The main property, an 18th-century colonial farmhouse, lies at the heart of a 4,000-hectare private reserve in the Mantiqueira Mountains on the southern edge of Minas Gerais, a three and a half hour drive north of Rio de Janeiro. The Ibitipoca experience blends sophistication with rustic simplicity. The estate is full of fruit, flowers and blossom.
Ibitipoca’s airstrip can be accessed by small plane or helicopter, so arrival to the reserve could not be easier. Alternatively, fly into Rio de Janeiro and drive. Flights from Sao Paulo to Juiz de Fora (less than a two-hour drive from the Reserve) are also available.
Cooler than the coast, temperatures typically between 15 and 18ºC. Winters are dry and cold while summers (Nov-Jan) can be rainy. April – September is the best time to visit.
Reserva do Ibitipoca was founded in 1981 with the goal of increasing natural habitats, encouraging the proliferation of the local wildlife, and protecting the culture of the area.
In 2002, a population of critically endangered Muriqui, also known as woolly spider monkeys, was found in the Luna Forest. With less than 900 Muriqui in the world, the reserve works closely with biologists and researchers to study and protect the Ibitipoca troop.
As the centrepiece of the reserve, Fazenda do Engenho, an 18th century-farmhouse with 21st-century amenities – is the best bet for those who want to be nearer the spa and restaurant. The house has a library and a shady gallery with hammocks for afternoon snoozing. Hallways and public spaces are adorned with antique and modern Brazilian pieces, including old maps and watercolours of indigenous flora. All 12 en-suite rooms are large, bright and airy with roll top baths and views across the reserve.
Those looking to get closer to nature should head to Viradouro-a charming farmhouse with the comforts of the main hotel. Powered solely by sustainable energy sources, Viradouro uses solar thermal and the wood burning stove to heat water. Walking distance from natural pools, visitors can take an early morning dip before breakfast.
Alternatively, Carlinhos boasts the three best suites on the reserve; only 100 meters from the main house, it is perfect for small groups and families.
There is also the option of staying in one of two eco-mountain cottages, two kilometres from the main hotel. Each house contains two suites – perfect for couples and small groups looking to disconnect.
The organic Mineira kitchen is one of the reserve’s biggest attractions. Juices are squeezed, and coffee is freshly ground. Hearty meals are prepared on a wood-burning stove using ingredients from the garden. Don’t leave before trying the suckling pig or the polenta. All meals are included.
The spa offering Ayurvedic massages, local treatments and a wood-heated sauna is housed in an old wooden granary. There are also daily yoga classes and an outdoor hydro-massage pool.
To increase the pace, a wide array of walking or riding tours are available. At 1,500m, Hawk’s Rock is the highest point on the reserve – it’s a challenging hike, but the sunset view from the top makes it one of our favourite tours. Keen botanists can admire wild orchids, bot and bromeliads, as well as native forest species. There’s wildlife to spot, too: Muriqui monkeys, wild boar, jaguars and ocelots, puma and wolves.
The highlight of many tours is a dip in the natural pools. Ride around the State Park of Ibitipoca before a swim beneath Heaven’s Window Waterfall-over 1,000 meters of cascading water broken into seven falls.
Around 350 species of birds that can be seen at Ibitipoca. Expert guides will help you spot everything from Green-billed Toucans to Brazilian tanagers.
The small village of Mogol has preserved its native character. The ride there offers beautiful views of mountains, valleys, and waterfalls, in particular, Engenho’s Waterfall, a spot with natural pools and white sand.