The mountains are an important part of Belo Horizonte. So important that, back in 1997, they were elected by the population as the symbol of the city. But they are more than a symbol, they are where Belo Horizonte was born and the reason for its name.
Since we are going to talk about the mountains and the view from these mountains in Belo Horizonte, we have to explain a little bit of the geography behind it.
Serra do Curral
The mountains that surround the east side of Belo Horizonte are called Serra do Curral. We are translating it freely as mountain range where you store the cows. Serra do Curral has its name because of Capitão João Leite da Silva Ortiz, who, back in 1701, occupied the area where a part of Belo Horizonte is nowadays. His farm was called Fazenda do Cercado and, through the years, it became the central point of a small village called Curral Del Rey. This village, later, became Belo Horizonte.
Serra do Curral belongs to a range of mountains called Serra do Espinhaço. The flora of the area is really diversified and it can go from montane savanna to, what we call in Brazil, cerrado and to Mata Atlântica. If you have the time, visit Parque das Mangabeiras and enjoy all the natural beauty from Belo Horizonte.
Praça do Papa
Praça Israel Pinheiro is the real name of this place but nobody call it like this. Praça do Papa is the popular name of this square all the way in the mountains that surround the city. The square stands at 1100 meters high and is one of the best places to see the beauty of Belo Horizonte.
The place got its popular name in 1980, when Pope John Paul II visited Belo Horizonte, he blessed the city from there. The history says that he liked the view from above Belo Horizonte so much and he started his speech saying “Que Belo Horizonte”, that could be translated as what a beautiful horizon.
After the visit from Pope John Paul II, Belo Horizonte decided to set a memorial to his visit that, nowadays, stands as the central point in the beautiful square.
This is the place to see a panoramic view of Belo Horizonte and I used to this all the time when I was still living in Belo Horizonte. Most of my summer weekends in my teenage years had some stories about having some beers up in the mountains while watching the night view of the city. It was the best way of cool down during the summer night since the mountain wind is the best.
Mirante das Mangabeiras
If you liked the view from Praça do Papa, you have to go a bit further and see the view from Mirante das Mangabeiras. From there you can see Belo Horizonte from above but with a different view than Praça do Papa. This happens because this place stands a little higher and with a better panoramic view of Belo Horizonte. And it all started by accident, sort of.
Mirante das Mangabeiras became what it is today completely by accident. It used to be just a dead-end street where a radio station used to be. Back in 1976, Rádio Jornal do Brasil, the first FM station in Belo Horizonte, was stablished there and the people who were building the place fell in love with the view. They loved it so much and one of the engineers responsible for the construction, Acílio Lara Resende, decided to built a belvedere that, later, became Mirante das Mangabeiras.
From Mirante das Mangabeiras, you can see most of Belo Horizonte and a huge part of Parque das Mangabeiras with its preserved Mata Atlântica. There are two different wood decks from where you can see Belo Horizonte and we know you are going to love it.
My favorite thing about the view from Mirante das Mangabeiras is the contrast between the green mountains and the city below. There you can see how Belo Horizonte came from the mountains and the beauty that surrounds this brazilian city.
Visit Mirante das Mangabeiras in a time close to sunset and you will see how Serra do Curral shines in the golden hour. Bring your camera and enjoy Belo Horizonte from above.
More Belo Horizonte from Above
What else can you do there? If you are already all the way up at Serra do Curral, there are a few other places that you check out.
Parque da Serra do Curral is the newest addition to the mountains the mountains that surround Belo Horizonte. I remember walking around the area before it was a park and the view from up there is amazing. They have over 10 belvederes around the park and it is the perfect place to get physical and do some mountain hiking.
If you are looking for something a little more relaxing, you should visit Parque das Mangabeiras. The biggest green area in Belo Horizonte, this park is a ecological research and preservation area open to the public. There you will be able to see why the brazilian nature is so beautiful and famous around the world. I remember going there as a child and getting crazy excited about the small monkeys you can see there.
If you want something magical, you have to visit Rua do Amendoim. The street, officially called Rua Professor Otávio Magalhães, is a weird thing. Due to a optical illusion effect, if you leave your car unlocked and without braking it, it won’t look like it is rolling down the street. It will look like it is going up! It is crazy and it is real and you should see it for yourself!
Belo Horizonte from above looks way better than from the ground. The mountains surrounding this part of the city are green pieces of paradise and you should spend your day exploring everything around there.