What is it?
Even if you’ve never been to Brazil, chances are you will recognise Dois Irmãos. This beautiful pair of mountains, situated at the end of Leblon beach, make up one of Rio’s most iconic views.
Dois Irmãos (in the Carioca accent, this sounds like “doyz ir-MOUSH”) means Two Brothers which (I hope!) needs no further explanation. The trail to the top of Irmão Maior (Bigger Brother) is surprisingly easy-going and will take most people less than 90 minutes (Mrs Eat Rio and I did it in an hour).
People who are into serious trekking will find this walk very easy, while people who aren’t into long walks might think this sounds like too much hard work. To both groups I would say “Go for the views!” – they are truly spectacular.
How to get there
Climb Dois Irmãos in a larger map
The first step is to get to Vidigal, a favela situated between the neighbourhoods of Leblon and São Conrado. It’s a great starting point as it’s close to most of the hotels and hostels of Zona Sul and all the taxi drivers will know how to get there. Depending on your exact location, the taxi ride shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
Taxis generally don’t enter Vidigal, so you will be dropped at the entrance (blue marker on the map). The trail itself starts at the very top of the favela where the houses and buildings stop. You have 3 options to get there:
- Walk up – this has several advantages. It gives you a chance to take a good look at the favela as you make your way up the steep hills. Also, it’s free! But be warned, there are some very steep hills on the way up!
- Moto-taxi – you will see many guys with motorbikes hanging around near the entrance to the favela. They will take you to the top for a few Reais. Many people say that dodging in and out of the traffic at break-neck speeds is seriously exciting – speaking as someone who doesn’t like rollercoasters, I can do without that kind of excitement in my life! If you take this option, make sure you wear a helmet.
- Van – my preferred option. For R$2.50 these old minivans will take you to the top of the favela. Just explain to the driver where you are trying to go (see below) and he will tell you when to get off. Pick up a van from just around the first corner once you’re inside the favela (red marker on the map).
A Note on Favelas
Favelas have a bad reputation, not just with fearful tourists, but also among many Brazilians – considering Rio’s history, this is hardly surprising.
Everyone has their own opinion about favelas and safety and it’s easy enough to find people who will (in very exaggerated tones) tell you to never go in!!! However, the truth is that plenty of people visit the bars and hostels at the top of Vidigal without the slightest problem. In general, the key points are treat the residents with respect, don’t go snapping photos of residents without their express permission and if in doubt, seek a local guide to accompany you (there are plenty out there).
In any case, I would advise everyone to read the Eat Rio safety page.
Asking for Directions
Whether you decide to walk up, take a moto-taxi or a van, you will need to explain to people where you are trying to go. These phrases should come in handy:
Quero fazer a trilha para subir o Dois Irmãos.
[sounds like]: CARE-o fazer a treelya para soo-BEER oh doyz ear-moush
[means]: I want to take the trail to climb the Dois Irmãos.
É la em cima, perto do campo de futebol.
[sounds like]: Eh line seema, perto do campo de footch-bow
[means]: It is at the top, close to the football field.
What you need to take
Even though it’s not a long walk, usual walking rules apply – take water, something to eat, sunscreen, etc. You certainly don’t need to get all tooled-up with hiking gear (we managed the whole walk in shorts and flip-flops), but you may find that a stick is helpful for getting up the steep sections. Don’t forget your camera!
When I first did the trail you had to walk up the side of a little wall until you found your way up into the forest and onto the trail itself. Nowadays they have fenced off that wall and instead you will find a little entrance sign by the football field (Campo do Vidigal). [Thanks to Moritz Kelm who emailed me in 2015 to alert me to this change!]
The path climbs gradually, taking you through shady forest with occasional glimpses out to sea and down to the favela below.
As you go higher, the trees get thinner and there are a few points where the track gets fairly steep. When we went it had not rained in weeks, so the topsoil was a bit loose in places, but really nothing too difficult. After around 30 minutes of walking you come to the first breathtaking lookout – Rocinha!
Not long after the first views of Rocinha, things open out a bit and you will start to see views up to the top of the mountain. When you hit the first patch of rock you are probably no more than 30 minutes from the top.
The trees quickly die away and you find yourself walking through long grass and low bushes. The views really start to open out and if you’re like me you will find that you’re stopping every 5 minutes to take photos of the spectacular views.
The final climb is through tufty grass, with views opening out to the left and right. The very top is marked with a rather unimpressive stone marker, but continue on for another 30 seconds until you reach the jaw-dropping look-out point. This is what you came for!
Once you’ve had your fill of the incredible views of this marvellous city, turn around and head back the way you came. On our return journey, we decided to walk the whole way back and we were amazed at how quickly we found ourselves back at the entrance to the favela.
As I already mentioned, this is not a long walk – depending on your pace and how long you spend at the top, this walk will take most people 3-4 hours in total. With that in mind, check what time it gets dark so you can make sure that you won’t be walking in the dark. Also, keep an eye on the weather – if it’s raining or very cloudy then you will miss out on the amazing views which are what this walk is all about.
You don’t have to pay anyone to do this walk. Of course if you decide to take taxis and/or moto-taxis then it will cost a little, but nothing much compared to most activities in Rio. When you’ve finished the walk, why not grab a cold beer or two in one of the Vidigal bars? The prices are very reasonable.
For more walking trails in Rio, see the e-Trilhas site: http://www.etrilhas.com.br