Tours of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas with local guides are a great way to ensure support for the local community while learning about its vibrant culture. Here are five of the best options.
Perhaps it was the film “City of God,” the World Cup, the Olympics or a combination of all three, but Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have gained something of an absurd romanticism. The resulting plethora of tours have, in turn, brought fresh tourism revenue right into the heart of poorer areas of the city. Some estimates suggest that 1.5 million people inhabit the city’s favelas, and these top five tours are the best way to get educated on, and fully understand, the unique culture and lifestyle of them.
Favela Santa Marta local guide tour
High above the main city, the Santa Marta favela has some incredible views out towards Ipanema and Sugar Loaf Mountain. During the course of this two-hour walking excursion, you will explore the mazey streets with a local resident, who knows all the best viewpoints, local craft shops and intriguing nooks of the neighbourhood. This tour is overwhelmingly loved by previous guests and runs from Monday to Saturday every week. From $32 per person.
Rocinha favela walking tour
Rio de Janeiro’s biggest favela is Rocinha, with around 70,000 residents. This local guide-led trip is aimed at giving people an insider’s perspective on the daily life and ongoing challenges of poverty and overcrowding that the locals face. See murals and hillsides covered in ramshackle buildings. See local commerce in action, as well as the efforts of local organizations to improve living conditions in the favela. As with the other tours on this list, the tour fee includes a small contribution to the local community. From $35 per person.
Rio: Half-day Rocinha favela walking tour
With the aim of debunking myths and breaking down stereotypes, this four-hour walking tour in Rocinha is another one run by a local resident that aims to be respectful and non-intrusive to the neighbourhood’s residents. This tour takes you to meet locals who are happy to tell their stories about life in the favela. This is among the most highly rated favela tours in Brazil and offers the chance for a view of the cityscape from a good vantage point. From $36 per person.
Vidigal favela tour and Two Brothers hike
Vidigal favela is fast transforming into an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, with hip bars and vibrant street art. It’s testament to the potentially transformative power of encouraging visitors to come from the outside to spend their money on local commerce. This tour combines an exploration of Vidigal favela with a guided hike up the verdant Two Brothers hill, where expansive views of the city are the reward for your efforts. Daily departures. From $36 per person.
Rio de Janeiro favela Jeep tour
Getting around the favelas, which often dot steep hillsides, is not always an easy task, so a Jeep tour makes neighbourhoods such as Rocinha much more accessible. With pick-up and drop-offs at select hotels, your tour guide will convey you around Rocinha, heading to viewpoints and visiting local institutions such as Samba School Academicos de Rocinha. On certain days, you’ll also get to explore bustling street fairs on foot, where you can buy local crafts and food. From $75 per person.