Standing on Ipanama beach, looking towards Leblon, one cannot miss the twin peaks rising in the distance. The Dois Irmãos or ‘Two Brothers’ are an iconic landmark in the Rio’s landscape, and hiking them is a popular way for Brazilians to get in some exercise before hitting the beach.
I was invited to do this hike by two friends from school and having done absolutely no research, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not exactly in peak physical condition, but my friends assured me it was an easy climb and I had envisioned us being finished by midday and perhaps heading to the beach after a quick lunch.
As it happened, everything too much longer than anticipated. This was primarily due to us underestimating the effort required to reach the start of the hike… which is why I have written this post. Hopefully the following information will clear up any confusion you may have about how to do the Dois Irmãos!
If you’re coming from Centro, take the metro (towards Jardim Oceanico) and get off at the Antero de Quental station. From the metro, I recommend taking a cab or an Uber to the base of the Vidigal Favela. An Uber cost R$7, so if you split it between friends it’s super cheap.
At the base of the favela you will notice a group of men in traffic controller vests waving and gesturing frantically at you. They are not, as I had innocently imagined, friendly favela residents welcoming you to the neighborhood, but instead are taxi drivers trying to hustle you onto their motorbikes.
You have three options here.
Option 1: Walk
Honestly, I don’t recommend this. The road is very steep, and you’re about to go hiking so why would you do that to yourself? If you do decide to take this option, it will take you about 45 minutes to an hour.
Option 2: Take a Moto-taxi
So, call me a sissy, but my dad put the fear of God into me when it comes to motorbikes. Four of the people in our group took this option and apparently, it was awesome. The drivers zip up and down the mountain all day, narrowly missing each other (!), but they clearly know what they’re doing. Don’t let them charge you more than R$5.
Option 3: Take a Combi
This option proved only slightly less terrifying than the motor-taxis, because the road in the favela is not suited to two-way traffic. As it is, there is traffic going both ways, with motorbikes winding their way around the cars and people walking on the road. I haven’t been in a South African township for a good few years, but I’d wager this was worse.
On our way up, we got stuck for 20 minutes when a large garbage truck and an excavator managed to block the road. As interesting as it was to watch the unraveling chaos, we eventually gave up and walked. Still, I’m happy I took this option! We were charged R$3,50.
(By this stage, we had already been in-transit to the start of the hike for an hour and 45 minutes, and were to beginning to realize that this probably wouldn’t be the quick undertaking we had envisioned).
A friendly local man took us to the official start of the hike, just past the favela’s football field and outdoor gym. (You gotta love the Brazilians for prioritizing football and fitness!)
If you have any trouble locating the base of the trail, just ask one of the many locals milling about, and I’m sure they’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.
The trail is unexpectedly busy and clearly marked, so you will have no problem finding your way. Expect to see Brazilians in a whole array of outfits: from tight workout gear, to daisy dukes and bikinis, to rather lovely outfits that I would probably wear on a night out. The climb up took us about an hour, although we did stop at the viewpoints (as well as making numerous, non-viewpoint stops) to catch our breath. If you are fit, you could do the hike in about 40 minutes.
Parts of the climb were quite steep and scrabbly, so it would be worthwhile to check whether there had been any rain recently. The temperature was perfect for hiking (July) but if you’re doing it in summer, try go early. We were sweating, so in summer I imagine you’d be drenched.
The summit of the hike was incredible. 360 degree views of Rio: what more could you want? We found many people sunning themselves on the slab of rock that overlooks Leblon and Ipanema, as well as a few forward-thinking souls who had lugged up a cooler-box and were drinking icy caiphirinas.
Take your pictures, then sit down and soak in the view. It is truly incredible, and if we weren’t so hungry we would have stayed for hours.
The way down only takes about 20 minutes and feels like a breeze. Even my dodgy ankles managed to emerge unscathed!
Unless you’re in a hurry, I recommend walking down through the favela. Grab a 400ml Acai (for only R$5,50 – less than half of what you’d pay in iPanema or Copacabana) and enjoy the sea views and interesting glances into favela life as you stroll down the hill. I never felt unsafe, apart from the few times I was almost hit by a moto-taxi.
What better way to tick off a hike and a favela visit in one day.
Although for us Dois Irmãos took the best part of five hours, I hope this post will prepare you such that your experience will be much quicker and easier. Despite the hassle to get there, the views are worth it!