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Diamond Path

Royal Diamonds > Royal Route >Diamond Path


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Tabelas Diamond Path

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Tracking towards Caminho dos Diamantes, after along the road one can see the majestic Serra do Espinhaço (Mountain Range of Espinhaço). The landscape gradually changes, because the rock walls covered by cerrado (shrubland vegetation) begin to guide the path. Those who have never been to Diamantina will be amazed even before arriving. On the way there, we recommend stopping at Gouveia and visiting the historical monuments such as Igreja Santo Antônio de Gouveia which, modern style, has a single tower and allows us to have a panoramic view of the whole city. A little further on, you will get to the small village of Itapanhoacanga (Serro district) which has treasures, such as Igreja São José, listed by IPHAN (National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage), an important example of baroque art, whose construction began in 1748.

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Passadiço da Glória, built around 1878, an icon of Diamantina.

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Finaly, we arrive in the magnificent Diamantina. In the past, a small village named Tijuco. There, gold was plentiful, but what in fact made the place attractive were the diamond mines.

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In the twenties of the 18h century it used to be the most important place in the Colony. Along Estrada Real, tons of gold and diamond were transported to the ports of Paraty and later Rio de Janeiro to be sent to Portugal. In 1730, the place got the name of Distrito Diamantina. The colonial elite and the big slave population lived there. Exuberant landscapes, wealth and prosperity – this was the scenario of the famous history about Chica da Silva, the beautiful slave who enchanted one of the richest men in the region, owner of the diamond business, João Fernandes. The slave´s old house is currently one of the most expressive examples in the Minas Gerais architecture of the 18th century.

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Passadiço da Casa Glória

Nowadays, Diamantina does not lavish gold and diamond, however it is an open stage of timeless riches. There is a beauty all over the place, in the colonial architecture present in the mansions, churches and squares. In the narrow streets with charming alleys and in the kindness and receptivity of the good people from Minas Gerais, who welcome everyone so warmly. All of this combined with other equally important values such as the handicraft, the gastronomy and the music, gave the city, in 1938, one of the first titles of historical heritage granted by IPHAN to a Brazillian town.

Some decades later, in 1999, it was UNESCO´s turn, when the city was celebrated as World Cultural Heritage.

Beginning the visit, we suggest you go for a walk across Passadiço da Casa Glória, built around 1878, in order to connect two houses that were used as orphanage. People say that the passage between the two big houses was built in order to hinder the contact of the girls with the boys in the streets.

A pleasant way to spend days in the town is to stay in one of the lovely inns constructed in colonial houses. There is a lot of choice for those looking for simplicity and also for those seeking luxury and confort.

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After tasting the authentic food from Minas Gerais, the walk can continue through the hilly streets which reveal beautiful churches such as Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo, built between 1760 and 1765, with rich golden carving pictorial deciration attributed to the famous Aleijadinho. When the evening comes, mainly on weekends, the good tip is to go to Mercado Municipal (market) , a construction from the beginning of the 19h century, qand taste one of the wonders of Minas Gerais gastronomy offered in the stands in the market. In the streets the delighted tourists blend in harmoniously with the always kind locals.

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Close to the city, you will find Vila de Biribiri, 13 kilometers away. The charming village was built in 1877 to house a textile factory. The village once had 1.2 thousand inhabitants at the height of the production days, however, with the closing of the factory in 1973, it remained abandoned for ages. Yes, currently the history is revived. Around 30 houses, a Church and the old facilities of the factory have been listed by IEPHA (State Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage). There are only a few people living there. One of them is the Janitor, former factory employee. The village is inside Parque Estadual do Biribiri (State Park) – a unit of constant preservation – open daily to visitors.

The “only” danger in the place is that you may wish never to go back home. You breathe peace and quit there. The program may include swimming in the several waterfalls and pools close by, eating a good frango ao molho pardo (chicken in brown sauce) in the famous restaurant Raimundo sem Braço, or simply observing at the foot of the mountain how can be calmer, slower…

On the road again, the next stop is Milho Verde. A small village that houses unforgettable landscapes, peace and quiet. On the way back from one of the waterfalls, you most visit the eighteenth century Church Nossa Senhora do Rosário, which preserves very well the style of the baroque constructions of Vale do Jequitinhonha. A neighboring village is São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras, witch allows you to go back to the time of the gold miners with its set of houses.

