A few weeks back, the Say HI team spent some weeks in Belo Horizonte and Diamantina, in the state of Minas Gerais (or simply Minas, as Brazilians say). Minas is located in southeastern Brazil, and is the second most populous state in the country. The state is (among other aspects) known for colonial towns, gastronomy, beautiful landscapes and hospitality.
Our trip to Minas Gerais started in the state´s capital, Belo Horizonte. Here, we participated in HI Hostel Brasil’s annual meeting at Adrena Sport Hostel. It was a week filled with interesting lectures, discussions and conversations. We got to present “Say HI to Sustainability” to everyone who was present at the meeting, and towards the end of the week HI Hostel Brasil presented their brand-new logo, which we are very proud to show you here.
In addition to attending the meeting and getting to know hostel managers from all over Brazil, we also got to experience a bit of what Belo Horizonte and its surroundings have to offer. A 10 minutes’ walk from Adrena Sport Hostel (which is located in our favorite neighborhood of Belo Horizonte – Savassi), Praça da Liberdade (Freedom Square) is found. It is a plaza filled with small parks, and it was designed to be the center of state administration and power. The square was constructed in 1903, and in addition to enjoying the park itself, you can visit several museums here, like the one in the photo – Museu das Minas e do Metal (Mines and Metal Museum).
Another 15 minutes’ walk from the Freedom Square, Belo Horizonte´s Mercado Central (Central Market) is located. This place is a treat for your pallet! Here you can find the best cheeses Brazil has to offer, craft beer, doce de leite (a sweet made by slowly heating sweetened milk), goiabada (a sweet made from the guava fruit), cachaça (Brazilian rum), and countless other products. The market also has several small restaurants and bars where you can sit down and enjoy the local cuisine. Do not forget to get a free taste of the products offered in the different stores! Another five minutes’ walk (yes, we like walking, and it is also a sustainable way to get around in a city!) from Mercado Central, Mercado Novo (New Market) is found. Mercado Novo contains several different bars, coffee shops, tea shops and small restaurants, and is definitely a nice place to spend an afternoon and/or an evening. Belorizontinos (which is what people from Belo Horizonte are called in Portuguese) are very proud of their local cuisine, and this year the city was designated as one of UNESCO´s Creative Cities for their gastronomy. Hats off and congratulations to the belorizontinos for this price!
Belorizontinos are very easy to get to know, and they will most likely take you to a bar, since Belo Horizonte is known to be the city of bars. The liveliness of this city is amazing, and you never have to look far in order to find a bar with quality craft beer. Nevertheless, there are of course other things to do in the city and its surroundings. For example, you can enjoy this beautiful view of the city from Praça do Papa (Pope´s Square) with your new friends.
There are also several nice tourist attractions close to Belo Horizonte, in addition to the numerous lovely waterfalls in the area. We highly recommend a trip to Inhotim, which is a huge outdoor museum located in Brumadinho, only 60 kilometers from of Belo Horizonte. The museum contains one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Brazil, in addition to housing a botanical garden and other beautiful sceneries. You need at least one day if you want to hit the majority of the galleries here!
Less than two hours outside of Belo Horizonte, the beautiful colonial city of Ouro Preto is found. The city is actually the former capital of Minas Gerais, and because of the gold industry (“ouro” means gold), Ouro Preto became the most populous city of Latin America during the colonial times. Today, Ouro Preto´s main livelihood is tourism, but there are also important metallurgic and mining industries in the city.
After some time in the hustle and bustle of Belo Horizonte and its surroundings, we went on to Diamantina, a colonial town located a four hours’ drive north of Belo Horizonte. Diamantina was the center of diamond mining in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Diamantina, we worked at Diamantina Hostel, but also here we got the chance to explore the city and some of the waterfalls that surround the area. Diamantina is known for its cobblestone streets, steep hills, museums and the Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market). The city also has several universities, which gives it a lively touch in addition to the colonial feeling, coziness, and authenticity that sizzle through the streets.
Diamantina and Diamantina Hostel are beautifully located, and there are several breathtaking waterfalls available in the city´s vicinity. We got to visit some of them, amongst them Cachoeira da Sentinela (Sentinela Waterfall) and Cachoeira dos Cristais (Crystals Waterfall). And if you were wondering – yes, in most waterfalls in Brazil you can go for a swim! The waterfalls usually end up in small ponds with crystal clear water. Brazilians will refer to the water temperature as “freezing”, while us Norwegians have categorized it as merely “refreshing”.
We can definitely recommend Minas Gerais in general, and Belo Horizonte, Diamantina and the surroundings in particular. These are great tourist destinations which we hope we will get to come back to. In the meantime, if you want to read more about the previous Say HI participants´ experiences in Belo Horizonte, have a look at these blogposts: http://sayhitosustainability.com/belo-horizonte/ and http://sayhitosustainability.com/let-the-adrenaline-flow-at-hi-belo-horizonte/. Say HI to Minas Gerais!
Written by: Ane Omland