Rio’s beach zones are chock-full of high rise hotels, but if you’re looking for something a little different, the more interesting alternatives are often to be found some distance from the beach. But what you lack in ease of access to the sands you will make up for in views, as some of Rio de Janeiro’s best alternatives to hotels can be found up in the heights of the infamous favelas that cling to the city’s mountainsides.
Once the domain of drug cartels, many of Rio’s favelas are now under military police occupation, as the city council pulls out all the stops to try and reduce crime levels ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and the 2016 Rio Olympics. With power wrested from the hands of the powerful drugs gangs, the favelas are now proving more and more enticing to tourists. The last few years have seen a trend for pousasas (guest houses) springing up in Rio’s favelas, and now is perhaps a better time than ever to stay in one of these unique spots.
Established pousadas such as The Maze, close to Catete, and Favelinha, near Santa Teresa, have built up a solid reputation with locals over the years and, as such, guests are likely to be received with friendly curiosity in the community. It goes without saying that guests should be respectful of the surroundings and avoid wandering off willy-nilly into the favela, but contrary to popular belief crime against tourists is actually significantly lower in these areas than in super-touristy locations such as Copacabana.
Avoid very recently-opened pousadas in the favelas, as these may not yet have built up a solid rapport with the community and outsiders may, in some cases, be met with suspicion.
The two examples cited here are both safe to visit, and offer unbeatable views over Rio, in addition to a visitor experience that is very different to the tourist view of Rio as seen from the beachfront tower blocks. Photos courtesy of Pousada Favelinha