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Each tourist has his/her own motivations and interests. Visiting some routes of Caminho dos Diamantes, was a way of learning about her own culture and identity. All the world always heard about the towns around Diamantina. So we decide to ride the Serro region. Milho Verde, São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras and Capivari. It is amazing how places so close to each other can be so different and we reinforces that it is important to keep a constant work for the preservation of the towns and so assist in structuring the places to receive tourists. All the places receive people from other states and also foreigners. And no doubt, for those who love adventure and nature, estrada Real is a good suggestion!

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Caraça – Catas Altas

Another wonder of Estrada Real is Reserva Particular do Patrimônio Natural do Caraça (Caraça Natural heritage Private Reserve), still in Caminho dos Diamantes route, situated between Catas Altas and Santa Bárbara municipalities, Besides the rich natural heritage, the place houses a great part of Minas Gerais history. The evidences of that time are the extraordinary construction of the colonial period.

The enchanting trip starts from the magnificent Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Mãe dos Homens, a church built during the second half of the 19th century in neo gothic style. Inside it there is the fabulous painting “Última Ceia” (Last Supper) signed by Mestre Athayde, in 1820, the lazarist fathers founded Caraça school and seminary, educating intellectuals in 150 years of operation, such as the presidents of the Republic Afonso Pena and Arthur Bernardes. A fire destroyed the building in 1968; in 1989 its ruins were transformed into a cultural center and currently they are comfortable inns.

In Catas Altas a most-see is the princeless historical and cultural heritage kept in Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceição, a church built in 1739, with works by Aleijadinho, Francisco Vieira Servas and Francisco Xavier de Brito. Highlighting the Christ Crucified sculptures by Aleijadinho, embellishing the Church´s throne, built using wood, clay and stone.

Igreja Nossa Senhora Mãe dos Homens (constructed in the second half of the 19th century) in neo gothic style: aura of faith and devotion in Serra do Caraça (Caraça Mountain Range).

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Serra da Piedade – Caeté

When the sun reflect on Serra da Piedade, it used to glow. This curiosity, combined with the desire to find hidden riches, was what motivated a group of bandeirantes (pioneers/explorers) to explore Caminho de Sabarabuçu.

Climb Serra da Piedade. There at the very top, a beautiful faith heritage is erected. Capela de Nossa Senhora da Piedade, from 1770. On the throne, the divine image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Fady of Piedade) attributed to Aleijadinho.

At the foot of the range is Caeté. From its architecture we highlight Museu Regional de Caeté, built in the 18th century it tells us a little about the history of the city and the gold cycle.

Another important construction is Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso, where Aleijadinho began to show his talent. The French naturalist and traveler Saint Hillarie wrote about after a trip to Minas Gerais in 1818: Nonetheless there is in Caeté a monument which indicates its old splendor – it is its church. Not only have a not seen in all the province of Minas a single one that was so beautiful, but also i doubt that in Rio de Janeiro there is one that compares to it”.

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Capela de Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Nossa Senhora da Piedade Chapel), from 1770, is built on the hights of Serra da Piedade also know as Sabarabuçu, the mountain that shone like gold.

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A little further on, following the royal track you arrive in Sabará. The town, one of the most important in Caminho de Sabarabuçu route, emerged in 1711 as Vila Real de Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Sabará. Its several colonial houses still keep the radiance of the old days. One of the most beautiful is Solar do Padre Correa thanks to the brazilian rosewood wood used for construction its stairways. The house is from 1773 and currently it houses the city hall.

Museu do Ouro (Gold Museum) is also a great attraction, because it is where Casa da Intendência and Fundição do Ouro (gold weighing and smelting place) used to operate. Another treasure is Teatro Municipal or Casa da Opera, from 1819, a gorgeous building with italian baroque architecture. It is regarded as the opera house with the best acoustics in Latin America.

