Hidden eco-paradise in the Serra da Beleza, Minas Gerais - Brazil

A collection of motorcycle road trips across Brazil (and some other stuff):

Hidden eco-paradise in the Serra da Beleza, Minas Gerais - Brazil

It was on one of my first motorcycle road trips, exploring the dirt roads of the "Vale do Cafe" after arriving in Brazil in early 2009, that I missed a right turn and ended up crossing the state border between Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, that I got to know a hidden little gem of a village called Santa Rita de Jacutinga, or short: Santa Rita.

The village only recently started to discover and develop its touristic potential so it has nothing of a typical touristic place, like for instance Tiradentes, one of the most famous historical villages, which gets its income almost only out of tourism.

When I arrived there the first time in 2009, there were no aspalt roads to the village. Today this has changed: two asphalt roads, one to the south and one to the north, make the village more accessable for visitors.
 

Santa Rita, also known as "a cidade das cachoeiras" or "city of waterfalls", as the name implies, is famous for its more than 70 waterfalls scattered across an area of almost 500 km².

A great way to discover the most important ones is on horseback, but it can also be done by car (preferrably a 4x4) or during a mountainbike or hiking trip, during which you will be blown away by the beautiful sights around each curve in the road, or the flocks of colorful birds you will encounter. Besides birds, there are a lots of other forest animals you could run into here: monkeys, Coatis and various kinds of reptiles like lizards and snakes... the latter potentially dangerous so better stick to the trails when you're hiking.
 
 
As you probably figured out by now, this is a place for people that are looking for rural or adventure tourism... the local "centro de aventuras" offers rapelling, rafting, cascading, canyoning and trekking. The organization could be a little more professional, but they are doing their best...
 
 
Unlike the more touristic places in the region, and again, due to the fact that tourism is a fairly new phenomenon here, Santa Rita doesn't have a lot of accomodation (yet). there are 6 pousadas in the center, and 6 more outside of the village (max 8km from the center) Here is a link to a map showing the points of interest and places to stay in the wide area.
 
 
One of the most important historical attractions in the region is the 18th century "Fazenda Santa Clara", about 20 km of dirt road from Santa Rita.

This gigantic farm was built on top of a hill and almost resembles a mideaval castle. It has 90 rooms, 12 of which are salons, and 365 windows, lots of them just painted on the white walls.

Sinister detail: this farm's primary activity was not growing coffee or raising cattle, but the production of slaves... After the abolition of transatlantic slave trading in 1836, fazendas like these were providing the huge coffee fazendas in the area with new slaves, until slavery was finally abolished in Brazil in 1888. Visiting the fazenda, and seeing the places where the slaves were kept, and sometimes tortured, compared to the luxurious salons of the fazenda owners, leaves a very strong impression.
 
 
Whenever I feel like taking a break from the city, I find myself on the road leading to Santa Rita and the Serra da Beleza that surrounds it.

For me it is the place where I find peace and tranquility, a good, homemade meal and an authentic, unspoilt atmosphere of the Brazilian rural interior as it must have been like many years before tourism even existed...

Raf
 
Written and contributed MirantesMT
www.mirantes-mototravel.com