As it is a short 1h30 drive from Belo Horizonte, tourists can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ouro Preto, one of the first European settlements in Brazil and a 17th-century gem oozing Old World charm.
The cobbled streets lead to richly-decorated Baroque churches and other minor Catholic shrines, and the cityscape is dotted with old colonial Portuguese houses set against the dramatic backdrop of the Ouro Pretana mountain range.
If folk art, small historical towns that seem frozen in time, and a quaint atmosphere all sound appealing to you, you should definitely pay Ouro Preto a visit.
Other gorgeous colonial towns include Mariana, linked to Ouro Preto by a heritage steam locomotive, traversing the lush green hills of Minas, the idyllic Tiradentes, where the whitewashed houses are distinguished for their colorful doors and wooden windows, and Diamantina, yet another UNESCO-protected city resting on a rocky, rugged terrain, once Brazil’s capital of diamond mining.
Wellness & Spas
The city is also famous for its fast-growing wellness scene, housing numerous spa hotels and wellness retreats nestled in the surrounding mountains.
Called pousadas, these bucolic, colonial properties offer guests an escape from the chaos of the modern world, with nightly rates for five-star listings starting at just US$118 on Booking.com (August dates).
Within short driving distance of Ouro Preto, tourists can visit the landmark Andorinhas Waterfall – the walking trail leading down to it is particularly beautiful, and the mountain waters will help you cool down from the tropical heat.
If you’re a nature seeker, then you’ve come to the right place. There are just too many natural sites, and impressive mountain ranges to list, but five of our favorites include:
- Inhotim, a nature reserve and research center where modern art housed within the lush green Atlantic forest
- Serra do Caraça, a mountainous region full of hiking paths, with a landmark 17th-century Neo-Gothic church and its adjacent school
- The Capitolio Canyons, a deep canyon flanked by jagged rock formations where the water is crystal-clear, and boat tours are common year-round
- Sao Thome das Letras, a typical hinterland mineiro town full of chalets, hiking spots, and sweeping mountain views
- Poços de Caldas, famous for its therapeutic hot springs, unspoiled nature, and well-developed spa scene
The Nonstop Route
The nonstop route to Minas Gerais is served by Azul Airlines, a Brazilian carrier, with prices starting at US$739 one-way.
Flights to Belo Horizonte departing from Fort Lauderdale are already operational, since at least June 23.
They take off at 8:00 PM local time, landing in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, at 5:30 AM on the following calendar day. Flights are available every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
On the way back, Americans returning to Fort Lauderdale take off from Belo Horizonte at 12:30 PM, arriving in the North American city at 8:00 PM. These are available on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Orlando Flights Are Launching Later
Orlando flights will not start until September 24, though when they do, the frequency will be twice a week, every Friday and Sunday.
They are scheduled to depart from Orlando International at 9:00 PM, landing in Minas Gerais 6:00 AM. Returning flights will operate on the same days, departing Brazil at 9:30 AM, and touching down in Orlando at 5:30 PM.
It is worth noting that, from October, Americans will need tourist visas to enter Brazil, in accordance with the country’s visa reciprocation policies.
Learn more about how the visa policy change affects you and which documents you are expected to provide, visiting this link.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com