By Lacy Edney, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The favelas of Rio have arguably represented a dangerous side of the Cidade Maravilhosa, but with the pacification efforts, several favela communities have become a safe and welcoming point of interest for tourists. For a long time all but the most adventurous of travelers would need a local guide to explore favela living, but now there are several accessible areas boasting beautiful views and authentic culture.
The Chapéu Mangueira favela is located behind the high rises in Leme and is one of the easiest and safest to visit. There are two ways to access this lofty community, the first is a road that winds up the hill and leads to both Babilônia on the left and Chapéu Mangueira on the right.
The second option is much quicker, but a more challenging climb. A small pathway between two buildings leads to a large staircase that provides a straight shot up to Chapéu Mangeira.
According to Sergio Ferrez, owner of Safety Inn Rio, a home for foreigners in Chapéu Mangueira, “Since pacification, it is the tourists who are visiting the favela and helping to break the cultural and social barriers.”
This quiet community has been pacified since 2009 and has a warm and friendly feel. There are small pathways that curve up and around providing an occasional overlook of Copacabana beach. The local favorite Bar do David is popular for its delicious meals, especially its seafood feijoada.
For those wanting an easy ride, the General Osório Metro stop in Ipanema has a elevator that makes visiting the Cantagalo and Pavão/Pavãozinho favelas a breeze. The elevator is 64 meters high (the equivalent of a 23-story building), and offers a unique view of the Ipanema and Copacabana.
The elevator is free and open during Metro operating hours. Visitors can see pictures of the construction process as well as photos documenting the daily life of the more than 10,000 inhabitants of the Cantagalo favela community.
The Vidigal favela is another Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhood with a beautiful view. It is a steep climb to the top, but luckily there are vans and mototaxis a plenty which cost only about R$2 (although speaking Portuguese makes it easier).
Vidigal boasts a spectacular view of Leblon and Ipanema, and since the UPP installation in January, many locals and tourists alike make their way to enjoy the view. AltoVidigal is a hostel at the top of the neighborhood that hosts events as well as an After Beach Party every Sunday.
Santa Marta, also called Dona Marta, has had its moments in the limelight. It is most famous for appearing in a clip of Michael Jackson’s song “They Don’t Care About Us” in 1996, and also hosted Alicia Keys and Madonna.
Locals and tourists can reach the favela by taking the inclined plane elevator which takes approximately ten minutes to reach the top. The favela painting project is also definitely worth a visit.
This colorful conglomeration of houses in the main square, Praça Cantão, is a cheerful artwork covering 34 houses to make a total of 7,000 square meters of rainbow. With more funding, the community hopes to transform the entire favela into a brightly colored masterpiece.
Each favela community has its own unique qualities and culture, and the pacification and UPP efforts have succeeded in many cases to make life better for residents, and safer to visit. While some areas still struggle with security, Rio fortunately has some success stories to share with the world.