THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Aeroporto Internacional Tancredo Neves, near Belo Horizonte, is the main point of entry to Minas Gerais. The domestic airport of Pampulha is more centrally located and closer to Belo Horizonte's main bus station, where connections to other parts of Minas and the country can be made. Bus travel between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is feasible, but it is advisable to take leito (bed) bus service late at night and arrive in early in the morning.
It's possible to take in all the Minas highlights on a two-week vacation. If you have a week, you could spend three days in Ouro Preto, two in Tiradentes, and two in Belo Horizonte. If you only have three days, focus on culturally rich Ouro Preto. Buses throughout Minas are comfortable and inexpensive, and travel regularly between Belo Horizonte, Diamantina, Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, and other historic towns. The only reason to rent a car is to take in some of the national and state parks not easily accessed by bus. Sabara and Congonhas are comfortable day trips from the capital, while Mariana and Ouro Preto deserve at least two full days of exploring. With more time you can head 380 km (236 miles) north to Diamantina or 210 km (130 miles) south to the charming town of Tiradentes. From Tiradentes you can drive down to towns that are hailed for their healing waters, among them São Lourenço, and Caxambu.