Ouro Preto, Mariana, & Mina da Passagem

Over the long National Holiday weekend for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi, some friends and I had the chance to go to a few colonial towns outside of Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais.

Mariana was the first capital of Minas Gerais and is located about 45 minutes from Ouro Preto and about 20 minutes from a gold mine which functions now as a tourist attraction. In Mariana you can see churches, colonial architecture, and the first meeting place of the lawmakers of Minas Gerais.

Ouro Preto was the 2nd capital of Minas Gerais until Belo Horiztone was created towards the end of the 20th Century. Its nearby mines (including gold mines) drew in many Europeans and their African slaves. In the 18th century it was the largest city in Brazil and one of the most populated cities in America. Ouro Preto has a Federal University and a large tourist economy, while maintaining its cobblestone streets and barroco architecture.  There are many hostels, delicious restaurants, and unique shops here.

Minas da Passagem is located about half way between Ouro Preto and Mariana and you can get off of the bus connecting the two at the stop that drops you right off in front of the reception desk. After a fee (see below) and a mine cart trip underground, you can walk around in the mine and explore its riches. If you are a trained scuba diver with equipment, you can also scuba dive here (8 km2 of the mine are now under water)!

Belo Horizonte –> Ouro Preto

  • Bus
    • Pássaro Verde
    • 2 hour trip from the main Rodoviário (Governador Israel Pinheiro) in Belo Horizonte to that of Ouro Preto
    • R$33 one way
      • An ID was asked for with the purchase of this ticket.
      • Assigned seats based on ticket.
      • The man on the bus checked our tickets twice after we were on route and another (for fiscalização) checked in on route as well.
    • Comfortable Bus with seat belts and a bathroom on board.

Ouro Preto


When we got into Ouro Preto, we swung by the tourist office and grabbed a map before getting directions on how to walk towards the center. It is a fairly walkable city, things are close enough together that without much baggage, there is no need for a bus/uber/taxi.

We hadn’t booked a hostel and decided to go “hostel shopping” as we got into town. The first place we stopped was booked and due to a large influx of tourists on the holiday weekend, the receptionist called another hostel nearby which had four openings.

We ended up deciding to stay at that hostel so that we could leave our stuff and start exploring.

  • Hostel: Buena Vista
    • R$48/night
    • Close to the bus station
    • Near the main Praça
    • Tucked away in a nice little neighborhood
    • Wonderful staff and neat graffiti drawn on the walls by travelers.
    • All four of us stayed in a four person room which had two bunkbeds
    • Towels were for rent for $R2, but we were given ours for free.
    • Free wifi/basic breakfast
    • Checkout was at 10a.m., but they allowed us to keep our bags behind the desk the entire next day while we traveled to a nearby city.
  • Food
    • Walking up and down the streets of Ouro Preto is a marvelous and fun journey. You will pass by many different places to eat or get a drink, or ice cream/açaí or try delicious chocolate!
    • We ate lunch at a place that served a buffet by weight or an all you can eat buffet. It was delicious and had typical mineiro food.
    • We ate dinner at an Italian place where we got pizza, after we had stopped at a place across the street for a few drinks.
    • We got ice cream afterwards in a shop near the Praça Tiradentes.
    • Look for signs and walk around, you’ll find what you want!
      • Some places have live entertainment
      • A lot of places are through doors and down stairs into spaces beneath shops.
    • Coffee shops are everywhere and some have your basic coffees while others have crafted drinks. Take a peek in and order something!
  • Shopping
    • There is a artisan market down the hill from Praça Tiradentes and in front of the Igreja São Fransisco.
      • It is open everyday during the day
      • They sell all sorts of arts/crafts/knick knack souvenirs.
    • There are tons of little shops off of the winding roads that sell everything from clothes to books to trinkets and postcards.
    • There are individuals from all over South America that sell hand crafted goods near churches, important statues, or beautiful view spots.
  • Museums
    • There are many museums and churches you can visit.
      • Many are only open until around 17:00h (5:00 p.m.) so if you are interested in any of these, make sure you visit them in the morning or early afternoon.

Ouro Preto –> Mariana

  • Scenic Passenger Train
    • 1 hour
    • Price unknown
    • 10:00 a.m. departure
    • The Train station is located at the bottom of the valley, on the road heading straight downhill from the Praça Tiradentes, which makes for a long and steep trek back up if you miss the train.IMG_8166
      • If you miss the train and can handle the walk up, there is a neat view point located at the top of a hidden stone steps that disappear into green vegetation.
    • Scenic Route
    • Recommendations: Book your ticket ahead of time. We showed up and the train was booked through the next day.
  • Public bus
    • 45 minutes
    • R$3.45 paid when you get on the bus
    • The bus stop is located by the Praça Tiradentes
    • Weekdays: Bus leaves every 30 minutes, Weekends: Bus leaves every hour on the hour.
    • The bus says “Mariana” on the front
    • Enter the bus from the back and leave the bus from the front
    • You will pass Minas da Passagem and the Mariana bus terminal before you get to the center of town.
      • If you are nervous about getting off at the wrong spot, ask the man collecting the bus fare to let you know when to get off. They are always very helpful!


