The mountains are an important part of Belo Horizonte. So important that, back in 1997, the population elected them as the city’s symbol. But they are more than a symbol; they are where Belo Horizonte was born and the reason for its name.
Since we will talk about the mountains and the view from them in Belo Horizonte, we have to explain a little bit of the geography behind it.
Belo Horizonte from Above: Serra do Curral
The mountains that surround the east side of Belo Horizonte are called Serra do Curral. We are translating it freely as a 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, 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 area’s flora is really diversified and 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 of Belo Horizonte.
Belo Horizonte from Above: Praça do Papa
Praça Israel Pinheiro is the real name of this place, but nobody calls it like this. Praça do Papa is the popular name of this square that is found in the mountains surrounding the city. The court 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. History says that he liked the view from above Belo Horizonte so much, and started his speech by saying “Que Belo Horizonte”, which could be translated as a beautiful horizon.
After the visit from Pope John Paul II, Belo Horizonte decided to set up 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 see this all the time while living in Belo Horizonte.
Most of my summer weekends in my teenage years had stories about having beers up in the mountains while watching the night view of the city.
It was the best way to 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 picture from Mirante das Mangabeiras. From there, you can see Belo Horizonte but with a different perspective than Praça does Papa. This happens because this place stands slightly higher and has a better panoramic view of Belo Horizonte. And it all started by accident, sort of.
Mirante das Mangabeiras became what it is today entirely by accident. It used to be 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 established there, and the people 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 build a belvedere that later became Mirante das Mangabeiras.
From Mirante das Mangabeiras, you can see most of Belo Horizonte and a massive part of Parque das Mangabeiras with its preserved Mata Atlântica. There are two different wood decks from where you can see Belo Horizonte; we know you will love it.
My favorite thing about the view from Mirante das Mangabeiras is the contrast between the green mountains and the city below. You can see how Belo Horizonte came from the mountains and the beauty surrounding this Brazilian city there.
Visit Mirante das Mangabeiras 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 can check out.
Parque da Serra do Curral is the newest addition to the mountains that surround Belo Horizonte. I remember walking around the area before it was a park; the view from there is impressive. They have over 10 belvederes around the park; it is the perfect place to get physical and do mountain hiking.
If you are looking for something a little more relaxing, you should visit Parque das Mangabeiras. The most significant green area in Belo Horizonte, this park is an ecological research and preservation area open to the public.
You can see why Brazilian nature is so beautiful and famous worldwide there. 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 weird.
Due to an optical illusion effect, leaving your car unlocked and without braking it won’t look like it is rolling down the street. It will look like it is going up! It is crazy and honest; you should see it for yourself!
Belo Horizonte looks way better from above 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.