- Encounters with locals
- Hiking / Trekking
- Place or Religious Monument
Compared to the other historic cities of Minas Gerais, like Ouro Preto, Mariana, and its neighbor Tiradentes, Sao Joao del Rei didn't impress me much. It is probably a good idea to start by going there before exploring other colonial cities, like an appetizer before moving on to the baroque jewels of Brazil.
However, the city is lovely and has a traditional mix of colonial houses and baroque churches. But it is somewhat less charming than its sister cities. The church of Sao Francisco de Assis is the model for Sao Joao del Rei. It was built by the great mineiro sculptor and architect, Aleijadinho, in 1774.
You can take a ride on the steam train line, which has been in operation since the late nineteenth century, linking Sao Joao del Rei and Tiradentes. The cost of a ticket is quite high for a 14 kilometer ride that only takes about forty minutes, but the views make it worthwhile. i would advise you to take the first train in the morning from Tiradentes, and to come back on the last train in the afternoon leaving from Sao Joao del Rei. You'll have plenty of time to tour the historic part of the city.
Sao Joao del Rei was the first city I visited during my trip in the Minas Gerais. Arriving in the city centre on Good Friday, I was amazed by the amount of activity that prevailed in the city. From church to church, the processions marched in the city with the sound of religious songs. Whilst talking to the visiting tourists, I discovered that some had booked their holiday months in advance to see this spectacle in the Easter week.
I particularly liked the city during this period. As Sao Joao del Rei is particularly well known for its churches, the Easter period is the time when they are featured the most. In the evening, concerts and food fairs take over and the atmosphere of the city is very pleasant.
Before leaving for Tiradentes, I took advantage of the nice weather to go climbing in Serra do Lenheiro in the north of the city. Deserted by tourists in this period, this mountainous massif allows you to do many sports activities and enjoy a lovely view of the whole region.