This is another article from our series of Guides of the Brazilian Royal Road. The Diamonds Path (transl. Caminho dos Diamantes) was the third path established by the Portuguese Crown to control and facilitate the flow of goods between Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, including on the official route the city of Diamantina.
In this guide, you will find relevant information and tips to plan your trip along the Diamond Path and make the most of all that Brazil’s longest tourist route has to offer. Have a nice trip!
Read more: Planning a Trip on the Brazilian Royal Road
What is the Diamond Path
The Diamond Path is one of the four official paths that make up the tourist route of the Royal Road. Throughout the path, the route is accompanied by the Espinhaço Range which presents vast biodiversity and historical heritage that even include ancient rock paintings.
The Caminho dos Diamantes is 395 km long, being the third-longest route in the Royal Road, behind the Old Path (transl. Caminho Velho) with 710 km and the New Path (transl. Caminho Novo) with 515 km long.
The Story of the Diamond Path
In the 18th century, with the discovery of diamonds in the mining region of Serro, the Royal Road began to connect the city of Ouro Preto to Diamantina and this new stretch also became, from 1729, a mandatory passage for the transport of goods in the region.
How to travel along the Caminho dos Diamantes – Route Tips
The idea of the Royal Road is to follow exactly the colonial routes and not the conventional highways. Nowadays, many sections of the route are already paved, yet much of the path is done on dirt roads and it is possible to travel by car, motorcycle, horse, bicycle and on foot.
We made the entire way by car during the dry season so we had no problem with mud and jams. We opted for an SUV without traction 4×4 (we rented here). Although we’ve not encountered any difficulty, many people prefer the 4×4 option. In this case, the choice is at the discretion of the traveler.
Maps and GPS
The Website of the Estrada Real Institute provides maps and spreadsheets with a detailed route. In addition, there are totems all the way through to indicate if you are on the right track.
We also used the apps wikiloc and maps.me, and they were great! In maps.me, download the map for offline use and always choose the bike route, even if you are driving a car. In this way, it is more guaranteed to see the correct route by dirt roads instead of pointing to paved roads.
Extra tip: Both apps maps.me and wikiloc are also useful for discovering trails and waterfalls in the region.
Where to start
Considering the ascents and descents, the direction from Diamantina to Ouro Preto requires less physical effort and only 26% of the path is paved, which makes the trip even more interesting.
Our tip is to start in Diamantina and finish in Ouro Preto. If you’re staying in Belo Horizonte, south of Diamantina, take highways BR-040/BR-135 and BR-259 and go straight to Diamantina, which will be your starting point.
The most visited cities on the Diamond Path are Diamantina, São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras, Milho Verde, Serro, Conceição do Mato Dentro, Ipoema, Cocais, Santa Bárbara, Catas Altas, Mariana and Ouro Preto.
Each place has its own charm and offers unique experiences. In addition to historic towns and cities, be sure to enjoy the nature of the route. The biodiversity along the Serra do Espinhaço, the dozens of waterfalls with trails and natural beauties, make the Diamond Path an unforgettable experience.
From Diamantina to Ouro Preto, there is incredible gastronomic diversity. If you want a cultural immersion in typical local dishes, you won’t lack options.
- Mercado Velho (Old Market) – Saturday nights are enriched by a fair full of typical dishes. In the morning, you will find several delicacies such as requeijão de corte (a solid cream cheese), doce de leite (dulce de leche), coffee, cachaça, and more. There’s usually live music.
- Vila do Biribiri – Have lunch at Raimundo Sem Braço Restaurant or Adilson Restaurant. In addition to rich and tasty dishes, the place is beautiful with small waterfalls along the way.
- Now, if you want an authentic dish, such as Frango ao Molho Pardo (similar to the Portuguese dish Galinha a Cabidela), try the food from Cantinho da Dalva, you will not regret it! Good food and good stories! Oh! There’s usually live samba on Sundays.
- For an afternoon coffee with a delicious corn cake, stop at Café Mineiro.
São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras
- Homemade food is at Ademil’s Restaurant. Nice place, also take the opportunity to stamp your Royal Road Passport (we talk more about the passport in the following).
- If you are the one who seeks to learn about the local culture by trying out typical dishes, be sure to eat at Cozinha Quilombola.
- Following the same mindset, have an afternoon snack or breakfast with the best typical snacks (Quitandas) in the region, Dona Geralda, located in front of the Chapel ‘Nossa Senhora do Rosário’.