Mariana was the first capital of the state of Minas Gerais before it was moved to Ouro Preto and eventually the planned city of Belo Horizonte. It has colonial architecture and hills of cobble stone streets. There are museums, shops, churches, and government buildings to tour! It is a walkable city and there should be no need for transportation if you are interested in exploring the nearby area.

  • Food
    • We ate brunch in a little cafe in the main praça where the bus drops you off.
      • Try the pão de queijo and the suco (juice). It is delicious!IMG_8229
    • We had a midafternoon açaí in another praça where there was a little pond and a park.Perhaps one of the top açaís I’ve had in Brasil. (& I’ve had a lot).
      • Price was reasonable, many toppings were available and it came in sizes up to 2 litros. (WOW).
    • There was a small family buffet by weight (a kilo) where some of our group that was hungry had lunch.
    • You can find many restaurants and cafes by wandering around the city.
  • Shopping
    • Like Ouro Preto, there are many little shops stationed around the town.
  • Activities
    • We found our way up to two beautiful churches and the main government building.
      • One church you can tour with a R$2 donation.
      • One church you cannot enter.
      • The government building you can tour for free and it has a great view point of the churches with the mountain backdrop, as well as some great portraits of former Portuguese royalty.
    • There are other museums, including the train station, and many churches to explore as well as huge hills to climb if you are interested.

IMG_8221 2

Mariana –> Mina da Passagem

  • Public bus
    • Ask around for directions on which bus stops the bus to Ouro Preto passes by.
    • Hop on the bus headed to Ouro Preto
      • Let the money attendant know where you would like to get off (Mina da Passagem) and they can help you stop the bus at the appropriate time.
    • R$3.45 for the bus ride
    • 20 minute bus ride
    • Ours was crowded on the way back to Ouro Preto
  • Clandestine Taxis
    • There are unmarked cars (not taxis) that will pull over and offer you a ride to Ouro Preto/Mina da Passagem
    • Take at your own risk.

Mina da Passagem

  • Student/Teacher pays $R40, Everyone else pays almost $R80
    • Accepted only in cash at the reception
    • Ticket gets you an entrance into the mine.
    • Open until 17:00 hours

This mine is the largest mine open to the public in the world and in its productive years produced a significant amount of gold, having been started by the English with the involvement of the Portuguese. You take a trolley cart down into the mine and there will be a tour guide at the bottom to explain a few things. The tour is in Portuguese, but it is also fairly brief and you won’t miss too much information if you don’t understand it. There is a lake inside the mine, as most of the mine is now filled with water (8 square km). There is even the option of scuba diving for experienced scuba divers that bring their own equipment.

After we walked around and learned about false gold, saw the lake, and make the mining cart trek back up, we were able to look at period mining equipment and watch a demonstration on separating gold from sediment.


Minas da Passagem –> Ouro Preto

  • Public bus
    • You’ll head back up to the main road where you were dropped off and wait at the same bus stop (with a little gazebo) until the bus passes by.
    • Hop on the bus headed to Ouro Preto
    • R$3.45 for the bus ride
    • 20 minute bus ride
    • Ours was standing room only on the way back to Ouro Preto (but it was getting close to the time when the last bus of the night would come by.
    • We had a beautiful view of the sunset.
  • Taxis
    • Also available to take you where you need to go, a few taxis and clandestine taxis wait near the bus stop for tourists that want a quicker ride.

Ouro Preto –> Belo Horizonte

  • Bus
    • Pássaro Verde
    • 2 hour trip from the main Rodoviário in Ouro Preto to that of Belo Horizonte (Governador Israel Pinheiro)
    • R$33 one way
      • An ID was asked for with the purchase of this ticket.
      • Assigned seats based on ticket.
      • The man on the bus checked our tickets once.
    • Comfortable Bus with seat belts and a bathroom on board.
    • Our hostel called ahead to find out about the openings and we were glad they did. We barely made the 19:00 bus which had plenty of openings when we called, but had 5 left when we arrived minutes before it departed. The 20:00 bus had 7 openings when we called.
    • The last bus of the night on Saturdays is at 20:00h.