The churches in Sabará are beautiful. The picturesque Igreja Nossa Senhora do Ó stands out, because it has real jewels in its internal decoration: the paintings are influenced by motifs and colors very much used in the Chinese aesthetics, in fact there are biblical characters with slanted eyes.

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For those who wish to continue exploring other eras, go on a ride by train leaving Ouro Preto and go to Mariana. The train has panoramic cars and travels between the mountains – on the way, you can see a beautiful landscape decorated with waterfalls – until getting to the neighboring town, 15 km away. Mariana possesses an important part of Minas Gerais cultural and historical heritage. Catedral da Sé and Igreja São Francisco de Assis – where Mestre Athayde grave is – are spetacular monuments of the colonial Minas Gerais art. Igreja da Sé is from 1760, when successive expansions were concluded. Thefore its decoration is exquisite, with a vast collection of Aleijadinho and Mestre Athayde´s work. There is also the fantastic organ Arp Schnitger, manufactured in Germany in 1701, it is seven meters high by five meters of width and it has 1039 pipes. Tourists are very touched by the concerts presented every Friday morning and also on Sundays. Another heritage of great importance is Igreja do Carmo´s altar in splendorous rococo style and the painting of the celling which explores all the colors of the baroque. From the top of a hill Basílica de São Pedro dos Clérigos emerge, and its decoration is influenced by the Italian baroque.

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Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto remains an eighteenth century town right in the middle of the 21st century. In Brazil, is the town that has kept its historical integrity the most – regarding its construction heritage – and it represents the synthesis of Minas Gerais colonial art. The town was born as a result of the exploration by the bandeirantes (pioneers).

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The old Vila Rica was the first Brazilian historical center to have received in 1930, the title of World Historical and Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The gold exploration stimulated the emergence of the greatest baroque architectural set in the world, witch, in spite of the European Baroque Influence, had its own features and transformed itself into the Minas Gerais Baroque.

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It is from this unique and special town that all Estrada Real routes begin. Visiting Ouro Preto means to live history once again. The first lesson starts at Praça Tiradentes, the place that was once the stage of conspiracies of the Inconfidência Mineira (Minas Gerais Conspiracy Movement) – a movement (organized by the Inconfidentes) which fought against the extortionate charge of taxes on gold exploration, the “fifth” of the gold which corresponded to 20% of the metal extracted. For a better understanding, all youo have to do is go to Museu da Inconfidência, a 1780 construction.

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In the museum collection you can see letters, clothes and objects that belonged to the famous 18th characters, as well as the furniture of that time and works of art by Mestre Athayde, or Manuel da Costa Athayde, an important artist of the Baroque-Rococo who influenced several students and followers; and Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known by his nickname Aleijadinho (the Little Cripple), a genious who struggled against degenerative disease, but wich never impeded him from performing incomparable works of art in painting, sculpture and drawing. São Francisco de Assis, the most famous Church in Ouro Preto, is regarded as his masterpiece and one of the most significant examples of the Minas Gerais Baroque. Its construction, initiated in 1766, is one of the few that possesses the sculpture work and the caving by the same artist – perfection is harmony.

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Whereas, Matriz Nossa Senhora do Pilar, with construction initiated in the mid 1730s, is regarded as the second richest church in gold in Brazil: more than 400 kilos. It is imperative to Igreja Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos, from 1785 is a must-see because it is a construction of authentic baroque architecture with its curve facade. Another must-see is Casa dos Contos, built between 1782 and 1784, it used to be a place for weighing and smelting gold.

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The streets are also attractions of the town, as important as its historical construction. Winding, they flow into squares, and get narrow in alleys and reveal hilly lanes, stone bridges, water fountains and churches. The good tip is to wander around on foot, without any hurry. The result is an enchantment at each step. Good accommodation options are the inns and hotels in the Historical Center, in case the intention is staying close to the main town´s attractions, since the majority of the lodgings in this area are in listed colonial mansions. In the town´s surroundings there several other options, very close to nature or on the top of the hills, with incredible views.

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