Do you need another reason to visit Ouro Preto?
(If you are in search of stone pots sold in the market or clay pots sold on the side of the road, not to mention the incredible farm-style wooden kitchen items and art carvings – you know who you are.)
The small, quiet and historic town of Mariana is located just 12 kilometers from Ouro Preto (OP). Founded in 1696, Mariana is one of the oldest towns in Minas Gerais. The architecture and fantabulous churches tell a tale much like that of Ouro Preto, but without the tourist crush. This is a great day trip from OP, including a quiet lunch.
Admittedly, the place mostly boasts an over run of Baroque churches, but they do, in fact each offer an interesting appeal. When Luiz and I visited we went to the main square and prepared to start our blind walking tour of discovery. Just then a small boy appeared from nowhere and offered to take us around and explain the history of the multiple churches and early government buildings. So cute! He even spoke some basic English - enough to charm us into taking his personal assistance.
If you are so lucky as to be spotted by a freelance pre-teen tour guide, go for it. We learned a lot of fun information and were even made privy to some historic as well as current town gossip. When all was said and done (close to two hours later) we took the boy to lunch with us and gave him R$10 for his services (he had not asked for anything).
On the road between OP and Mariana is an old gold mine that is open for tours (rickety rusted bucket ride down into the mine no extra charge). This is well worth a stop, especially if you have kids.
Here is the city tourism website for more info. All the photos in this post were taken by Luiz.