Reserva do Ibitipoca

near Lima Duarte, Minas Gerais, Brazil Book from Book from £427 per night

One of Brazil's greatest hotel experiences, 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 yet discovered this 5,000ha – large than the state park that borders it - private reserve and sustainability initiative 4 hours north of Rio, where nature rules; come here now, before the in the know crowd discovers its amazing array of unique experiences. The centrepiece of the reserve is the 18th century-farmhouse of Fazenda do Engenho, one of Brazil’s finest examples of colonial architecture that has been sensitively restored to its elegant beauty. The main manor house has just 8 suites and a handful of rooms and suites spread across 3 houses, a unique bespoke design mixing local, rustic heritage and 21st-century amenities, and stables of Mangalarga horses.

Guided two-daily excursions on foot explore the reserve's natural wonders, caves, valleys and natural wonders, and afterwards you can sink into loungers or the hot water Jacuzzi by Engenho’s courtyard 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 rejuvenate, with a sense of adventure.

Highs

  • 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 specialties; 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 Brasil toiletries). There are private houses, too; and they're perfect for groups
  • The whole project is a truly innovative endeavour to preserve local habitats and to empower local communities and culture

Lows

  • 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 4-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 - but the hotel’s innovative cuisine makes up for it
  • It’s expensive but it’s worth every penny
  • It’s an immersive experience within nature, so if you are not open to wildlife…well you will have to be!

Best time to go

April - September is the best time to visit; winters are dry and cold while summers can be rainy. In winter (June - August) the temperature is between 15-20 celcius (5-10 degrees at night) but summer (December - Februray) temperatures lie between 25-35 celcius (15-20 degrees at night).

Our top tips

Look out for surprises hidden in the forest – including sculptures of renowned artists larger than a rainforest tree. Meeting the wildlife so close is also remarkable – they are free yet they come to you in all their cheeky, wild glory. Toucans interacting with you during your morning yoga class? Yes please!

Before hitting the hay, try a complementary sip of the sugarcane spirit liqueur. The owners are renowned local producers and their collection is vast. According to ‘local belief’, an after dinner shot enhances digestion and makes you sleep like a baby. We wonder how?

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 12
  • 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

Rooms

Rooms and suites are divided between the main house and a few neighbouring buildings. They bring together local handicrafts and culture in wall hangings and wooden furniture with other treats like Bose Sounddocks, L’Occitane Brasil toiletries, personalised Havaianas flip-flops and bespoke ceramic water bottles – the mineral water coming from the pure water sources form the reserve.

The main house, Engenho, has 8 large suites, which are decorated uniquely, with a large dose of elegant rustic flair. They’re spilt into Engenho Suites, a bigger Reserva Suite, and the largest, the Gran Reserva Suite. Beds are made up with 100% Egyptian cotton linen. You also get comfortable armchairs, bathrooms with underfloor heating, copper showers and freestanding Victorian-style tubs. One of the suites has a stunning marble bath in the main bedroom hidden behind long green drapes. Some have views from their baths, towards the hills, the lake and the countryside beyond.

There is also a private house set away from the main lodge, with its own private stream and garden. Carlinhos (100m) houses 2 Carlinhos Suites and Luxury Carlinhos Suite, the Reserva’s largest suite, which has its own outdoor hot tub.

The Paiol Suite (in the Paiol House) is stunning, with Campana Brother’s armchairs, boho chic kitchen and access to the house by crossing a stream through a charming wooden bridge made of a fallen tree – with oil lamps illuminating the way at night. All the houses are ideal for independent honeymooners, families 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

Eating

Exploring authentic Brazilian cuisine is a delight here - the food is delicious. Ingredients showcase the immense potential of Brazilian staples; fruits and vegetables are from the garden. Meals are served around one big dining room table, by a window for spectacular views, but you can choose any location you wish. Lunch by the waterfall, with fruit juice cooling in the fresh-water stream nearby, was a highlight of our stay.

Lunch and dinner make use of the restaurant’s wood-burning stove and include the likes of suckling pig, chicken in brown sauce, polenta with sausage and salads. Vegetarian and vegans are well served; we were enchanted by high-cuisine of the vegetarian dishes, including salads of pupunha, risottos, grilled vegetables with a pepper sauce (native to the region), and a delicious guava soufflé. There's a good wine list too – the hotel works exclusively with award-winning wines from Brazil and Chile, and staff can recommend food and wine matches if you ask.

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. Most produce comes from the reserve’s own orchards.

Features include:

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

Activities

  • 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. After the treatment an open-air shower and bathtub awaits you – stargazing from here is bliss. Or just loll about in the wood-heated sauna and outdoor hydro-massage pool

  • Join a morning or afternoon yoga class - from yin-yoga to ashtanga

  • 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

Kids

Children are welcome in the villas, but cannot be accommodated in the main house. The reserve is a wonderful place for children to explore and learn about the environment, flora and fauna, as well as the farm.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Each suite can fit a rollaway bed; baby cots are available.

Kid Friendly: Engenho Suite

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Everything was perfect!

10/10,

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Rates for Reserva do Ibitipoca