Archive for October, 2009
The Brazil Travel Blog brings you every month a calendar for you to use on your computer desktop. In November we visit the Inhotim foundation.
Remember, a new calendar every month!
Rondonia is on the northwest of Brazil, west of the state of Mato Grosso and south of the state of Amazonas, sharing a border with Bolivia. The relentless advance of the timber merchant, the cattle ranchers and the plantations over the rainforest has had devastating effects. In spite of that, the state of Rondonia still mantains wide expanses of Amazon jungle. Rondonia has a population of 1 million and a half and its territory includes 28 different Indian ethnic groups.
Unsurprisingly, Rondonia has a tropical climate, with a rainy season from November to April and a dry season from May to October.
The capital of Rondonia is Porto Velho, on the banks of the Madeira river. A few miles from Porto Velho, upstream, construction work is taking place for the gigantic and controversial Santo Antônio dam – one of the largest engineering projects in the planet.
As it is the case for the remaining states we are presenting on this series, one of the main obstacles to the development of a tourist industry are the high transportation costs. A flight from the southern regions of Brazil to Rondonia can cost as much as a ticket to the States. Airlines Gol, Ocean Air and Tam fly to Porto Velho.
The Brazilian Ministry of Tourism has included a tourist route in the state of Rondonia, called Aventura e Charme na Pérola do Mamoré. Pedra do Mamoré is found between the cities of Porto Velho and Guarujá-Mirim, near the border with Bolivia. The route includes river trips, hikes at the Parque Natural dos Parecis and visits to local Indian communities. There is accommodation at a jungle hotel near the meeting of the rivers Pacaás Novos and Mamoré. Among future plans for the region, the reactivation of the mythical railway Madeira-Mamoré, that will allow visitors to get close to the Santo Antônio dam.
Rondonia is home to one of the most remote national parks in Brazil, the Parque Nacional de Pacaás Novos. The park is under constant threat from timer merchants. It is not opened to visitation and there are no roads leading to the park. It is a rich biodiversity lab but completely devoid of any meaning for the tourism industry.
The Brazilian Ministry of Tourism hasn’t elaborated any videos to popularize the tourist attractions of the state of Rondonia (videos were preparaded for most Brazilian states). In the Ministry’s tool for travel professionals, Brasil Network, there is no information on Rondonia. It would seem that there is no intention whatsoever of selling Rondonia as a tourist destination.
Ouro Preto is the jewel on the Historical Cities of Minas Gerais crown. It was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site on account of its outstanding Baroque architecture.
1. HOW TO GET THERE:
- from Belo Horizonte: bus company Pássaro Verde runs an hourly bus from Belo Horizonte to Ouro Preto. Schedules and fares available at its website. The trip lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- from Rio de Janeiro: bus company Util travels from Rio de Janeiro to Ouro Preto. Schedules and fares available at its website. It is a night trip that lasts approximately 8 hours.
- from São Paulo: bus company Util also travels from São Paulo to Ouro Preto. The trip takes 12 hours. The company Vale do Ouro also runs the service but has no useful information at its website.
By car. You can reach Ouro Preto from Belo Horizonte, São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Extreme caution is required as roads in the state of Minas Gerais are notorious for its alarming accident rates.
By plane. There is no airport in Ouro Preto. The nearest airports are Confins and Pampulha in Belo Horizonte.
2. WHEN TO GO:
It rains quite a lot in Ouro Preto from November to March. Between April and October rainfall is scarce. June, July and August can see the temperatures drop to 10 degrees at night, warm clothing is recommended.
If you are planning to visit Ouro Preto during carnival, Easter, Corpus Christi or the 7th of September bank holiday you should book your accommodation well in advance.
3. CAREFUL WITH:
The steep streets and its irregular paving. High heels are strongly discouraged. Pay attention to the traffic, it is irritating and outright dangerous to pedestrians. Local food is as delicious as it is caloric.
4. WE LIKE THE MOST:
The exceptional collection of baroque colonial architecture. Its beautiful crafts. The local food delicacies.
5. WE LIKE THE LEAST:
The alarming degradation of the cultural heritage. The heavy traffic running through the center of the city.
