“Bahia is a little piece of heaven. It’s really an untouched paradise,” says model Karlie Kloss, who stars in the July issue’s “Brazilian Treatment”—the ten-page portfolio shot by Mario Testino for Vogue in celebration of all things sun and spa.

It was the model’s first visit to the country, and getting to Uxua, the rustic eco-lodge and spa where she would spend the next five days on location, proved something of a hike. “It was a little bit of a trains, planes, and automobiles situation. I caught a flight, and then another flight, and then I jumped in a car that drove me another hour to the resort,” she says of traveling to the historic fishing village of Trancoso, where the property’s ten villas—and its sea-green pool made from aventurine-quartz crystals—are seamlessly integrated into the town’s surroundings.

Once there, she promptly fell in love with the region’s food—as well as its culture. “Every time we weren’t shooting, I was running to the local market or shopping for handmade jewelry for my sisters,” says Kloss, who soaked up plenty of local flavor in front of the camera, too. She staged an impromptu lesson with dancers from the region’s nearby capoeira school, took a dip in purifying red and white clay from the local lagoon, and leaped into the surf at Taipe Beach for Testino’s lens. The highlight of her trip, though, says Kloss, had to be the daily horseback rides she took along the beach. “Every night, my 75-year-old Brazilian guide took me out riding in the moonlight. He was speaking Portuguese; I was speaking French. Neither of us had any idea what the other was saying, but it was so much fun,” she says, pausing to reflect. “You know, somebody told me that the heart of Brazil is Bahia, and I can believe it now.”

“We took this right in the middle of the mangrove. The sun was going down and it was stunning—but the mosquitos were out and the whole crew were losing their minds. They wrapped me up from head to toe in silver mylar fabric. I was baking like a sweet potato in the heat and the mosquitoes were attacking, and we had five minutes to get the shot. But it turned out beautifully in the end!

 “Capoeira is an art form—and these dancers were spectacular to watch. They were flipping around backward, forward, and sideways around me. Their bodies are so powerful. I tried not to mess up the one kick I’d learned—but next to them, it didn’t look like I was doing too much!”

“The wildlife and [fauna] in Brazil is amazing. I was constantly picking flowers off the bushes and trees and sticking them into my hair before dinner. For this shot, [hairstylist] Julien d’Ys collected different flowers that were growing around the hotel and made them into a gorgeous headpiece in a moment of inspiration.”

 “Traveling around the world, I like to try different spa treatments. On the morning of this shot, we traveled to the local cliffs made of red and white clay. They literally scrape it from the ground, mix it with water, and smooth it all over your body. It becomes a natural exfoliating mask. Somewhere in New York, somebody would be paying a lot of money for this and here it is in Brazil, coming straight out of the earth.”

 “I am obsessed with Brazilian food. I loved the fresh smoothies and acai-berry fruit bowls with granola sprinkled over them in the morning. I also made best friends with the cook, Bernardo, at the hotel and he let come into the kitchen to help at night. He just sent me a bunch of recipes that I can’t wait to try—in particular, feijoada, which is a very Brazilian dish. And how can I forget the man who made chocolate from a local cacao tree in the main village? I bought as many bars as I could shove into my suitcase.”

 “This was a really spontaneous moment. We had just come from shooting the red-clay treatment, so I took a dive in the ocean to rinse off. I’ve been taking ballet lessons since I was eight years old, and I’m always jumping around a lot anyway. When I got out of the water, I ran and kind of leaped into the air, and Mario just happened to catch the shot with his camera. It looks a bit like I’m flying!”

 Photo: Courtesy of Karlie Kloss