Getting to know the Estrada Real (Royal Road) is like reliving the history of Minas Gerais while discovering fascinating places along the way.
Estrada Real was the name given to colonial-era public roads whose domain belonged to the Portuguese crown and imperial government. Considered one of the largest tourist attractions in Brazil, construction was begun on the Estrada Real in the 17th century. The road was intended as a way to transport Minas Gerais gold to the coast. Centuries later, the route has become a popular track for travellers seeking route through Minas Gerais, a region that offers uncompromised history and a healthy dose of adrenaline.
During colonial times, treasure hunters flocked to Minas Gerais in search of precious metals. This was encouraged by the Portuguese crown because they were interested in the quinto (a government tax on all gold in Brazil). When the monarchy realized that smuggling was increasing and they were being cheated, the court established the Estrada Real as a means to monitor the movement of gold and possessions from the mining zone in the late 17th century. The use of old roads and the opening of new highways became prohibited.
The main roads in Minas Gerais consisted of three routes: the Old Path, the New Path and the Path of Diamonds. The Old Path connected Vila Rica, today Ouro Preto, and the port town of Paraty in the Rio de Janeiro state; it passed by the cities of Vale do Paraíba. At the request of the Portuguese Crown, a second route was opened in the 18th century which extended from the city of Rio de Janeiro to Ouro Preto. Sometime later, the discovery of precious stones in Diamantina resulted in the expansion of this route which led travellers from Ouro Preto to Arraial do Tejuco, and what is today the city of Diamantina. During the golden age, this was one of the busiest roads in the Empire of Brazil.
Over the years, rudimentary Minas Gerais hotels popped up for the tropeiros (traditional travellers who transported merchants between cities). There were also places created for the crown to collect taxes. In many cases, these small outposts have become Brazil towns and villages which, with the constant economic movement provided by the constant movement of traffic, were able to quickly establish themselves as cities.
Today the wealth of the gold mines in Minas Gerais has been exhausted, but other resources remain. Along the entire royal path, natural beauties have been discovered, and unique Brazilian historical sites and cultural attractions have been preserved. It is no coincidence that Ouro Preto sits at the convergence of the Royal Road’s three routes. When gold was a hot commodity in colonial Brazil, Ouro Preto was the most important economic and political centre of the country. Currently, structures from this historical time such as Minas Gerais churches, are lovely attractions for visitors to see what life was once like. Ouro Preto is also a welcoming refuge from the wilderness of the Atlantic Forest and the State Park of Itacolomi.
Come join our Ouro Preto tours on the Royal Road and enjoy various Ouro Preto attractions such as colonial buildings, churches, museums, nature reserves, ecotourism activities, extreme sports, cooking and especially our mining history, with many surprises along the way. Whether on foot, horseback, jeep or bike, this route is worth seeing! The Estrada Real Tour is full of adventure with river rapids, waterfalls and trails lined with bucolic villages. You can experience it as the pioneers and tropeiros did many years ago. Every stop along the way has a thrill that mirrors the past of Minas Gerais.
The Estrada Real is a piece of Brazilian history and we invite you to fall in love with this region of Brazil through our locally operated Ouro Preto Tours!