Tucked away in the Serra do Espinhaço mountains, Ouro Preto, meaning "Black Gold", is a hidden gem in Brazil. Once the cultural and social epicenter of Minas Gerais, serving as the capital of the province until the late 1800s, Ouro Preto is a spectacular village set amongst a dramatic backdrop. Colonial-style ornate gold churches litter the hilltops and burnt orange barrel-tiled rooftops peek out from the rugged, forested terrain.
The city is both impressive in its former grandeur and charming given the rustic setting. We wandered the streets on a warm summer afternoon, stopping to marvel at the city's many jewelry and gemstone boutiques where artisans display their wares. The state of Minas Gerais, "General Mines", is well-known for its precious gems, metals and mining industries and Ouro Preto, once at the center of the state's gold mining industry, is no exception.
After admiring the artisans' craftmanship (and picking up a shiny souvenir or two), we strolled through the city's open market and bought some refreshing sorbet, or "sorvete", made from an Amazonian fruit. To take refuge from the intense summer heat, we took refuge inside one of the city's many spectacular churches to admire the baroque architecture and ornate gold decoration.
The city's many hills make walking the town's streets a pretty rigorous exercise. To satisfy our well-earned appetite, we enjoyed a traditional Brazilian lunch of farofa, feijoada, and picanha at a local restaurant just off the town's main square and a cafezinho and a shot of the their homemade coffee liqueur at Rena Cafe - a must-try local coffee shop specializing in roasting local coffee beans from Minas Gerais.
To cap off the day, we toasted the city with Brazil's traditional drink, a caipirinha made from cachaça, lime and sugar, from one of the city's hills as the sun set. Highly recommend making the trek for some breathtaking views.