Location, location: 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 high living with rustic simplicity. Every fruit, flower and blossom here grows in profusion.
When to visit: It is cooler here than the coast, with temperatures typically between 15 and 18ÃºC. Winters are dry and cold while summers (Nov-Jan) can be rainy. April – September is the best time to visit.
Arrive in style: Ibitipoca’s airstrip can be accessed by small plane or helicopter, so getting 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.
History: 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.
Making headway: 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.
Stay: The centrepiece of the reserve is Fazenda do Engenho, an 18th century-farmhouse with 21st-century amenities – 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 snoozing. Hallways and public spaces are adorned with antique local and modern Brazilian pieces, including old maps and watercolours of indigenous flora. Its 12 en-suite rooms are large, bright and airy with roll top baths and views across the reserve. 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.
Reduce your carbon footprint: Those looking to get closer to nature should head to Viradouro-a charming farmhouse with the comforts of the main hotel. Powered solely by alternative energy, Viradouro uses solar thermal and the wood burning stove to heat water. Walking distance from natural pools, you’ll look forward to an early morning dip before breakfast.
Head to the mountains: Guests have the choice 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.
Eat your heart out: 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.
Pamper yourself: 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.
Explore and Discover: 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.
Bird Watching: Around 350 species of birds that can be seen at Ibitipoca. Trained guides will help you spot everything from Green-billed Toucans to Brazilian tanagers.
Engage: The small village of Mogol has preserved its native character. The ride there offers beautiful views of mountains, valleys, and waterfalls.
Flower power: 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.
Chill out: Spend the day at Engenho’s Waterfall, a spot with natural pools and white sand. Relax on a sun bed while sipping a caipirinha from the bar.
Get around: Take in the views and experience the reserve at your own pace: walk, raft, ride, or bike (electric mountain bikes mean you won’t have to break a sweat).
Top Tip: Don’t forget your swimming costume! 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 falling water broken into seven falls!