RealWorld Guide to Ouro Preto
The cobbled streets and grand colonial architecture of Ouro Preto date from its heyday as the focal point of the Brazilian Gold Rush in the 18th century. Today it’s a beautiful but tranquil town of sumptuous Baroque architecture, sitting in the lush Serra do Espinhaco mountains, and we think a trip here should be on everyone's Brazil holiday agenda.
What to See on Tours of Ouro Preto
Today, Ouro Preto derives much of its income from tourism as one of the major tourist destinations in Brazil; visitors travel from all over the world to tour its colonial buildings and cobbled streets. The Church of Saõ Francisco de Assis is considered to be a masterpiece of Brazilian architecture, and Ouro Preto also boasts a number of other fine churches and secular buildings such as the churches of Our Lady of the Pillar, the Rosário dos Homens Pretos, the Virgin of the Conceição, and the Virgin of Carmel, and the House of the Baroness.
There are also numerous former old mines which are open to the public for tours along with several museums, including the Museum of the Inconfidência revolution which is housed in the old Parliament building, and the Mining Museum, which may not sound interesting, but has some of the largest gemstones in the world on display.
Inhotim: The World's Largest Open-Air Art Gallery
We can also organise trips in Ouro Preto to visit the weird wonderland of Inhotim, just to the west. This former ranch now comprises over 5000 acres of botanical gardens which - quite apart from stupendous plants and wildlife - is packed full of genuinely world-class modern art installations.
Inhotim is the brainchild of Brazilian mining magnate Bernardo Paz, and it's estimated that he spends up to £10m a year on running and developing what is effectively a modern-art theme park. The plan is eventually to make it self-sustaining, with hotels and even apartments on-site, but for the moment you need to visit on a day tour. If you have any interest at all in art then this is an absolute must-see on any holiday to Brazil, and truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience: have a look at the image gallery on this page for a quick peek!
Getting to Ouro Preto
The most time and cost effective way to get here is to fly to the city of Belo Horizonte, as that’s the nearest airport at about an hour and a half away. Of course, you can travel overland from Rio, but Brazil is a vast country and coach journeys can be excessively long - you're looking at around 10 hours. We don’t generally recommend hiring a rental car either, as Brazilian roads often have missing signs and it’s quite easy to get lost – not ideal if you don’t speak Portuguese.
Ouro Preto isn’t really on the way anywhere a lot of tourists don’t make it there, but we really do feel this is a shame and it’s well worth the trip!
Weather in Ouro Preto
The rainy season runs from November to March, and at its peak in December Ouro Preto receives well over 200mm of rain. The temperatures are fairly consistent year-round with the exception of winter in June-August, when the lows can dip down to 13C. Ultimately the climate here is generally quite mild, and unless you’re looking to particularly avoid rain it’s a great place for a holiday at any time of year.