The Reserva do Ibitipoca, in the otherworldly state of Minas Gerais, is home to Brazil's most sustainable travel experience: a unique horse-riding adventure.
Over the last few years, South America has been profoundly changing the way it produces luxury experiences. A continent with areas that are still relatively off-the-beaten path, with many of its biomes and natural resources still preserved – in spite of the political and environmental challenges that the continent faces – has been rediscovered by an in-the-know group of adventurers exploring its remarkable authentic experiences – from horse riding in the wild to stargazing under the clearest skies ever. There is a trove of mindful hoteliers offering meaningful and positive initiatives on a local scale, mainly in the countryside.
Horse riding is one of my passions, and I struggled for a while to reconcile my practice with animal welfare, yet in South America I found ranches and farmers who not only live from the land ecologically but also partnered with luxury travel entrepreneurs to create highly well-crafted experiences that are original and caring - for both people and wildlife - as well as civic, sharing their local traditions and way of living in a responsible way.
But it was in Brazil where I found the most exclusive and unique horse-riding experience ever. I cannot have enough of Reserva do Ibitipoca, in the otherworldly state of Minas Gerais, the heart of the Brazilian savannah. This remarkable operation is spread over a private nature reserve that holds three different biomes - rain forest, cerrado, and caatinga – almost like a "lost world." The reserve has one of the best-crafted cultural, environmental, and social operations I have seen – the water sources are pristine, the farm is organic, and its employees own the hotel.
The lodge is a 2019 finalist of WTTC Tourism of Tomorrow Awards. In a commitment to sustainability, the ranch offers delicious vegan food as well as organic meat, and their recently launched lodging in restored houses in the hamlet of Mogol, within the reserve, is the first 100% vegan lodge in Brazil. Food here is a political statement, and they are serious about their contribution to a plant-based way of life.
The extraordinary horse riding here is done in stages: guests have the chance to explore different overnight stays, wine tasting campsites, storytelling around an open fire, and artworks – enormous sculptures by Karen Cusolito and Yoko Ono – all guided by the remarkable local team under starry nights.
As part of a new breed of travelers, I wanted to know that my experience was having a positive effect on the world through fair living wages and giving back to the community. From Brazil’s secret valleys, savannahs, and rain forests, the experience with nature here was the most transformational and sustainable I've encountered on my recent exploration south of the equator.
If you are looking for the next great meaningful experience where you will be able to meet with local and global communities, discuss, learn, and implement real change in the world, perhaps the last great travel frontier, the South American way is definitely your way to go.
This post was written in partnership with the Brazilian Luxury Travel Association.
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