In recent times favelas have been popularized in recent times by the movie City of God, which features the aforementioned favela as well as Vidigal in Rio. This interest has driven visitors to desire to see the favelas for themselves. There is sometimes some controversy on whether visiting the Favelas is ethical. My take on this is that you should aim to go on a tour that features a local guide and is not exploitive to the population. I found the tour to essentially the same as any other city tour as the favelas truly operate as a “city within a city”. I had a wonderful experience on a tour that I recently took of the Rocinha favela, and will share this one and similarly strong options in the breakdown below. Keep reading for our pick on the best favela tour Rio de Janerio, and some additional options that you should consider as you plan your trip.
Note: There is no free walking tour option for the favela tours, given that proceeds are meant to benefit the local communities. All options provided below are paid.
What is a Favela?
Brazilian favelas are informal settlements that have emerged as a result of urbanization and rural migration in Brazil. These same social projects might be called shanty towns or slums in other countries. They are characterized by their dense and often precarious housing. In addition, they are known for having a high level of poverty and social exclusion.
Favelas are predominantly located in the urban peripheries of Brazil’s large cities, and are often associated with high levels of violence, crime, and drug trafficking. Despite these challenges, favelas are also vibrant communities with a strong sense of social cohesion, creativity, and resilience.
Over the years, different policies and initiatives have been implemented to address the social and economic issues faced by favela residents, ranging from community-based interventions to large-scale urban development programs. These include the implementation of basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation, and electricity, at least in Rio’s favelas.
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Top Tour recommendation
- Led by a local tour guide / local resident who started her own travel company to conduct these tours
- Affordable price
- Highly rated with hundreds of reviews
- Proceeds provide financial support to the residents of the Rocinha favela
The Best Favela Tours in Rio De Janeiro
RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.8/5 stars) | TOUR LENGTH: 3 Hours | Check Price Now
This 3-hour favela walking tour of Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. In fact, Rocinha is the largest favela in the city. The first stop of this tour is at one of the meeting points in either Copacabana or Ipanema Beach. Next, you will pay a small fee to ride a moto-taxi to the top of the favela. This tour uses a local guide who grew up in Rocinha and who still resides in this “city within a city”.
As mentioned before, I personally took this tour recently, and found the guide to be very insightful in explaining the nuances of daily life in the favela. We walked down the steep hillsides of the favela and were able to take in impressive sites of all of Rio along the way. This includes getting to see Morro Dois Irmãos, given that Rochina sits at the base of these two small mountains.
Given the location of the Some of the information our guide shared included facts on the size of the favela, support provided by the Brazilian government, and general information on what it is like to grow up there.
This tour provides a unique experience and an eye-opening one. I found the experience to be humanizing of those that live in the favelas.
There were plenty of friendly people who lived there who are kind to visitors like me. There are areas where pictures aren’t allowed as the drug trade does still exist, but it is far from the only reality you will find in the favelas.
“We went on a tour with Juçara and it was great. We met her and a few other tourists at the meeting point and took the motortaxi up the hill of Rocinha from there. She was extremely knowledgeable about the area since she is also from this neighborhood. She showed us what it is like to live here and all that the favela has to offer. She also knows a lot about the history and origins of the favela. We felt very safe during the tour.”Read more reviews here
RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.9/5 stars) | TOUR LENGTH: 2 Hours | Check Price Now
This favela tour takes you through the poor neighborhood of Santa Marta, another “city” within the main city of Rio. Like the prior tour, this one is also led by a local from the Santa Marta favela. What is cool about Santa Marta is that it features a cable car, and that is what you’ll use to get to the top of the favela in this neighborhood.
Several famous visitors have made their way to this favela in the past, such as Michael Jackson and Queen Elizabeth. Your small contribution towards the purchase of this tour will help give back to the local community. In addition, you will be allocated time to shop in local artisan stores to directly support residents as well.
“Great experience to see and meet the nice people of Santa Marta and have a walk from the top to the bottom! The common talk that all Favelas are dangerous and people are unfriendly is just non-sense. Highly recommended! It was one of the best moments during my holiday in Rio.”Read more reviews here
RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.8/5 stars) | TOUR LENGTH: 3 Hours | Check Price Now
The Vidigal Favela is one that is undergoing a log of change currently, including cool bars and restaurants, and places to stay. It has changed from one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the past to more of a typical community with a “hipster” vibe. On this 3-hour favela walking tour, you’ll get to experience the following:
- Arvão – Here you’ll find the best views of Rio as well as the famous bars Bar da Laje, Mirante do Arvão, and Alto Vidigal
- Sitiê Ecological Park – A former dump that has been changed into a location for environmental education
- Vidigal Olympic Village and Graffiti Court
- Pope’s Chapel – Once visited by the Pope back in 1980
Like the tours mentioned previously, this one is also led by a local guide who will show both the touristic area of Vidigal and the more local side.
Thank you very much for the interesting tour and the unique insights into the history and the current state of the favela Vidigal! Russo, the tour guide, is a local who was born and raised in the neighborhood and knows the development of and people in the favela inside and out. Almost everyone in the favela appears to know him which made us feel 100% safe and comfortable. Overall, the tour was very comprehensive, available in English and provided us with a new perspective of the favela. Don’t miss out on the tour! We highly recommend it not just because it offers a unique opportunity to get to know the neighbourhood but also to get in touch with a true local from here. Our trip to Rio would not have been complete without it! Russo, thank you very much and very best! We are rooting for you!Read more reviews here
In Summary | The Best Favela Tour Rio De Janeiro
Curiosity is what has led to the boom in favela tourism, but it is something that can positively benefit the communities you visit, if done in the right way. Like helicopter tours, a favela tour is one of the many Rio de Janeiro tours that you should 100% experience while you are visiting the amazing city of Rio. I hope that if you do get to visit one of the local communities in the favelas, you will come to understand a bit more about the people and culture there.