- If you are looking for a rich breakfast and a homemade meal cooked on the wood-stove, the Pousada e Restaurante do Morais is the right choice.
- For a wider space and plenty of food, visit the Angu Duro Restaurant.
Do you like cheese? So stay a little longer in this region. Serro cheeses are produced from raw milk and sold with different maturation stages. The recipe of Serro Cheese is listed as intangible heritage and has certification of origin that are geographical indications.
But to visit the producers and learn more about their history, go first to the Association of Artisanal Producers of Serro Cheese (Apaqs) located in the old bus station. You will be very well attended and from there you can contact the producers to schedule a visit.
As a suggestion, we recommend visiting the following places for tasting and, if possible, schedule a visit at the producer:
- Queijo Bom Sucesso, Producer Adílson (Chokito);
- Trem-Ruá, Producer Túlio Madureira;
- Maria Nunes Cheese, Producer Christiane Brandão;
- Cedar Cheese, Campos Family Farm;
- Cooper Serro Market (Cooperative of Rural Producers of Serro).
Did you know that? Serro was the first municipality in Brazil to be listed by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage – IPHAN, in 1938.
The district is home of the Tropeiro Museum and part of Itabira municipality, known as the capital of the Tropeirismo movement. Ipoema is synonymous with wood-stove and homemade food. Here are some recommendations:
- Restaurante Cantinho da Serra;
- Restaurante Estrada do Rei.
Famous for the production of honey and delicacies from Minas Gerais state. I remember the pastel (pastry) and the sweet burnt milk from the local bakeries, a delicious and comforting pair. If you are interested in knowing the history of local honey production and buying delicacies from Minas Gerais visit Casa do Mel (House of Honey). For a nice meal with quality products, visit the Queijaria Laviolla.
What makes Catas Altas a special destination is its proximity to Caraça Range and The Caraça Sanctuary, a paradise on the land of Minas Gerais. The Caraça Sanctuary is more than a pilgrimage destination, it is a nature reserve with immense biodiversity, its structure offers excellent accommodation, museum, library, and most interestingly, an incredible gastronomic offer that was part of the project to rescue the food culture of Minas Gerais called Primórdios da Cozinha Mineira (The Beginnings of Minas Gerais Cuisine). Even if you don’t stay at Caraça, be sure to visit it and stay hungry as lunch is well worth it.
Also, the Jabuticaba Wine Festival is an event that takes place every year in the city of Catas Altas. Jabuticaba is a Brazilian native berry and even if you miss the festival, try to taste the traditional Jabuticaba wine, produced in a handmade way since 1949 and that remains firm to this day.
The Gastronomy of Ouro Preto is a chapter apart. Despite the more touristy scene, you will find excellent restaurants, local food stores and coffee shops scattered throughout the city, offering from the most traditional to the exquisite gourmet. Even in the most modern restaurants, the essence of local cuisine will always be present. There are many options and best of all, it is difficult to go wrong, so do not limit yourself when exploring the gastronomy of Ouro Preto. Here are some recommendations:
- Lachonete Garapinha – excellent to get lost among cheeses, sweets and other delights of Minas Gerais cuisine.
- Restaurante o Passo, it is famous for the pizza, but our advice is to go for more local taste with a pint of modernity by ordering some of the appetizers. If you want a full meal, the menu is a contemporary style of excellent quality.
- Bar Barroco – a local pub that gained fame for its chicken coxinha (typical Brazilian snack), cold beer and cool atmosphere;
- Tenente Pimenta Rock Bar – for a more hectic night drizzled with drinks and assorted beers, good snacks and music;
- Café Geraes – located in the centre of Ouro Preto, has a pleasant atmosphere, live music and a well-varied menu with lots of good food. You will be on the top floor of another place to know called Escadabaixo Bar, just go down the stairs.
Another wonder that Ouro Preto produces very well is beer. For a good alcoholic experience try visiting the Ouropretana Factory Shop. A mandatory stop for beer lovers and good snacks.
Now, if you like to go to the origins of culinary traditions, make a day trip to the district of São Bartolomeu to taste the famous sweets made in large copper pots such as the Goiabada Cascão (Guava Sweet), considered an Intangible Heritage of Ouro Preto.
