I have always been intrigued to explore this area of the country. Brazil is an almighty destination – multicultural, intense, passionate and untamed. The country is large and the luxury experiences here are as varied as the land’s heritage of European colonizers and indigenous people.
I had heard of a region called Ibitipoca for a while, in the former colonial gold mine State of Minas Gerais, a place immersed in secrecy, difficult to reach and a sort of a tropical Shangri-La where the air is the purest, water sources untouched by any modern urban exploitation and experiences are transformational, soul-searching – the region is the backdrop of rich folk and indigenous storytelling.
Where to begin my own story of this unique region in Latin America? There was one place, a bespoke exclusive lodge set in its own private nature reserve near one of the many environmental protected areas in Brazil that were difficult to reach.
Reserva do Ibitipoca Lodge is an experience like no other in the luxury industry in Brazil, and perhaps in the world. Created by one the richest families in Brazil, the private reserve was envisioned by them to be the benchmark of a new kind of luxury – positive, focused on human connections, cultural immersive and supportive of local people’s ownership of the land. The lodge is entirely owned and managed by its employees from all walks of life, and in fact from different countries, in a statement to the welcoming nature of Brazil.
Located in a hidden valley, the exclusive reserve is better reached by plane or helicopter from Rio de Janeiro – creating an even bigger allure to the visit. I have to confess that the check-in at the property’s airport is one of the coolest and most original ones I have ever seen: a simple wooden hut in the open landing strip at the top of a hill by a small quaint colonial dwelling and waterfall – barefoot luxury at its finest. The lodge’s concierge can arrange the transfer from Rio de Janeiro by air or land – a charming option for those eager to explore the mountain range from the coast.
The main house, a 1715 colonial mansion, has been restored to its finest and hosts 8 beautifully designed suites. The house has just the right balance of heritage original pieces like noble wood chairs, tables, modern furniture by Brazilian designer duo the Campana Brothers and modern technology – a cozy basement cinema room but gladly no TVs. There are other stunning private houses dotted around the property for extra-privacy.
Artwork permeates the whole property from intricated pieces of tapestry in the rooms to outdoor sculptures accenting the landscape. In the gardens and in the forest of the reserve one can find sculptures by international artists like Yoko Ono and Karen Cusolito; Cusolito’s incredible gigantic sculptures’ Ecstasy, Maputo and Epiphany, among others, were originally presented at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada and are one of the most magical highlights of an experience curated by the lodge. I promised the crew I wouldn’t share much about it. No spoiler folks!
A key element of a stay here is the bespoke quality of every single detail. Guests can expect discreet and attentive service and well-prepared teams of nature guides to usher visitors into the rich history of the place in adventurous day trips: horse riding into the horizon or nature expeditions on electric cars and bicycles – the only ones used in the property.
The environmental and sustainable credentials are second to none here. All water is consciously sourced from mineral underground pools within the reserve, waste is completely recycled and all produce comes from the property’s farm – a leader in Brazil in agroforestry and organic farming. The lodge also only works with Brazilian or South American wine producers and suppliers and hosts a collection of over 300 bottles of the national sugar-cane liquor.
A remarkable experience that is as thoughtful as the soul of the region, Reserva do Ibitipoca Lodge is a new way of seeing luxury indeed. A mindful experiment of what positive luxury can be: conscious, authentic, natural and most of all epic.