The mountainous inland state of Minas Gerais, which borders Rio and São Paulo, was the centre of the world's original gold rush in the 17th and 18th centuries. The abundant wealth made from the area's diamonds, gold and semi-precious stones transformed its mining towns into treasure houses of glorious colonial architecture and sculpture. Ouro Preto (whose name means 'black gold') is the most famous of these towns and is a uniquely well preserved UNESCO World Heritage site. Others famous for their Baroque architecture include Mariana, São João del Rei and the lovely village of Tiradentes.
Spend a few days learning about the region's fascinating history and culture, and go hiking or riding in the mountains. An ideal side trip from beach life and the bustle of Rio.