Lavras Novas, named for the new gold strikes discovered here in 1704, sits on a high plateau 17km from Ouro Preto. When the gold started running out in the late 18th century, this hamlet became home to a small community of freed slaves, many of whose descendants have remained to this day. Surrounded by wide-open mountain scenery, its cobblestone main street runs between colorful single-story houses to the town’s focal point, the Igreja NS dos Prazeres.
The rapid influx of weekend visitors from Belo Horizonte over the past decade, coupled with the paving of Lavras' access road, have led to a boom in new pousadas and ecotourism agencies; during busy holiday periods, outsiders easily outnumber locals. For lower prices and a taste of the town’s traditional off-the-beaten-path tranquility, consider visiting midweek.