I took off my shirt, draped it over my shoulder, and continued up the mountain - local style. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the weather was humid, and I was drenched in sweat.
40 minutes later, the forest thinned, the sun reappeared and I was rewarded for my climb.
The landscape of Rio de Janeiro in all its glory.
You’ve seen it on the postcards:
The perpetual blue sea against the white sandy beaches, the heart-shaped pond at the base of the Sugarloaf Mountain, the tiny little houses sandwiched among the tall skyscrapers, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer alone atop a hill.
Chances are: you’ve seen this breath-taking landscape with a bird’s eye perspective, up on the Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers) mountain.
How to Get to Morro Dois Irmaos
- Make your way to Vidigal at the corner of Av. Neimeyar and Av. President Joao Goulart
- Walk, take a kombi or moto-taxi up to the Campo do Vidigal, the football field
- Walk past the width of the field to the trailhead
- Hike up for 40 min
- Enjoy the best view of Rio
A trip to Rio de Janeiro wouldn’t be complete without seeing this view in person, and that was exactly what I missed out on my first trip to Rio in December 2014.
I’ve visited Christ, toured a favela and even ran off a ramp but I knew nothing about this gorgeous view. Now that I’m back, I’m determined to get there even if it means going through a favela by myself.
At 533m, Morro Dois Irmaos calls itself home to two of Rio’s most famous favelas – Vidigal and Rocinha – places that many cariocas (residents of Rio) would never go willingly.
Favelas have had a bad reputation as cities within a city controlled by drug lords. Just a week before I was there, two tourists wandered into a favela - brought there by Google Maps - and were shot. All for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
So am I crazy for wanting to walk through a favela?
For years, many of the favelas - including Vigidal and Rocinha - are considered “pacified” and this can be seen by the presence of ‘peace police’, an effort brought about by the government and the people. In other words, the violence has supposedly stopped.
Nowadays, the more famous favelas have become a tourist attraction. You can even find hostels in some of these favelas. In fact, the tour I went on back in 2014 was organized by a resident of the favela Rocinha.
However, even with these changes, the stain of the violent past remains, especially with cariocas.
How to Get to Vidigal
As I sat on the peak and admired what is possibly the best view in Rio, I was grateful as this journey hadn’t been the smoothest one.
The official trailhead begins in Campo do Vidigal – a gated soccer field in the favela. To get there, take any bus that says ‘Vidigal’ and alight outside the favela.
Now, if you’re like me and rely on Google Maps, know that it isn’t the most accurate when it comes to road directions and bus numbers. On my first try, the bus didn’t come. When I tried again the next day at another location, I never realized that the bus number was different (in my case TR9 = 109) till an hour later.
From the entrance of the favela you have three options:
1. Walk up to the trailhead (about 1.6km)
2. Take a white van (kombi)
3. Take a moto-taxi
I’m not sure about you but looking at these three options, I knew what my choice was.
True enough, the moment I stepped into the favela, a man wearing a black shirt with yellow reflective stripes, looking legit like a uniform, knew where I was heading and offered a moto-taxi ride up to the Campo.
I accepted immediately because I wanted to experience it for myself.
If no one approaches you, look for the moto-taxi stand at the entrance. The riders all wear the same yellow reflective stripes. You can’t miss them. Tell them “Dois Irmaos” or “Campo” and they’ll know what to do.
Before I could buckle up my helmet, we zoomed off - up the narrow streets, passing by pedestrians, stray dogs and vehicles, zigzagging around hairpin turns.
I was holding on to my dear life while trying to buckle my helmet. After 2 minutes, I gave up and just enjoyed the ride. It was an exhilarating 5 minutes.
I paid BRL$5 and it was probably a rip-off, but I didn’t care. I was too excited.
Ignoring the (probably racist) calls of the locals, I walked straight pass the football field and found myself at the trailhead.
The main trail is very well laid out and beaten to death. It is well-shaded and you might come across a local selling fruit juice. Along the way, there are viewpoints of the various favelas and other surrounding mountains. This isn’t a remote hike as there are many people chasing the views too. Overall, it is an easy hike.
At the top, you can even do rappelling if you’re feeling adventurous.
The summit was crowded. To get a photo like the one I have below, go deeper in, past where everyone is, down a steep trail to a rockface. It’s unnecessary and a little risky, but there, I had the place all to myself.
The way back is the same, only faster.
At the Campo, I decided that I’d walk through the favela for an adventure. There isn’t a moto-taxi stand but if you’re lucky, you might bump into moto-taxis that just dropped off passengers.
Even knowing that the favela is pacified, I still felt paranoid. It is after all, a favela. I snapped few quick photos and quickly kept my phone. Mass media has done well to spread paranoia.
I rewarded myself with a cup of acai at the foot of the favela. Perfect for a hot, physical, sweaty day.
And now, it's your turn.