Baroque architecture. Simple, sherbert-colored houses dotting the hillside. Passport (and visa) required. . .
Last week I was in the Minas Gerais state of Brazil, in the southeast part of the country, about 400 miles north of Sao Paolo. Before I was invited on the trip I had never heard of it, even though it's anchored by Brazil's third largest city, Belo Horizonte. But that's what makes it great: the tourists flock to buzzing Sao Paulo and Rio, leaving this place untrammelled and wholly authentic. (Practice your Portuguese, or travel with a guide!)
Minas Gerais literally mean general mines. The cities here sprouted up in the 1700s after the discovery of gold. The economy was built on mining; and sparkling Baroque churches soon became showpieces of the local bounty. Though flying in and out of the capital city of Belo Horizonte (translation: beautiful horizon) gave me the chance to tour the city, my favorite part of the trip was the old mining village of Ouro Preto, where many of those churches still stand.