Tiradentes – One of Brazil’s finest colonial towns and a great base for outdoor activities.
Tiradentes is one of the finest colonial towns in Minas Gerais, and combines very well with a visit to Ouro Preto and others close by. Tiradentes is small, cosy and very charming, nestled amongst the Serra de Sao Jose hills. As well as a perfectly preserved gold-rush town centre to wander around, visitors can also take to the hills on foot, horseback or mountain bike to enjoy the scenery, flora and fauna of the Minas Gerais cerrado, as rich, varied and often unique as the gold-rush towns that it shelters.
The Church of Santo Antonio, which dominates the upper part of the town, can be seen from many of the surrounding hills, its white walls and bell towers part of a façade constructed by local sculpting genius Alejadinho. Running uphill to the church are lamp-lit cobbled streets, lined with colourful colonial houses, many with courtyards and stables converted to hotels, restaurants and shops, while many remain as residences too.
Typical Minas Gerais cuisine is one of the pleasures of Tiradentes, which also has the annual Tiradentes Cultural and Gastronomy Festival in August that brings visitors from all over Brazil and beyond. The town was already well-known, having been renamed from Arrail da Ponto do Morro (Village at the Point of the Hill) in honour of the only martyr of Brazil’s first independence movement. Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier was born in the town, and grew up to become a dentist, hence his nickname of Tiradentes (literally Take-Teeth). He was the only revolutionary to be hung by the Portuguese for his part in the Inconfidencia Mineira of 1789.
There is unlikely to be such drama in Tiradentes these days, the town is very relaxed, popular with weekend tourists who come to ride the Maria Fumaça (Smoking Mary) scenic train up the winding valley from Sao Joao del Rei. This valley meant that access to the town was difficult, and as with Ouro Preto, Tiradentes avoided the industrialisation of the other towns in the area such as Mariana and Congonhas. The historic centre has retained all its charm, even when busy, with a gentle pace in the town and a whole load of fresh air in the surrounding hills. Tiradentes is a pleasure to visit at any time of year.
Suitable Destination For: Those who like their colonial history surrounded by natural scenery, and decorated with jewels and minerals.
Best Time to Visit: Tiradentes can be visited any time of year, with late December until after Carnaval weekend being High Season, with lots of Brazilian tourists. Easter and all other public holiday weekends are especially busy too. Weekdays outside of these times find empty trails and solitude on the treks. Winter nights in June, July and August can be cool, although the daytime weather can still be very agreeable.
Essential Sights & Activities: Tiradentes is small and charming enough to be possible to make it essential on its own; the view back to the town from the top of one of the nearby hills; the Santo Antonio Church; the Maria Fumaça Train Ride (Weekends and Public Holidays only); A buffet of the finest Minas Gerais cuisine.