I have just spent a couple of days in the fascinating colonial town of Diamantina which is on the diamond circuit of the gold route that runs from Diamantina to Ouro Preto and then on to Paraty and Rio de Janeiro. Set amongst rolling hills with lush vegetation and tropical flowers and plants, Diamantina is a fascinating city with plenty to do for a two or three day stay. Visiting the waterfalls and seeing the cave paintings en route to the hamlet of Biribiri which was one of the main producers of cashmere in the not too distant past, was a real treat.

My accommodation which was recommended by Alison at Hidden Pousadas Brazil is a jewel of a pousada dating back to the mid 19th Century and belonging to the same family for 4 generations. Right in the historical centre of town and lovingly refurbished and restored by the owners with furnishings, pictures and objets d'art belonging to the family. There is even a small museum and chapel which the owners are happy to show any guest who is interested. Guests are warmly welcomed and given lots of advice on where to go and what to see. Bedrooms are simple but comfortably furnished with highly polished wooden floors, antique furniture, all belonging to the family, en suite shower rooms and comfortable beds (the sheets are excellent quality). Breakfast is served in the open courtyard on the lower floor and is a spread of local fare with fresh bread, local cakes and pastries, fresh fruit, juices, teas and coffees, cheeses and cold meats. If you fancy an egg for breakfast you just have to ask. The library on the first floor where I am writing this looks out over the nearby hills towards the slave road, that was built by slaves through the mountains to aid the movement of precious stones from the outlying areas back to Diamantina.

The town itself has a great buzz, with many bars and restaurants catering for a wide variety of tastes and economy. Being a university town there are lots of young people hanging out and the general feeling is very relaxed and friendly. The cobbles are enormous which can make walking a bit tricky so this is not the place to come if you have any walking difficulty but otherwise it is all part of the fun. There is a museum, numerous churches, the old covered market which has music and local food on a Friday and Saturday night and local art shops. A good idea is to contact Ana Paula from the travel agency Ventura Falci who will put together an excellent itinerary to suit your requirements.

The nearest international airport is Belo Horizonte, a four hour drive from Diamantina but hiring a car is no trouble (just check the aircon is working) and the road is fine. A cheaper option is to take the bus which takes about 5 hours.

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