By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carrancas is a Brazilian municipality located in the south of the state of Minas Gerais and is little known among travelers in Brazil. Preserving the most beautiful natural treasures from Cerrado, Carrancas has a typical countryside environment. For those looking for stunning waterfalls, cave paintings and a lovely village, the approximately six-hour trip from Rio de Janeiro to Carrancas is definitely worth it.
Inhabited by less than 4,000 people, the peaceful Carrancas is close to the cities of Lavras, Cruzília and the famous Tiradentes, touristic destination among those into history and colonial architecture. Situated about 286 kilometers away from Belo Horizonte, Minas’ capital, Carrancas is recognized as an important ecotourism polo in the region.
Part of Estrada Real (the “Royal Road”, former path used by the Portuguese Crown to drain gems from Minas to the coast), Carrancas has been increasingly attracting people for its countless waterfalls, breathtaking landscapes, tranquil lifestyle and even cave paintings.
When it comes to culture, Carrancas is also a promising destination: traditional festivities take place in the city the entire year. Apart from Carnival, which, in Carrancas, happens 15 days before the official date, celebrations like “Congada”, an Afro-Brazilian cultural expression, “Folia de Reis” and the homage to catholic saints, like São Benedito and Nossa Senhora da Conceição, usually attracts crowds to the city.
Once in Carrancas, nature loving visitors cannot miss Complexo da Zilda, a recreation area with great infrastructure, a variety of falls and a natural pool. Located 13 kilometers away from the city center, the complex charges R$30 per person and R$10 for parking.
Among Complexo da Zilda’s attractions, Cachoeira dos Índios is one of the favorite waterfalls. Possessing a short, but voluminous fall, Índios is a great spot to take a break and chill on one of its rocks. Close to Índios, Cachoeira da Proa is also worth checking out. Offering a nice water slide and a natural pool, Proa is a great option for families with children.
Complexo da Zilda is also where Carrancas’ archaeological cave paintings are situated. Discovered not long ago, the paintings date back 3,500 years. Today, Complexo da Zilda’s archaeological site attracts not only tourists, but also several researchers interested in Carrancas’ very first inhabitants.
Not far from Complexo da Zilda, those who want to explore nice trails and spot some beautiful landscapes should go to Serra das Broas and Chapada dos Perdizes. Travel agencies Pé na Serra and Verde Vida Ecoturismo offer “4×4” tours that pass by both of these places, also stopping by Serra dos Moleques and Encontro and Grande waterfalls.
Another complex one should check is Fumaça, only three kilometers away from Carrancas’ city center. Fumaça has free entrance for all visitors, and it possesses four amazing waterfalls: the namesake one, a fifteen-meter high natural monument, considered the city’s postcard (entering the water is not allowed, though); Cachoeira Véu da Noiva, Cachoeira do Luciano and Cachoeira da Serrinha.
At the Vargem Grande complex, 9 kilometers away from the center, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy two great natural pools, the Esmeralda and the Vargem Grande. During summertime, it is recommended to arrive early, since the area usually gets very busy.
Not forgetting, one cannot travel to Minas Gerais without experiencing its unique culinary side. For traditional Minas’ food, restaurants Uai Tchê, Estrada Real, Adobe and Feliz are good options – the last being the more accessible choice. For pizzas and artisanal burgers, one should try Betão and Will’s Burger, respectively.
In terms of accommodation, Carrancas offers lodges, hotels, hostels and campings for all budgets. Among the suggested options are the pousadas Toca, Mahayana and Candeias; hostel-camping Tira Prosa; hotel Recanto da Serra; and Aconchego da Serra and Sossego do Jeca campings.
To get to Carrancas from Rio de Janeiro, take the BR 040 road, passing by Juiz de Fora until Barbacena. From Barbacena, take the BR 265 road until Itutinga, and from there, take the road to Carrancas.
From São Paulo, depart from Fernão Dias road and drive until Lavras (exit 688). Then, take road BR 265 until Carrancas. Another option from Fernão Dias road is via city Três Corações. Once in Três Corações, go until São Thomé das Letras, then turn in Lumiárias. From Lumiárias to Carrancas, it takes aproximately 40 kilometers.