Botanical Wonders of Brazil’s Estrada Royal

October 5-13, 2020

Brazil’s Estrada Real or Royal Road is a series of historic routes spanning the states of Minas Gerais, São Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro dating back more than 300 years.  This region experienced a gold rush of unprecedented proportions in the late 17thcentury.  By the middle of the 18thcentury, area mines were turning out half the world’s supply of gold.  The Estrada Real offers awe-inspiring landscapes and colonial towns filled with magnificent Baroque architecture.  This area is also home to one of the most revolutionary landscape architects of all time – Roberto Burle Marx.

Join Nick Snakenburg, Associate Director of Horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens, for this unforgettable 9-day journey.  This trip promises to offer a rich cultural and botanical experience exploring 17th– 19thcentury architecture, landscapes, natural history, culture, art and gastronomy.

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Itinerary

DAY 1 (Mon, Oct 5)Arrival/ Belo Horizonte ~ Morning arrival to Tancredo Neves International Airport (CNF) in Belo Horizonte and transfer to hotel. Afternoon visit to the Botanic Gardens and Pampulha Modern Ensemble, an urban project in Belo Horizonte.  The buildings were designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer in collaboration with the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and Brazilian Modernist artists. In July 2016, the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Accommodations: Ouro Minas Palace Hotel
Meals: Dinner
Estimated Drive Times Today: CNF Airport to hotel is approx. 30 mins; hotel to Pampulha and Botanic Gardens is approx. 30 mins.

Belo Horizonte ~ The capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte is a metropolis that hasn’t lost its “townish” way. Urban while bucolic, Belo Horizonte has pão-de-queijo (cheese bread), cachaça (local rum), parks and pubs, plus intense cultural activities, sophisticated shops and starred restaurants. Framed by hills and mountains, the first planned city of the country was chosen by architect Oscar Niemeyer for his professional debut in the 40’s. His works embellish the outline of the Pampulha Lagoon, one of the postcards of “Beagá” – as the capital is affectionately called by its residents.

DAY 2 (Tues, Oct 6): Belo Horizonte/ Ouro Preto ~ After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we will visit the Contemporary Art Museum of Inhotim, the largest open air museum in Latin America. In 2010, the museum won the category of Botanical Garden for its rich botanical collection including rare plant species like Pau Brasil (the national tree of Brazil) and one of the world’s most important palm collections. There will be time to stroll through the gardens and visit some of its more than 20 pavilions and outdoor art installations.  This afternoon, we’ll continue to Ouro Preto.

Accommodations: Hotel Pousada Mondego
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Times Today: Belo Horizonte to Inhotim approx. 3 hrs; Inhotim to Ouro Preto approx. 3 hrs.

Ouro Preto ~ Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ouro Preto preserves the greatest collection of Brazilian Baroque architecture. The discovery of gold in the ancient Vila Rica elevated Ouro Preto to an economic center during the 17th and 18th centuries. The fortune extracted left a legacy of mansions and churches constructed in spectacular fashion. To best discover this city’s rich heritage, you’ll need comfortable walking shoes to stroll the centuries-old cobbled alleyways. Here, we’ll see churches, towers, museums and the influence of the large student population of this prominent University town.

DAY 3 (Wed, Oct 7): Ouro Preto ~ Our morning begins with a short 10-minute drive to the Federal University of Ouro Preto, where we’ll meet a Professor of Botany for a lecture on local botany, agriculture and food. Our lecture will take place outside in the beautiful Andorinhas Park.  There’s time to return to the hotel before our afternoon walking tour.  We start the tour with a walk in beautiful Ouro Preto, known as an open- air museum.  We’ll see part of the immense wealth discovered in the area that was used to decorate important Baroque churches like Matriz do Pilar and Church of São Francisco with panels, frames and paintings on the ceiling of the Mestre Athaíde. Next, we’ll visit a traditional urban mine.

Accommodations: Hotel Pousada Mondego
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Hotel to Federal University approx. 10 mins.

Tiradentes ~ One of the most charming historic towns in Brazil and recently rated as the country’s “Most Beautiful City”. On its colonial pebble-stone streets, 18th century churches are alongside preserved houses now home to restaurants, pousadas, antique/ craft shops that light their lamps on the facade at dusk. This lovely setting has served as a location for movies, sitcoms and soap operas.

DAY 4 (Thurs, Oct 8): Ouro Preto/ Tiradentes ~ Full day tour and transfer from Ouro Preto to Tiradentes with a stop in São João del Rei and a ride on Maria de Fumaça Steam Train. In Tiradentes, we’ll visit Santo Antonio Church and Saint Joseph Fountain (Chafariz de São José), one of the most beautiful and visited tourist attractions in the city.  Our afternoon continues with a visit to São João Del Rei and Francisco de Assis Church before our return to Tiradentes aboard the famous Maria de Fumaça steam train. The São João del Rei railroad complex, protected as a Heritage Site by the National Artistic and Historic Heritage Institute, contains the largest collection of preserved and original steam engines from a single manufacturer (Baldwin) and a single railroad (Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas).

