Celebration of local culture abounds in the area. The Inhotim Instituto Cultural features both mainstream and esoteric exhibits, including an opportunity to walk on broken glass and to experience a sensory-deprivation pod. The institute also boasts an environmental park consisting of palm-tree-covered grounds and sanctuaries dedicated to preservation of the surroundings. A visit to this paradise-like setting wouldn’t be complete without lunch at the on-site restaurant, which offers a smorgasbord of fare for your perusing -- and consuming -- pleasure.
If you’re in Belo on business and need an escape, travel to the nearby village of Ouro Preto, roughly 100 kilometers away and easily accessible by car, bus, or train. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its old-world architecture, Ouro Preto is an essential destination for travelers to this part of Brazil. The drive itself is a treat, as it takes you past verdant countryside and, in places, provides a peek at the local copper and diamond mines. Ouro Preto is just as rustic and charming as Belo is modern, despite the fact that it’s not much more than an hour’s drive away from the metropolis. Being in Ouro Preto makes you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. The village’s history and culture have been well preserved, making it a must-see for visitors to the area.
“That is the main tourist city,” Santos says. “Agents’ travel [recommendations] include more Ouro Preto than a few years ago, so when the people have a group, a big tour trip in Brazil, now Minas Gerais is always included [and] Ouro Preto’s the first city to visit. Belo Horizonte, the capital -- people come more for business. But Ouro Preto is for tourism. Everybody, when they come in business, wants to see Ouro Preto on their free time.”
Spend just a few moments there and you’ll see why. Narrow cobblestoned streets weave up and down steep hills (so bring comfortable walking shoes) and between an eclectic mix of boutiques, hotels, and cafés. All of this is nestled against a backdrop of beautiful rolling countryside that goes on seemingly for miles. Churches populate the town as well and include the beloved and awe-inspiring Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and its adjoining cemetery. Together, these elements create one of the most picturesque tableaus you could imagine.