Rio’s favelas are one of the city’s anomalies, existing with a combination of densely packed communities suffering from poor living conditions and regeneration projects that have opened their doors to bridge the cultural divide seen across the city. Here’s what you need to know about favela tours in Rio.
What is a favela?
Brazil’s favelas are slums with a poor socioeconomic status, most of which sprung up on the outskirts of the country’s urban centers in the late 19th century. There are almost 1,000 favelas housing an estimated 1.5 million people in Rio de Janeiro alone, and the densely packed communities often live without reliable electricity, sewage systems, or drinkable water. In recent years, efforts to improve living conditions have been successful in certain favelas, but problems remain complex and far-reaching.
Set in the South Zone between the São Conrado and Gávea districts, Rocinha is Rio’s largest and most developed favela, and it’s the focal point of most Rio favela tours. Educational walking tours typically offer insight into community life and redevelopment projects; a chance to experience cultural traditions such as capoeira and samba; and visits to schools, local businesses, or community centers.
Santa Marta Favela
The Santa Marta Favela is located in the Botafogo and Laranjeiras area of South Rio. Walking tours provide a look at life in the district, as well as the famous favela painting project and viewpoints that look out over Rio landmarks such as the Christ the Redeemer Statue, Copacabana, and Ipanema Beach.
Vidigal Favela is one of the most vibrant slum areas, renowned for its striking street art, food markets, and live music venues. The community is located high on the mountainside above Rocinha, and Vidigal tours often include a hike up to the Two Brothers Mountain viewpoint.
Things to Know
Only certain favelas are safe for visitors and they should only be visited as part of a tour with a reputable tour guide.
Most tours use a portion of the proceeds to fund community projects within the favelas.
Favela tours typically last two to four hours and most involve a fair amount of walking. Comfortable shoes are recommended, as roads can be steep and uneven.
Remember that the favelas are living communities—it’s important to show sensitivity and be respectful when visiting locals and their homes. Ask your guide for advice if you are unsure.
Viator is sensitive to the issues and concerns surrounding favelas and understands that these tours may not be suitable for everyone.