After a painful (but surprisingly better than expected) 26-hour bus ride we arrived to Ouro Preto, the little town of gold (the name means ‘black gold’). It’s said to be the most beautiful town in the state of Minas Gerais so let’s have a look.

History of the town

The town was founded in the 18th century when gold was found here. In that century one third of the world’s gold was mined in Ouro Preto, which meant 700 tons. Interestingly, 70% of this gold went to England in exchange for military help on seas against the Spanish Armada.

What to do in Ouro Preto

It’s a town with chilled vibes, so it offers relaxed sightseeing to the travelers. These are the 3 top experiences in Ouro Preto.

Walk the town and notice the colonial architecture

The town is very cute, it was built on hills so the cobblestone streets are constant ups and downs (we haven’t really seen any overweight people, so it has some benefit). Ouro Preto’s architecture is unique in Brazil: colourful buildings in colonial baroque style, which is different from the European baroque – the ornaments are not so exquisite, rather a bit child-like, for example in churches the saint figures often look like retards.

Steep cobblestone street in Ouro Preto Brazil
Steep streets everywhere
Hilly window view of Ouro Preto Brazil
View from our couchsurfing host’s window

Ouro Preto church hopping

Talking about churches, the town – which can totally be walked – has 60 churches! This is a crazy amount given the size of the town, and most of them look pretty much the same. We visited some of them and there’s an awful amount of gold on the decoration. (In my opinion, they should have brought some European masters to sculpt better figures, than those retard-looking ones, if they were going to decorate them with so much gold.) The most famous architect of the region was Aleijadinho, who sculpted the exterior decoration on some churches. He had a unique disease which left his hands deformed by a young age, so he sculpted his master pieces with a chisel and gauge tied to his arms.

Church interior of Nossa Senhora do Pilar in Ouro Preto Brazil
Crazy amount of gold decoration in Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora do Pilar

Learn about the region’s history in a former gold mine

We went to a former gold mine, called Mina do Jeje. In the mines short, child-sized people worked the best, so the dono (owner) followed a terrible practice: he chose 2 short males to reproduce with the females, and castrated the others in their childhood, making sure that short size genes are passed on.

After liberating the slaves, it was not worth to mine gold with paying labor, so nowadays only diamond is mined in the region. All the mines are owned by foreign companies, that the locals don’t consider as a good decision for economical reasons.

Facade of the Igreja de São Francisco de Assis Ouro Preto Brazil
Masterpiece of Aleijadinho on the front of Igreja de São Francisco de Assis
Altar close up with golden decoration of Nossa Senhora do Pilar Ouro Preto Brazil
Closer picture of the altar of Nossa Senhora do Pilar church for zooming on the retard-looking figures

Do you like visiting churches? What is the one building/place you always visit when you’re traveling? Tell us in the comments below!

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Who am I?

Anna is a world citizen, an avid traveller, a passionate environmentalist and a digital nomad. Writing about her year backpacking through South America, she tries to encourage everyone to discover this beautiful continent as a traveller or a digital nomad and pass on her love for responsible travel.

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  1. I haven’t taken any real close ups (how could I forgot it!!), but I added a closer up to the altar piece that you can zoom in. Not the best quality unfortunately 🙁

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