Accommodations: Hotel Lis Blue
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Ouro Preto to Tiradentes approx. 1.5 hrs; Tiradentes to São João del Rei approx. 30 mins; train ride from São João del Rei to Tiradentes approx. 1 hr.

DAY 5 (Fri, Oct 9): Tiradentes ~ Full day tour to a Coffee Plantation in Santo Antônio de Amaro to participate in a coffee workshop.

Accommodations: Hotel Lis Blue
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Tiradentes to Santo Antônio de Amaro approx. 1.5 hrs each way.

Rio de Janeiro ~ The inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro call it the “Marvelous City.” Located on the Bay of Guanabara, Rio has a mountainous landscape that contrasts with an intensely blue sea. Here, skyscrapers, colonial buildings and narrow streets meld in perfect harmony.  Although the city is a reflection of the social inequalities of the country, Rio de Janeiro has great style and is internationally renowned for its Christ Corcovado, Pão de Açúcar, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Carnivals and the warm and lively inhabitants of the city, the cariocas.

Day 6 (Sat, Oct 10) – Tiradentes/ Rio de Janeiro ~ Depart for Rio de Janeiro today with a stop at Arabotânica Orchid House in Teresópolis on the way.  Arabotânica was created to host and display a variety of orchids to its visitors. In addition to displaying champion orchids, the orchid house has a beautiful garden with a variety of ornamental plants, a Display Pavilion for award-winning orchids, landscape design by Roberto Agnes and sustainable furniture by designer Felicio Jordane.

Accommodations: Windsor California Hotel
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Tiradentes to Teresópolis approx. 5 hrs; Teresópolis to Rio de Janeiro approx. 3 hrs.

Day 7 (Sun, Oct 11) – Rio de Janeiro ~ Morning tour of Sitio Burle Marx. Built by the architect Roberto Burle Marx in his residence in the city’s West Zone, the Sitio Burle Marx spans 365,000 square meters of beautiful gardens. This landscape brought together one of the most important collections of tropical and subtropical plants in the world. Visitors will also discover architecture, studio paintings and personal collections of Burle Marx. There is also the Burle Marx House Museum, which preserves 3,125 pieces, including rare objects of art and crafts.  After lunch, we will visit Tijuca Forest and Christ the Redeemer.  Here, we’ll have a fantastic panoramic view of the city. We return by train to the base of Corcovado and continue with a panoramic tour along Rio’s south beaches before returning to the hotel.

Accommodations: Windsor California Hotel
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Depends on local traffic in Rio.

Day 8 (Mon, Oct 12) – Rio de Janeiro ~ Morning visit to the Botanical Garden located in the heart of the city and afternoon walking tour of Pão de Açúcar, the most famous track in Rio.  At the end of the walk, we’ll take the cable car to Sugar Loaf.

Accommodations: Windsor California Hotel
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
Estimated Drive Time Today: Depends on local traffic in Rio.

Day 9 (Tues, Oct 13) – Departure ~ Transfer back to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport (GIG) in time for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast

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Price: $3,855* per person for Denver Botanic Gardens members (double occupancy); add $100 per person for non-members. Single supplement: $670* (subject to availability).

Includes: Accommodations, private in-country transportation, private full-time local bilingual guide, full-time trip host from Denver Botanic Gardens (Nick Snakenburg), entrance fees as listed, meals as listed, basic no trip cost travel insurance (pre-departure cancellation can be added at additional cost), gratuities at restaurants, and sales taxes.

Exclusions: International airfare, passport/visa fees, optional gratuities for your local guide and driver, optional activities, alcohol, and personal expenses.

*Pricing is subject to change until deposit received and confirmed in writing. A 3% discount will be applied for payment by check.

About Your Host: Nick Snakenberg has worked at Denver Botanic Gardens since 1993 in an array of capacities. A graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture, he currently serves as an Associate Director of Horticulture and curates the Gardens’ tropical collections including the orchid collection and the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory.  Nick’s affiliations with professional organizations add to his expertise and include membership in the Denver Orchid Society (having served as President), the Orchid Digest Corporation and the American Orchid Society where he serves as an accredited orchid judge for the Rocky Mountain Regional Judging Center.

Important Information: Itinerary has been built to allow flexibility to accommodate activities and sightseeing. Every effort will be made to carry out all activities as planned and advertised, however, trip leaders reserve the right to make alterations, deletions, or modifications to the itinerary deemed necessary due to circumstances beyond their control.

For more trip information, contact Reefs to Rockies (303.860.6045; admin@reefstorockies.com).