Culture, Art and History
In the Diamonds Path, history is not lacking. It is possible to understand the evolution of Brazilian art and architecture through various historical heritage that make up the path, such as churches, traditional houses, squares, public works, exhibitions in museums and much more. Just walk through the streets and squares to see the cultural and historical richness of the municipalities, towns and districts that make up the tourist route.
Here are some examples:
- Chica da Silva House – Diamantina
- Diamond Museum – Diamantina
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Rosário – Milho Verde
- Memorial and Museum on Carlos Drummond – Itabira
- Tropeiros Museum – Ipoema
- Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Catas Altas
- Caraça Sanctuary – Near Catas Altas
- Basilica of Nossa Senhora do Pilar – Ouro Preto
- Aleijadinho Museum – Ouro Preto
- Tiradentes Square with the Inconfidence Museum – Ouro Preto
In addition, try to know the work of embroiderers in Milho Verde, the local Quitandas (typical snacks), the crafts with soapstone in Ouro Preto, and many other local traditions.
Bordados (embroidery) da Barra in Milho Verde, Minas Gerais Soapstone Crafts in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais
In the Nature
Here the options are almost endless. Minas Gerais is a paradise of waterfalls and natural beauties, the route is so rich in biodiversity that we list only a few attractions to remember when planning your trip along the path of diamonds.
- Espinhaço Range – to observe during almost the entire trip;
- Gruta do Salitre (Saltpeter Cave) – Diamantina – pay attention to the perfect acoustics of this cave;
- Archaeological Site Pedra Pintada – Barão de Cocais – to see the Rock Paintings;
- Vila do Biribiri, where we recommend lunch, located in Biribiri State Park, open daily, it is possible to walk through the park and swim in the waterfalls;
- Unmissable! – Tabuleiro Waterfall (273 meters of fall, the highest in Minas Gerais and the third in Brazil), which is in the Serra do Intendente State Natural Park (Conceição do Mato Dentro). The park is a perfect destination for those seeking ecotourism and adventure tourism, as well as biologists and researchers due to its vast biodiversity and geographical position that transits between the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado. f you visit, have lunch at Restaurante Família;
- Serra do Caraça – the Sanctuary region is full of trails and waterfalls to be explored;
- Sempre-Vivas National Park, located in Serra do Espinhaço, one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil. In addition to the Sempre-Vivas flowers (Ever-Living flowers) and numerous species of plants and animals, it also houses springs of the São Francisco and Jequitinhonha Rivers. The Park is in the planning phase of public use, so the visit is limited and depends on authorization.
Sanctuary of Caraça View from the Diamonds Path (Caminho dos Diamantes) Gruta do Salitre (Saltpeter Caves) Prehistoric Paintings in Cocais
Where to Stay
There are several options of inns and guesthouses along the way and you can either book in advance or search for accommodations as soon as you arrive at your destination. It depends a lot on your travel style, season and whether you are travelling alone, accompanied, in a group, etc.
Click on the city name to see accommodation options and prices.
- São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras
- Milho Verde
- Conceição do Mato Dentro
- Santa Bárbara
- Catas Altas
- Ouro Preto
Detours beyond the route
If you have time, take the opportunity to take a break from the official route and get to know some additional places.
Serra do Cipó Circuit
Located 90 km from Belo Horizonte, Serra do Cipó district is close to Serra do Cipó National Park. The region has a tourist circuit with several options of ecotourism and adventure tourism that covers several municipalities including Conceição do Mato Dentro where the Tabuleiro waterfall is located.
Tip for the trail lovers: It is possible to make a 3-day trekking crossing between the districts of Tabuleiro and Lapinha da Serra.
The municipality of Itabirito is part of the Sabarabuçu Path and is between Ouro Preto and Belo Horizonte. If possible, make a stop in Itabirito and try one of its most famous delicacies, the pastel de angu de Itabirito.
Look for one of the maintainers of the recipe which is recognized as intangible heritage of the municipality. More information, look for the Tourist References and Information Center of Itabirito.
Dona Nilda, one of the maintainers of the Pastel de Angú de Itabirito
Oh! Be sure to stop by Paraopeba Store, one of the most unusual shops you’ll ever meet, practically a trip back in time with many local delicacies, utensils, and more.
Royal Road Passport
The Royal Road Institute offers a passport for those who plan to travel along the paths of the Royal Road. With the passport, you stamp your passage through the main cities and in the end, receive a certificate of completion.