The drive from Belo Horizonte south to Rio turns into one of the most spectacular in Brazil once you cross the state border and encounter the glorious scenery of the Serra dos Órgãos, but there is little to detain you in Minas along the way. The route passes Juiz de Fora, one of the larger interior cities, but it’s an ugly industrial centre, best seen from the window of a bus.
The route southwest towards São Paulo, however, is altogether different. The hills rising into mountains near the state border make this one of the most attractive parts of Minas. Six or seven hours from Belo Horizonte, to the south of the main route, there’s a cluster of spa towns – the Circuito das Águas, or “Circuit of the Waters”, as the spa resorts of Cambuquira, São Lourenço and Caxambu are collectively known. They are all small, quiet and popular with older people, who flock there to take the waters and baths. Each is centred on a parque hidromineral, a park built around the springs, incorporating bathhouses and fountains.