In the 17th century, the Portuguese Crown created an official route from where the gold production from the center of the country would reach the ports. Thus was born a route of more than 1630 km long, cutting three Brazilian States: Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Along the tracks, lush nature, villages left by the richness of the past and a lot of story to tell, the road that is, today, the largest tourist route in the country.
Don’t get scared with the 1630 kilometers of the Estrada Real! You don't have to pedal all the way – unless, of course, you want to. The idea is that you experience the best of the road without the need to bike through it all.
The route reserved for you has 395 km, starts in the city of Diamantina (located 290 km from Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais) and ends in the city of Ouro Preto, after 8 days of biking. The route runs along those lines because it requires less physical effort than if you left from Ouro Preto. Good for your legs!
You're going to have an immersive experience in the history of the country, in the cultural legacy left in the clothes of the people, on the appearance of the houses, on the food served in the villages, in the way of the people. And more: a unique contact with a very impressive nature for you to forget your problems, wash your soul in the waterfalls and lose your way home after so much beauty. Shall we?
Diamantina is one of those cities where you spend hours registering images that would make beautiful postcards. The harmony between the beauty of nature and its majestic 18th century houses have earned the city the title of Historical Heritage of Humanity and make it the perfect destination to start the trip.
Before getting your bike, it's worth reserving a day to visit local attractions, such as the Senhor do Bonfim dos Militares Church, the Rosário Fountain and the Casa de Chica da Silva. When you are passing through the center, go to the Catedral Metropolitana de Santo Antônio da Sé, a beautiful baroque church, characteristic of Minas Gerais. On the Praça do Mercado, the Mercado Velho draws attention for its architecture, of Arabic influence. The craftsmanship and artistic and cultural events that crowd the streets, are other major attractions of the city.
Also worth a visit is the Parque Estadual do Biribiri. With its virgin forests, lots of walls and beautiful waterfalls, the Park is an attraction in itself. You will feel as if you where in front of prehistory rock paintings.
Have you seen everything in Diamantina? So it's time to go for a 7 day ride on the Estada Real, until you reach Ouro Preto.
Just a tip: before entering the Estrada Real, pass through the open fair, that is near the bus station and take the opportunity to enjoy homemade pastries, cheeses and other delicacies that you only find in Minas Gerais. It is definitely worth to buy some things to carry in your bag!
Pico do Itambé and quejo Canasta
From Diamantina, you leave towards São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras. Your company during biking is the Pico do Itambé, that at its highest point reaches 2,044 meters. Pico do Itambé will be always on the left. On the next day, we recommend that you bike for 6 km to Milho Verde, a district in the city of Serro. From there, you have two options: you can travel over 15 km to the city of Capivari, a village with amazing waterfalls for swimming, or proceed to Serro.
In Serro, you can make a city tour by bike through the major tourist attractions such as the Chácara do Barão and the Santa Rita Church. Oh, be sure to try the canastra cheese manufactured in local dairies, considered nothing short of a Cultural Heritage of Brasil. And if you are served with a cup of coffee or with a guava dessert, don't hesitate. Located 12 km from the city, is the Museu do Queijo (Cheese Museum)!
From here, you leave towards the Conceição do Mato Dentro. Once there, you will be enchanted with its fields. It’s worth biking to the Cânion do Peixe Tolo and then cool off in the Rabo do Cavalo Waterfall. In the city, the tour is through the streets passing through the impressive Santuário Bom Jesus do Matozinhos (not to be confused with the famous sanctuary of the same name in Congonhas).
Wines, rock paintings and the prettiest waterfall of Brasil
On the next day, brace yourself: you will visit the highest waterfall in the State of Minas Gerais, voted the most beautiful in Brasil by an important Brazilian tourist guide. The waterfall is located in the district of Tabuleiro, where you can also enjoy all the beauty of the Parque Estadual da Serra do Intendente and eat lunch in the village. Is there anything more delicious than eating local food?
From now on, you will go through some towns, villages and peaceful rural landscapes. In Ipoema, stop at the Museu do Tropeiro. Though small and simple, it is well maintained and has a very nice tour. To get to the Barão dos Cocais, you go through stretches of stone pavement that appear to be from the colonial era, with a climb that will leave you with sore legs! Along the way, there's the archaeological site of Pedra Pintada, with cave paintings of 6 thousand years ago. The valley view is also amazing. Another city in the Estrada Real is Catas Altas, probably one of the most beautiful. If you like wine, the city has a great production.
No brazilian colonial city maintains with such integrity its image of the 18th century as Ouro Preto. Stone constructions, adobe and pau-a-pique, churches, fountains and public buildings give a unique touch to the city. Ouro Preto has an immense value to Brasil, especially for keeping the architecture, sculpture and art of Aleijadinho and Master Ataíde, great exponents of Baroque.
Therefore, one of the mandatory visits is the Aleijadinho Museum, a tribute dedicated to the life and work of the sculptor and architect. The Museum operates on a circuit formed by three historic churches in the city: Santuário Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Antônio Dias, Igreja de São Francisco de Assis and Igreja Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Perdões.
Among many other places, visit the Museu da Inconfidência, a site dedicated to the history of the separatist movement that happened in the 18th century in Minas Gerais, and the Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Pilar, considered the richest church in Minas Gerais, with numerous pieces of religious art (you'll be impressed with the hundreds of angels distributed along the Church).
Did you like the route? There are others that you can do. The Instituto Estrada Real website is very complete and can help you with more routes. Enjoy!