Ouro Preto itself is just a charming place (and an UNESCO World Heritage site), with colonial architecture and an idyllic location in the mountains. But Easter in Ouro Preto is simply magical. Like many places in Latin America, Easter is a big deal, and celebrated with a procession recreating the Passion of Christ and other festivities during Holy Week. But in Ouro Preto, the highlight is the Easter Sunday procession of Biblical figures parading down streets covered with colourful carpets created by the locals using natural materials (ie. woodchips, flowers, etc.). The carpets depict religious themes and run throughout the town.
The carpets are created beginning as the sun sets on Saturday. People from all over town (artists, non-artists, locals, tourists, families, etc) stay up all night decorating. The cobblestone paths are transformed into beautiful artwork. It's a lively, party atmosphere with music and drink and laughter everywhere!
On Sunday morning there is a huge parade along this long stretch of carpet. Again much of the town dresses up and you will see many children dressed up as angels.
Tips for Easter in Ouro Preto
- Plan to arrive at least the day before so you can watch the carpets being made. I arrived on Good Friday and was able to watch the outdoor passion play (free)
- Be prepared to do a lot of walking on cobbled streets and up steep hills, good shoes are a must
- Carpets start being created at 8pm and the festivities continue throughout the night
- On even-numbered years the procession leaves from Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pilar and heads towards the plaza of Igreja Bom Jesus de Matosinhos
- In odd-numbered years it starts in Nossa Senhora da Conceicao de Antonio Dias and heads towards Nossa Senhora de Rosario
- Book your accommodation well in advance if you can
- If you want to avoid the tourist area stay a distance from Praca Tiradentes
- While staying in Ouro Preto you can visit Mariana and Tiradentes
- Fly into Belo Horizonte and take a bus to Ouro Preto (there are four daily)
- I suggest staying for at least two nights - there are many beautiful churches (13 in total) to visit, plus outlying areas and it's just a charming place with cute cafes
- Combines well with a visit to Inhotim - the best modern art museum and botanical garden in Brazil and by far one of the coolest places I've ever been - return to Belo Horizonte and take a bus or hire a driver from there
Fun fact: Ouro Preto translates to black gold because this town was formed in the 1700s during the gold rush. The churches are extravagant, a sign of the fortunes once generated by the gold mining there. Make sure to ask about the story of Chico Rey!
Where I stayed: Luxor Ouro Preto Hotel. An 18th-century manor furnished with replicas from the period and an excellent location. I loved it and highly recommend. I definitely enjoyed the lobby/lounge area as a place to sip some wine and relax. Runs at about $75 and up per night.
I think Easter in Ouro Preto should be on everyone's bucket list. Pictures alone can't convey the energy and spirit of this tradition, you need to be here to feel it! Solo? Not to worry as so was I and I found the atmosphere so welcoming that I felt like I belonged.