Good morning, Brazil. Between the bright sunlight streaming through your wall of windows, the clear view over the pine forest in front your suite, and the two chirping azure jays that keep swooping across your terrace, it looks like it’s going to be a gorgeous day. You’re up earlier than usual, due to the sun, but it gives you time to soak in your clawfoot bathtub before breakfast, which will arrive in a little while and feature estate-grown and roasted coffee. Take the time to relax, since your next chance won’t be until dinner.
This perfect morning is courtesy of Botanique Hotel & Spa. The gorgeous property is in the Serra da Mantiqueira, one of the highest mountain ranges in Brazil. It sits on 700 acres, where three river valleys and sharp ridges meet. You arrived too late to truly appreciate the expansive view and the extensive gardens last night. After a delayed flight to São Paulo and a two-hour drive northeast into the mountains, you were more than happy to park your rental car a kilometer from the hotel.
A golf cart drove you the rest of the way and delivered you near the lounge, where a fire was already roaring and cult Brazilian wines were being opened for a pre-dinner wine tasting. You happily indulged in Chardonnays and Merlots produced closer to the borders of Argentina and Uruguay. You ate delicious heart-of-palm ravioli served with wild mushrooms and a yellow sauce, which you later learned was tucupi made from wild manioc root. Then your Curador da Experiencias, who will oversee your stay, gave you a loaner smart phone and showed you to your open suite. Sleep quickly followed.
Now, after a good night’s sleep and a strong cup of coffee, you’re ready to start exploring. Hiking trails begin right outside of the hotel. They lead through the colorful forest—remember, it’s autumn here—around rushing streams, and up to stunning lookout points. Campos do Jordão State Park is nearby, as well. Its own trails follow the Sapucaí River and lead to waterfalls. Mountain biking, yoga, and horseback riding on Olympic-caliber horses are possibilities, as well. Just leave plenty of time for Campos do Jordão.
Campos do Jordão, the highest city in Brazil, is a European-style mountain resort town. It’s similar to San Carlos de Bariloche along the Andes in Argentina. The houses look like chalets that you would find in Switzerland or Germany. There’s a bondinho (a trolley-style streetcar) that winds through the city. A teleférico (cable car) climbs to the top of Morro do Elefante for stunning views. While fondue and hot chocolate are served by stone fireplaces all around the city. The only thing missing is snow. The temperature hovers in the mid-60s—only a few degrees cooler than it was at home—right now. You’d think it was 30-40 degrees colder from the way people are dressed.
Not that you mind the crackling logs in the lounge’s own fireplace when you return to the hotel. You request a facial scrub at the spa in the morning and plan to spend more time relaxing on the grounds tomorrow. You settle into a leather armchair with a book and another glass of wine. And you watch as clouds start to lower into the valley. You almost wish there were snowflakes in the air.