São João's bus station is 1.5km northeast of the center. Two bus companies offer service between São João and Tiradentes. Presidente runs along the faster paved road (R$3.80, 20 minutes), while Porto Real (R$4.20, 30 minutes) follows the scenic (but bumpy!) Estrada Real.
Buses from São João del Rei
Viação Sandra (www.viacaosandra.com.br)
Smoking Mary: Minas' Vintage Steam Trains
Sure, there are buses that will get you back and forth between São João del Rei and Tiradentes, but how can they compare with a trip on a 19th-century steam train in pristine condition? Hop aboard as this little engine hisses and belches its way through the winding valley of the Serra de São José to Tiradentes. The tracks pass through one of the oldest areas of gold mining in Minas and you’ll see the remnants of 18th-century mine workings all around. Keep a sharp eye out for modern garimpeiros (gold panners) still hoping to strike it rich.
Built in the 1880s as the textile industry began to take hold in São João, the Maria-Fumaça ('Smoking Mary', as the steam train is locally known) was one of the first rail lines in Brazil.
Nowadays, the train runs one to four times daily in each direction on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays (the exact schedule varies monthly; see the website for details). When leaving São João the best views are on the left side. If you need more time in Tiradentes than the train schedule allows, you can always bus back (there are regular connections between the two cities).