Reserva do Ibitipoca

near Lima Duarte, Minas Gerais, Brazil Book from Book from £364 per night

One of Brazil's best small hotels, set in a private nature reserve 3.5 hours' drive (or a short helicopter flight) north of Rio
Parrots fly free in the rainforests, cool rivers run through green valleys and caves, and when the sun goes down, the sky is bright with stars. Few foreigners have discovered this 3,000ha private reserve and sustainability initiative 3.5 hours north of Rio, where nature rules; come here now, before they do. The centrepiece of the reserve is the 18th century-farmhouse of Fazenda do Engenho, one of Brazil’s finest small hotels, with just handful of rooms and suites spread across 3 houses, a unique design mixing local, rustic heritage and 21st-century amenities, and stables of Mangalarga and Anglo-Arabian horses.

Guided daily excursions on foot or horseback explore the reserve's caves, valleys and natural wonders, and afterwards you can sink into loungers by Engenho’s Waterfall and unwind with a frosty caipirinha. The wonderful spa offers Ayurvedic massages and well-being rituals, and there are daily yoga classes to balance your mind, too. And the service and welcome are second to none. A stunning place to escape and rejuve.


  • You are looked after like royalty: recent guests talk of surprise picnics in the forest, and owners who become your friends
  • A sensational location in Minas Gerais, surrounded by rainforests and the best of rural Brazil’s landscape
  • Fantastic food, drawing on local specialities; all meals are included, and you can dine where you like
  • The suites are a great size, with rustic chic design and pampering extras (iPod docks, personalised Havaianas, L'Occitane toiletries). There are private houses, too; and they're perfect for groups
  • We love the look of their electric mountain bikes - a great chance to try out one of these amazing $10K machines
  • The whole project is a truly commendable endeavour to preserve local habitats and to empower local people


  • News of the Fazenda has yet to get outside Brazil and you could be the only guests, especially if you stay midweek
  • It’s a 3.5 hour drive from Rio, but in a country as gigantic as Brazil, that's not so bad (and you can helicopter in, if time is tight)
  • No other restaurants nearby for a change of scene
  • A lot of the staff don’t speak English, though there are always people around who do
  • The Viradouro and Carlinhos Suites are more for group use

Best time to go

The temperature up here is cooler than the coast, with 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.

Our top tips

If there's one thing to remember, along with your walking boots and binoculars, it's a swimming costume. Splashing about in the natural pools is one of the great delights of this rainforest reserve.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 14
  • Full Board
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Yoga
Room: Gran Reserva Suite


The main house, Engenho, has 8 large suites which are decorated uniquely, with a large dose of rustic flair. They’re spilt into Engenho Suites, a bigger Reserva Suite, and the largest, the Gran Reserva Suite. They bring together local handicrafts and culture in wall hangings and wooden furniture with modern-day treats like iPod Bose SoundDocks, L’Occitane toiletries and personalised Havaianas.

Beds are super-kingsize, or 2 singles if you prefer, made up with 100% Egyptian cotton linen. You also get comfortable armchairs, bathrooms with underfloor heating, showers and a freestanding Victorian-style tub. One has a stunning bath in the main bedroom hidden behind long green drapes; another has a colourful wall hanging. Some have views from their baths, towards the hills and countryside beyond.

There are also a couple of private houses, which we haven’t seen yet, set away from the main lodge. The closest is Carlinhos (100m), renovated in 2013, and houses the Carlinhos Suites and the Luxury Carlinhos Suites which has its own outdoor hot tub and is the largest suite at Reserva. Viradouro is a kilometre away, and is powered solely by alternative energy (solar thermal); it is also located by some beautiful and secluded natural pools, ideal for swimming. Within are 3 cosy, rustic Viradouro Suites with wood burning stoves. All the houses are ideal for independent honeymooners or groups, they are more private and have more of a wilderness appeal, being very close to the river.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Havaianas
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


Take this as a chance to explore the best in authentic Brazilian cuisine - all meals are included, and the food is delicious. Breakfast is a spread of warm corn bread, homemade cakes, platters of sliced fruits, and meats and cheeses. Juices are just squeezed; the coffee is freshly ground. Lunch and dinner make use of the restaurant’s wood-burning stove and include the likes of suckling pig, chicken in brown sauce or polenta with sausage and salads, along with fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Meals are served around one big table in the dining room, by a window for spectacular views, but if you'd prefer to be private, you can. We'd recommend a meal under a Jabuticabeira tree, or more cosily on one of the balconies. There's a good wine list to accompany your meal, and staff can recommend food and wine matches if you ask.

There are some lovely extras, too: a small café at the stables where you can be refreshed with tea and cakes after a riding tour, and the bar by Engenho’s Waterfall, where staff can whip you up an excellent caipirinha.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Communal dining
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Paiol Suite


  • Walk, ride beautiful Mangalarga horses or borrow a bike: enjoy the views and experience the nature reserve in all its glory at your own pace

  • Or join in the guided tours. All are with local guides from the Ibitipoca reserve and are done on foot or horseback; there are 2 every day. We loved the Hawk Stone Tour, which takes in local villages, valleys and mountains, and stunning waterfalls

  • Other highlights include the Tree of Seven Knights, a huge and remarkable ancient hollow tree (included in many tours), and the Gruta das Andorinhas (Swallows’ Cave), which is 30m long and has views of a 6m high waterfall from inside it

  • Botanists can admire wild orchids, bot and bromeliads, as well as numerous native forest species including manacá da serra, ipe and kapok trees. There's heaps of wildlife to spot too, if you're lucky: Muriqui monkeys, wild boar, jaguars and ocelots, puma and wolves

  • Relax in the spa with a massage, Ayurvedic treatment or well-being ritual. All products used are natural and made exclusively for the Ibitipoca reserve. Or just loll about in the wood-heated sauna and outdoor hydro-massage pool

  • Join a morning or afternoon yoga, power yoga or stretching class. Or go fishing for fun

  • Spend the day at Engenho’s Waterfall, a spot with natural pools and white sands, comfortable sunbeds and excellent Brazilian caipirinhas from the bar

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga


Children are welcome at all times, and the reserve is a wonderful place for children to explore and learn about the environment, flora and fauna, as well as the farm. Each suite can fit a rollaway bed, one can fit two, and cots can be supplied.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly: Engenho Suite

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests


Such a stunning setting, in an area of Brazil that is well worth the visit. We were made to feel very welcome in this beautiful friendly ranch. There was fantastic attention to detail, and surprises at every corner! We couldn't have been looked after better.


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