Solar da Ponte

Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Nikki Tinto
An exceptional country inn located in the delightful historic village of Tiradentes
A short flight (or 5 hours' drive) inland from Rio, in the state of Minas Gerais, lies Tiradentes, an enchanting village of leafy squares, Baroque churches and cobbled streets. Set against the Sao Jose mountains, it's utterly picturesque. Solar da Ponte, "the house on the bridge", is a landmark in the state despite never being advertised. So renowned are its owners, English nature-lover John Parsons and his Brazilian historian wife Ana Maria, that throughout Brazil any talk of Tiradentes will invariably include the Parsons and their charming traditional country inn.

This colonial-style manor house with its 18 rooms, all elegantly furnished with antiques, local artworks and fresh flowers, has been nurtured over the last 30 years to become the very best of its kind. It's deeply civilized: afternoon teas are a highlight, whilst its gardens with orchids growing in the trees and visiting marmosets never let you forget where you are. A good excursion from Rio.

Highs

  • Located in one of South America's most perfectly preserved colonial villages, with film and culinary festivals in January and August respectively
  • The owners are a great source of local information and will help organise excursions, hikes and riding
  • Comfortable, tastefully decorated bedrooms
  • Delicious breakfast and afternoon tea
  • Pretty garden and swimming pool
  • The wonderful scent of ylang ylang flowers as you enter the gates

Lows

  • No children under the age of 8 (a bonus for some!)
  • The rattling of trucks over the cobblestones can be heard from some rooms
  • There's no restaurant in the evenings, but there are many good eateries within walking distance
  • It's popular with Rio folk so getting availability at weekends can be difficult

Best time to go

December-March can be hot with heavy rain, but at 3,000 feet it's never as humid as Rio and the evenings are generally cool. Lent, between Carnaval and Easter, is quiet with lots of interesting Easter processions. The 4 Sundays leading up to Easter also feature an orchestral 200-year-old Mass service. April, May and June are the best months, when everything is green but it's drier with cool evenings. October until Christmas has a pleasant climate and is very quiet. Come in the middle of January for the international film festival or at the end August for one of Brazil's best culinary festivals.

Our top tips

Bring your hiking boots - John used to be a keen walker and has great knowledge of the region. There's also an excellent little agency nearby, which organises excursions on foot, horseback or bicycle. One route crosses the mountain to a mineral-water swimming pool.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 18
  • Breakfast only (+ restaurants nearby)
  • Over 8s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

The 18 rooms offer a high standard of accommodation. Each is furnished with antique furniture, wooden beds dressed with crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and pretty fabrics. Some have wooden floors reclaimed from old fazendas, others coir carpets. Fresh flowers and original paintings by local craftsmen add to the charm.

The Superior Rooms are spacious and mostly overlook the garden. The slightly cheaper Standard Rooms face the old stone bridge that leads into the village, so you may hear the carts and trucks rattling over the cobblestones. Of the 10 rooms we saw, our favourites were Room 14, with a gorgeous four-poster bed and a sitting area leading onto the garden, and Room 7, with its delightful hand-painted blue furniture. Of the Standard Rooms we especially liked Room 5 with its Toile de Jouy fabrics and view of the river.

Most of the bathrooms feature local stone - arenite, sandstone and granite - plus white fluffy towels and walk-in showers (no bathtubs). Simple toiletries are provided, as well as hairdryers. Some also have windows overlooking fabulous trees with brightly coloured flowers.

Since our visit, 5 large Massimo Suites have been built in an annexe, sharing a veranda entrance and with windows overlooking a private garden. Similar in style to the other rooms, they have the additional benefits of more space, kingsize beds, high ceilings and comfy sofas. Room 15 has an impressive soapstone bathtub.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served in a delightful first-floor room with full-length windows overlooking the lawn, which is frequented by tiny marmosets. It's a homely affair with checked tablecloths, fresh flowers, distinctive pewter coffee pots and blue ceramic crockery made by a local artist. Freshly-squeezed orange juice, papaya, watermelon, yoghurt, granola, creamy scrambled eggs and gooey cakes were all delicious, and the warm home-baked corn bread, fresh cheese and invigorating home-roasted coffee all added local flavour.

The hotel doesn't serve an official lunch or dinner, although they do offer soup, sandwiches and light snacks throughout the day. There are also lots of restaurants within 5-10 minutes' walking. Most menus are in Portuguese but the hotel provides a translation sheet. Viradas do Largo is highly recommended for lunches, serving dishes such as Caipira chicken and Tropeiro beans with bisteca (grilled beef steak). We also particularly enjoyed our dinner at Tragaluz: stylish and atmospheric with delicious Mediterranean cuisine.

Solar's pièce de résistance is its complimentary traditional afternoon tea - don't miss the tea, cakes and sandwiches served at 5pm each day. Drinks are also served by the pool during the day and there's a bar offering a selection of fine wines.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander around the cobbled streets of Tiradentes, with its beautifully restored colonial architecture, Baroque churches, galleries, cafés, restaurants and shops (particularly good for handicrafts, antiques and local pewter)

  • Keep your eyes peeled for dragonflies - the bio-diversity of the nearby forest and savanna ecosystems have produced an abundance of the pretty insects in the streams and lakes

  • Go horse-riding at a local farm - you can even take a night-time trek, by the light of the full moon

  • Take the old steam train from Tiradentes to São João del Rey - a scenic 13km route, along a narrow 76cm gauge, which has been running since 1881 (currently only Friday and Sunday); at São João, you can listen to Brazilian church music in the old Baroque style

  • Drive around the various villages and fazendas of the region, some of which date back to colonial times. Other attractions en route include an 18th-century distillery, a collection of ancient cars, saddleries, wood carvers and traditional weaving displays

  • Laze in the lush gardens or unwind in the sauna, then cool off with a dip in the pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children over 8 years are welcome - Rooms 1, 10, 14 and 15 can each accommodate one extra bed and Room 9 sleeps up to 4 people. There are few facilities specifically for children, but there's a swimming pool and lovely gardens where they can play with the marmosets.

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

6/
Rooms
8/
Food
4/
Service
6/
Value
6/
Overall

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