Evening exploring Vidigal Favela to the very top | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | I would say that one of the best experiences I did, during my recent visit to Rio de Janeiro, to curate unique travel experiences for my VIP clients coming to the 2016 Summer Olympics next year, was something was ranking high in my travel bucket list, after being in Rio for many times in the past. Venturing into the intriguing world of a Favela, was quite interesting, and what I found atop Morro do Vidigal – which gives name to the Favela Vidigal – was indeed unexpected.
While I was touring around Rio de Janeiro with my expert guide Isabella, as the sun was setting over the bay at the neighborhood of Urca, she said to me …” Would you like to go an explore a Favela…” My first thought was, Is it safe – meaning ARE YOU CRAZY. Second, since we were touring around on a luxury E Class Mercedes Benz, I was, are you sure we can go with this car ?. Of course deep inside I was YES LET’s DO IT, but my years of experience and at my age, I am more cautious and take less risks than in my young years. Since she saw I was very interested she said, look we will go to Favela Vidigal, which is safe and on top of that, this car is fully bullet proof. As she said that off we went.For those of you not familiar with the term Favela, is a heavily populated urban informal settlement characterized by substandard housing and squalor. Also could be known as shanty towns or slums. You find many in Rio, and the most visited perhaps is Rocinha or Santa Marta – known for Michael Jackson’s music video.
The first half of our trip we did it inside the car. It was quite an experience. The streets are very narrow and steep, and since the traffic runs along both ways, quite a few times we were stuck. The first time I did get a bit nervous, but everyone around was so nice and trying to help, that made me feel very comfortable. Once I saw that locals couldn’t careless of our presence there – specially with the Mercedes Benz, I asked my guide… Would it be too crazy to get off and walk all the rest of the way. She smiled and said, I was waiting for you to ask. So we did.
People on the streets, coming bak from work, climbing the steep slopes back home. Tourists living in the Favelas like locals. Cariocas at the local bars having beer and local delights. I was cautious all the way up, but I kind of blended with the crowd very easily and was one more.
Once we reached the top to meet our driver. Since the streets are so narrow, he had to go all the way up, to be able to get back down. Isabella told me she would share with me a tucked away gem, and she did. A charming bar and hostel with breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro from atop Morro do Vidigal. Mirante Do Avrao hostel and Belmonte bar. I mean talking about a room and a table with a view. So unexpected. I love this kind of hidden gems, specially getting to them after such a raw and local experience.
Belmonte Bar, other than stunning views, offers a variety of typical drinks and delicious cuisine, the bar is the perfect place for guests to mingle and make new friends.
To me this is what travel is all about. Unique life experiences. And this is what I do call Luxury at its best. On our way down, our driver was waiting for us with a big smile on his face, ready to take us back to Copacabana to my hotel the Belmond Copacabana Palace. Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
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