Getting there: The only way to reach Ibitipoca is by vehicle. The park is 150 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, about a three-hour drive. From Rio, take interstate BR-040 toward Belo Horizonte to the BR-267, which heads southwest toward the city of Lima Duarte. After Lima Duarte, the road turns to dirt. The country road to Ibitipoca is rough going — the speed limit on the steep, rutted and stunningly scenic country road is 16 mph. From Sao Paulo, the drive takes six hours. Start by taking interstate BR-116 for 145 miles to the town of Engenheiro Passos. From there, take the highway northwest to the city of Caxambu for 55 miles before heading east on the BR-267 highway to Lima Duarte.

Currency: Brazil is a bargain these days for the foreign traveler. One U.S. dollar will buy you about 2.50 Brazilian reals — double the exchange rate of a year ago. Change your dollars in a major city such as Rio or Sao Paulo before heading to Ibitipoca. Keep in mind that no proprietor accepts credit cards in Ibitipoca, so bring plenty of cash for your visit. Crime is not a problem in the village, but it's always a good idea to keep valuables tucked away.

Lodging: If you are a comfort creature, don't bother with Ibitipoca. The inns, or "pousadas," are pretty basic, and do not accept credit cards. The best accommodations in town are at the Repousada, on Rua Salvador (phone 032-3281-8112), owned by Marco Pelicano. Per couple, it will run you $40 a night during high season, from December through March. (Bargain with the owner if arriving in the off-season.) Pelicano offers 11 "rustic" brick chalets, quaintly built into the hillside. Each chalet comes with a queen-size bed, tidy bathroom, small refrigerator, candles (or electric lamps) and fireplace. Wear bug spray at night.

However, what you give up in comfort you get back in scenery: On a clear night, the stars put on a show. Also, the inn has an outdoor pool, sauna and prepares a decent breakfast. During the high season, it pays to book weeks in advance. Other pensions: The Alphaville (phone 032-3281-8102), $30 a night per couple; Pousada Janela do Ceu, Rua do Ceu (phone 032-3281-8118), $20 a night per couple, has eight chalets; Pousada Poente, Rua do Ceu (phone 032-3281-8125), $15 a night per couple, has two rooms and two chalets.

Camping: There is a campground for the real outdoor types. However, space is limited, and reservations must be made at least a month in advance to get your piece of turf. The campground's number is 032-3281-1101.