Comuna do Ibitipoca
Just a 4 hour drive from Rio, past the colonial imperial city Petrópolis, lies a true Brazilian secret. Comuna de Ibitipoca is a 5000-hectare reserve, set in the foothills of the Mantiqueira mountain range and home to one of South America’s finest small country hotels. This utterly inspiring conservation and sustainability project has at its heart reforestation, the rewilding of native species - especially muriqui woolly spider monkeys - the creation of wildlife corridors and protection of local communities and culture.
There are 3 very different accommodation concepts across the reserve. Engenho comprises the colonial styled and sophisticated Engenho Lodge - a restored 18th-century farmhouse with gorgeous rooms, decorated with exquisite, locally produced tapestries - and the intimate Casa Carlinhos, both located on the site of the old Fazenda do Engenho (sugar cane farm). Facilities include a spa, where the massage oils are 100% vegetable based and many are made from herbs, plants and essences from the local area. Remote is made up of 3 wonderful rustic houses, Spinoza, Areião Epicuro and Isgoné, set in stunning locations and ideal for those seeking privacy and a close connection with nature. Comuna’s third and most recent project is Village in the Vila do Mogol, 9km from Engenho, with four characterful houses dotted around the community - Wangari Maathai, Freud Loft, Humboldt Loft and the most high-end option, Guimarães Rosa.
Daily activities include a morning yoga class and guided excursions exploring the expansive landscapes of the Reserve on foot, or - charged extra - on horseback, by state of the art electric bikes and buggies, or 4x4 vehicles. Highlights include any number of pristine waterfalls, caves, sand dunes and the surrounding Atlantic rainforest with its lush vegetation of wild orchids, bromeliads, native kapok trees and wildlife, including colourful toucans, chattering monkeys and the more elusive wild jaguars, pumas and maned wolves. There’s also an art and sculpture trail. To keep energy levels high, there are two restaurants on the property offering delicious regional Brazilian flavours, where possible with local, fresh, organic ingredients.
Guests staying in Mogol have additional options, including Life School - similar to Green School - which is for local children, but is also open to guests’ children for a fee. Kids learn in a hands-on way, focusing on the flora and fauna around them, from cooking to tree planting or joining the team of biologists studying the resident northern muriqui spider monkeys. The idea of Life School is to teach the kids how to be better global citizens and green entrepreneurs, respecting the environment and creating happy people!