6. FAVOURITE PLACES:
The wonderful church of São Francisco de Assis. The fabulous gold-covered interior of the church of Nossa Senhora do Pilar. The view of the city from the hill where the church of Santa Efigênia is built.
7. PIECE OF ADVICE:
- to be able to enjoy Ouro Preto day and night we recommend you spend at least the one night in the city.
- the neverending series of steep streets make for a very tiring walk around Ouro Preto. Take your time to complete the visit, make sure you stop and rest to enjoy the beautiful architecture you will find along the way.
- you don’t have to go too far away from the main square to find some of the most beautiful churches in Ouro Preto, including church of São Francisco de Assis and church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo. Church of Nossa Senhora do Pilar (unmissable interior) is on the lower part of the city, far away from the rest. If you have your own means of transportation it is worth driving up the hill where the church of Santa Efigênia is found. There is a beautiful view of Ouro Preto from there.
- along with the churches, the fountains (chafarizes) of Ouro Preto are another outstanding treasure. There are eleven of them.
- Ouro Preto is an excellent place if you are after beautiful crafts at excellent prices. The most traditional material used to make crafts is soapstone (pedra-sabão). There is a small and very interesting market right in front of the church of São Francisco de Assis.
- precious stones are another local specialty. There are quite a few shops in and around the main square.
- the center of Ouro Preto is dotted with restaurants where you can taste the local food (comida mineira).
- for those keen on visiting a gold mine, on the old road from Ouro Preto to Mariana you will find the Minas da Passagem, open for visitation. There is a bus from Ouro Preto driving through the front of the mine.
- Mariana is another historic city a few miles away from Ouro Preto. It is a natural extension to any visit to Ouro Preto. You can get to Mariana by bus or take the tourist Ouro Preto – Mariana train, the Trem da Vale (website with schedules and prices). You can purchase a single ticket or a return one.
No vaccines are needed for Ouro Preto. The rural areas of Minas Gerais recorded recent cases of yellow fever. Though not essential nor required, take the shot if you want some peace of mind (10 facts about yellow fever in Brazil).
At our Accommodation in Brazil blog you will find a full list of hotels and pousadas in Ouro Preto.
11. WEATHER FORECAST:
Average temperatures and rainfall in Ouro Preto.
14. PHOTO ALBUM:
Destination: Historical Cities, Minas Gerais
Map of Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto photo album
Ouro Preto photo album in Flickr
World Heritage Sites
Website on the Cultural World Heritage Sites in Brazil
The Instituto Inhotim is located in the town of Brumadinho, 60 km from Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. I’d rather not use the term museum to refer to it as it does not do any justice to everything Inhotim has to offer. It contains a fantastic collection of contemporary art set in the middle of a stretch of Atlantic rainforest. The art collection lives side by side with the landscaping project of people like Roberto Burle Marx. At Inhotim the contemplation of art and the contemplation of nature go hand in hand.
Inhotim is a private non-profit organization set up in 2005 by a Brazilian entrepeneur. To host each work of art and installations a specific building was constructed. The art collection includes works by Brazilian and international artistas, from the 60’s to the present time. Between one building and another the visitor will find the wonderful botanic collections of the institute.
Inhotim and Belo Horizonte are not in most travellers’s itineraries and for that reason I dare not suggest that visiting Inhotim is a must. But if you find yourself in Belo Horizonte or visiting the Historical Cities of Minas Gerais (Ouro Preto, Mariana, Congonhas, Tiradentes, São João del Rei) I’d definitely make an effort to spend one day at Inhotim.
Address: Inhotim, Brumadinho, Minas Gerais.
Website: Inhotim. It’s got an English version.
Opening times: Thursdays and Fridays, from 9h30 till 16h30. Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays from 9h30 to 17h30.
How to get to Inhotim: if you have your own means of transportation, follow the map provided at the Institute’s website. Saturdays and Sundays there is a bus running from Belo Horizonte bus station (platform F2) to Inhotim. Departs from Belo Horizonte at 9am and returns from Inhotim at 4pm.
Facilities: there are snack shops and two restaurants.
Piece of advice: as most of the visit to Inhotim is done outdoors, it is best avoided on a rainy day.
Photo album: my Inhotim photos at Flicrk.