Catas Altas

Located at the foot of the mountains of Caraça, the eastern slope of the Espinhaço Range, Catas Altas integrates the Gold Circuit along the Estrada Real. The region has waterfalls, hiking trails, cliffs for climbing and the Caraça Park with beautiful scenery whimsically sculpted by nature.
The charm is complete with the stunning baroque architecture of its houses, churches, chapels and stone ruins of the eighteenth century.

With only about 5000 inhabitants, Catas Altas retains the charm of life in Minas Gerais.
The city is located 120 km from Belo Horizonte, 70 km from Ouro Preto, 54 km from Mariana and just 20 km from Santa Barbara..

The camp of Catas Altas do Mato Dentro began to develop in the early 18th century and a decade later it gathered a small population of miners and slaves around the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. A new church that is replacing the old chapel, becomes crowded after 1738 despite unfinished. The first discoveries of gold were made in the region in the eastern part of the Espinhaço in 1702, by the pioneer Domingos Borges. The mines known as Catas Altas become the core of the original camp.

The name "Catas Altas" comes from deep excavations that were made on the hilltops. The word "catas" means prospecting, digging a kind of deep, depending on the nature of the land for mining. The word "alta" means high, in altitude. In the town, the catas, the mines, the richest and most productive mines were located in the higher parts, ie, were high in the mountains and therefore the  city became known as Catas Altas. "People noticing that gold was declining in riverbeds and streams, and abundant in the upper parts, said: 'the catas are high', 'the catas are getting in high places',' the catas are in places of harder access. "
"The small and quiet city is surrounded by the imposing Sierra Caraça. There is a well-preserved architectural complex near the Mother Church of Our Lady of Conception. The baroque architectural complex formed not only by the Mother Church, but also by old houses around the Monsignor Mendes Square, among other buildings, brings to mind the story of the past and bucolic small mining town."

"In order to protect this rich historical, cultural and religious collection, the State Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage of Minas Gerais (IEPHA) listed the entire urban area of Catas Altas. The architectural and landscape of the Caraça's Sanctuary, the Monsignor Mendes Square and the Mother Church of Our Lady of Conception are listed by the Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN)."

Pictures of the Mother Church of Our Lady of Conception

Details of the colonial styled house against the Caraça.

Catas Altas historical center

Saint Quiteria Chapel

One of the most famous icons of the Minas Gerais colonial art , the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known as "Saint Quiteria Chapel."
"Situated high on a hill, with emphasis on the landscape, the eighteenth-century chapel was restored in 1985, according to project and technical guidance of the State Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IEPHA / MG). Through this work, it was possible to reconstruct the frontispiece in its original molds."
The structure of the construction was done on wood and clay. The frontispiece is beveled and has a central tower. In the interior the high altar is highlighted, in Johannine style.
With regional origin datable from decade of 1720/1730, the altarpiece is affiliated to the Portuguese national style already in progress, introducing elements Johannine as canopies, columns with flowers and palmettes. The structure with pair of columns presents robust niche in intercolúnio. The crowning canopy is still very small, and  the decoration dominated by phytomorphic motifs characteristic of the 1st phase of the Minas Gerais altarpieces.

Bicame de pedra (a stone aqueduct)

Between the cities of Santa Barbara and Catas Altas in a secondary road stands out in the landscape the ruins of an impressive engineering project of the eighteenth century: a large aqueduct known as "Bicame de Pedra."

Ruins of a Bicame, or aqueduct, built of stone in 1792 to carry water from the Sierra Caraça to the village of Brumado today Brumal. Today only remains 200m long and a staircase that leads to the top.


Cachoeira do Meio (Waterfall of the Middle):

Directly across from the historic center of Catas Altas, following the stream Maquiné, begins the trail towards the waterfall Cachoeira do Meio. On the route we see a ruin of stone with the shape of a barn built in the period of gold exploration in the region. Walking time is approximately 1 hour. The waterfall has a small pool for bathing.

Cachoeira da Santa (Waterfall of the Saint):

Cachoeira da Valeria (Valeria's Waterfall):

Cachoeira das Borboletas (Butterflies Waterfall):


Catas Altas Peak

Pico do Horizonte (Horizon Peak)


  • Estrada do Caraça - Km 2,6 - Brumal - Santa Barbara - MG
  • (31) 9916-6683