The area around Governador Valadares was explored in colonial times. The first expion to reach the Doce River arrived there in 1573, leaving from Porto Seguro in Bahia. Only in the beginning of the nineteenth century did its colonization begin when in 1808 the Portuguese government created military divisions in the region. In 1823, the D. Manoel barracks were established on the left bank of the Doce, exactly at the point at which the river begins to be partially navigable. By the end of the nineteenth century, Dom Manuel was the main river port on the Doce, being a meeting place for muleteers and canoes that took products to the coast. Only after the beginning of the twentieth century was the occupation of the territory accelerated, with the construction of the Vitoria-Minas railway in 1902. In 1925 the first electric plant was installed to serve the residences of the town. It was powered by steam.
Throughout its history Governador Valdares has had several names:
1734 - Arraial do Porto de Dom Manuel
1808 - Porto das Canoas
1888 - Santo Antonio da Figueira
1889 – Distrito De Santo Antonio do Bonsucesso
1923 - Figueira
In 1937, the municipality of Figueira do Rio Doce was established, which then changed its name to Governador Valadares, in honor of the governor at the time, Beno Valadares