Poços de Caldas is a city and municipality in south-western Minas Gerais state, Brazil, in the microregion of the same name. Its estimated population in 2007 was 144,386 inhabitants. The city has thermal waters and is located in a volcanic crater.
It lies on the boundary of the state of São Paulo
at 1186 meters elevation and is the main socio-economic nucleus of its region, having an area of 544 km² (85 km² urban and 459 km² rural) in the municipality.
The physical area is made up for the most part of a high plateau formed by mountains, fields and valleys with an area of approximately 750km². The average elevation is 1,200 mts, with Cristo Redentor, the highest point, at 1,686 mts.
Poços de Caldas occupies a highly strategic geographical location, due to its proximity to São Paulo (243Km), Belo Horizonte (460 km) and Rio de Janeiro (470 km), whose connections are made with good highways, and due to its integration into the routes of the hydro-mineral spas of Serra Negra, Águas de Lindóia, Socorro, Monte Alegre do Sul, Águas da Prata, Caldas (Pocinhos do Rio Verde), Cambuquira, Lambari, Caxambu and São Lourenço.
Besides these factors, Poços de Caldas is close to the most developed regions of the interior of the state of São Paulo i.e. Ribeirão Preto (240 km), Campinas (160 km) and São José dos Campos (315 km).
The climate is characterized by dry winters and mild summers. The winter is from April to September and has an average temperature of 15°C and rainfall of 315mm. The summer is from October to March and has an average temperature of 21°C with rainfall of 1,430 mm. The annual rainfall is 1,745 mm. The average annual temperature is 17°C with minimums of -6°C and maximums of 31.7°C.
Known principally for its thermal baths, the city has resort hotels. The local soils are rich in minerals and yield thorium, zirconium, and bauxite, which is converted into aluminum there. The city has Brazil's first uranium-ore concentration plant, for use in the Angra I nuclear-power facility in Angra dos Reis.
Poços is also the home of one of the largest bauxite mines in the world belonging to Alcoa. Bauxite is an ore that contains at least 45% alumina, which is extracted to make aluminum.
The smelting operations at Pocos de Caldas have an annual capacity of 90,000 tons/year of primary aluminum. The facility is also the largest aluminum powder production facility in Latin America and the second largest in the world. The plant has a capacity of 14,000 tonnes/year of aluminum powder and meets the market demand for ferroalloys, refractories, pigments, metallurgy, chemicals, explosives and solid fuel for rockets. The facility began production of hydrated aluminas and hard-burned calcined aluminas in 1985.
Poços is also famous for its glass, which is known internationally. The founders of the factories were descendants of the artistic glassmakers who lived on the Island of Murano, near Venice, in Italy. In the city there are four glass factories: Ca'D'oro, São Marcos, Veneza and Bonora.
Due to its wealth in hydro-mineral resources, Poços de Caldas is also known for the quality of the soap that it produces. Some are almost handmade. There are four factories in the city: Raízes, Antares, Sarandi and Terra Brasil.
The city also gets most of its eletricticity from hydroeletric power plants, which were built and are administrated with local resources (DME), leading to an independence from the state's power system.
The city is very well taken care of, with several green areas, among parks, squares, gardens and São Domingos mountain, which has trails for walking. The sulphurous water is the main attraction and can be consumed in several fountains and at the Thermas Antônio Carlos. There is an aerial tram to get to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer (1,686 mts.). At the top of the mountain there is a great view of the city and the nearby mountains. The city also offers options such as a Japanese tea garden, a theme park, museums, theaters, and other cultural events, the most important being the yearly Music in the Mountains Festival (Festival Musica nas Montanhas)
Poços was founded in 1872. The region had been inhabited by the Cataguases Indians, who had been expelled from their lands by the "Bandeiras Unidas Paulistas", during their quest for gold. The place was first called Freguesia de Nossa Senhora da Saúde das Águas de Caldas. In 1874 it became a district of Nossa Sra. da Saúde de Caldas, belonging to Caldas. In 1875 it was elevated to the category of city. This became famous after the discovery of the hot water, which could be used for curing disease, and many important people began to visit the spa in search of the cures provided by the water.
The name comes from Caldas da Rainha, a spa town in central Portugal.