Hiking Morro Dois Irmãos: The Two Brothers Of RioBRAZIL
19 April 2023
Hiking Morro Dois Irmãos: The Two Brothers Of Rio
You might not have heard of Morro Dois Irmãos, but the chances are you’ll already be familiar with it if you’ve seen photographs of Rio Janeiro’s most iconic landmarks.
Translated into English as “Two Brothers Hill”, its spiky twin peaks loom over the western end of Leblon and Ipanema beaches like a pair of gigantic dorsal fins. And, from those sandy vantage points, you might think that climbing its sheer rock face would be solely the domain of mountain climbers.
But not so. There’s a trail on the far side of it that leads up to the summit of the taller “brother” in less than an hour. Where an unsurpassed view of Rio’s magical natural setting awaits.
For us, it’s one of the most exciting things to do in Rio.
And this is how we did it.
View of Morro Dois Irmãos from Ipanema Beach
Table of Contents
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HIKING MORRO DOIS IRMÃOS
Before we get started, you need to consider that the trail entrance is at the top of of one of Rio’s notorious favelas. Only this favela (Vidigal ) is no longer as dangerous as it once was, largely thanks to the presence (since 2012) of a Pacifying Police Unit. Nevertheless, it remains a place where tourists should take sensible precautions. And you will need to travel through it to get to the hiking trail.
To get to Vidigal, we simply took an Uber from Ipanema and were dropped off at Praça do Vidigal, the favela’s main entrance.
As an alternative, you can opt to walk from Leblon along the coast road (Avenida Niemeyer) for roughly 20 minutes, or catch one of a number of buses that cover the route (for example, the #104, 525 or 557).
Once you’ve arrived at Praça do Vidigal, your next decision is to either:
- Walk up through the favela to the trail entrance
- Take a kombi van; or…
- Take a ride on the back of a moto-taxi
Walking up is the least attractive option. Not least because the route up is very steep (you’ll probably want to reserve your strength for the actual hiking trail). And, if you want to experience walking through the favela, you could always do that on the way back down.
The kombi is basically an old Volkswagen van. And it’s fine. But it’s often cramped and there’ll be plenty of stops along the way.
Taking a moto-taxi is the most direct route. It certainly won’t appeal to everyone. Especially if riding pillion passenger up through steep, narrow, twisting streets in the face of oncoming heavy traffic is something that doesn’t appeal to you.
But for residents, the banks of moto-taxis that lie in wait at the bottom of any hillside favela in Rio are part of normal daily life. And so we figured when in Vidigal, do as the Vidigalians do!
A moto-taxi ride up through Vidigal favela
Our taxi drops us off at Praça do Vidigal, the favela’s main entry point. It’s a veritable hub of activity – shoppers, street vendors, lorries and buses all seemingly on a collision course with each other.
In the background, a row of maybe 20 motorbikes and their riders are lined up haphazardly along the street kerb. Three of the riders catch our gaze and approach us for our business. Seemingly unaware of the merits of each other’s sales patter, they try to shepherd us toward their own bikes.
Another rider approaches with his winning ability to at least speak a small amount of English. “Dois Irmãos? Trilha?” , Nicky inquires. That’ll be 10 reais (£1.60 / $2) for the two of us then. An argument between several of the rival taxi-riders sets our nerves on edge for a short while. But, before long our two guys motion to us to climb on to the back of their respective bikes and we’re suddenly off into the traffic.
In the confusion, we even forget to ask about safety helmets – reckless in hindsight, but it’s all a bit late to resolve right now. Instead, our main focus is holding on tight and not getting freaked out by the sight of oncoming lorries as our riders weave their way up through the favela’s winding streets at breakneck speed.
Indeed, Ian’s vice-like grip with both hands on the seat rail behind him takes priority over preventing his cap from being blown off in the wind. Which it inevitably does, providing one lucky resident with an unexpected souvenir of our visit.
The nadir arrives when an oncoming lorry up ahead tries to negotiate its way through a particularly narrow and steep stretch of road. Undeterred, Ian’s rider accelerates through the small gap between the lorry and the wall it’s trying to avoid hitting.
Incredibly, we’re overtaken by other moto-taxis whose passengers are reading their phones while riding “side-saddle”. A reminder of how normal this mode of transport is to the residents who live here.
And finally, after five-to-ten minutes of heart-in-the-mouth ducking and weaving, we arrive at our destination. We carefully dismount, pay the lead guy his 10 reais and thank both of them for the experience. With barely a flicker of acknowledgement, they set off again down into the favela’s chaotic streets.
We’ve been dropped off at Vila Olimpica do Vidigal, a gated sporting complex with a football pitch in the centre of it. We enter the complex by paying a guy 5 reais each and then head to the trail entrance, which is straight ahead, behind the football pitch.
Location of Vidigal entrance and approximate moto-taxi route to the trailhead drop-off point
Where to find the trailhead entrance from the motor-taxi drop-off point
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Climbing the trail
Glad that we’ve finally made it to the trail-proper, we begin our ascent up through the forest. The incline begins fairly gently as the trail winds its way around to the ridge that separates Vidigal from its neighbouring favela, Rocinha.
Ian at the beginning of the trail
After ten minutes, the incline becomes noticeably steeper and the trail is criss-crossed with a patchwork of tree roots, which double as natural steps.
And then, as the trail emerges into a clearing, we get our first glimpse of the sort of view that makes this such a worthwhile hike. To our left, the high-rise apartment blocks of Sao Conrado form an orderly queue as they point toward the white sand of their namesake beach. And beyond, the tabletop peak of Pedra de Gavea topples into the turquoise waters of the Atlantic.
View of São Conrado and Pedra da Gavea in the distance
We take in the view for a few minutes before continuing our route upwards.
A couple of makeshift bars serving ice cold beers offer a tempting resting point. But we decide to save those for our way back down.
Shortly afterwards we reach a rocky outcrop overlooking Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil and home to up to 300,000 residents. Peering over the edge gives us a sense of the scale of the place and its almost endless urban sprawl. But there’s no doubting its spectacular setting, occupying a valley between Dois Irmãos and the forested peaks of Parque Nacional de Tijuca.
After the obligatory photo shoot, we continue our increasingly steep upward trajectory, traversing bare rock and clambering across gigantic tree roots. Along the way, a family of marmosets (small monkeys) check in on us, no doubt concerned about the buckets of sweat now adorning our clothes.
View of Rocinha favela from the trail
The final leg of the trail takes us above the tree line. Below to our right, the white buildings of Vidigal contrast with the green of the forest and the brilliant blue of the sea. The trail becomes very narrow as it winds through the bush – a warning that if the weather is bad, this section would be almost impassable.
Our arrival at the summit is announced by the presence of a mobile food and drink stall. Next to it, a stone pillar marks the highest point. But our actual end point is a small, flat plateau just a bit further to the left as the rock slopes downwards towards the cliff edge.
View of Vidigal
The summit – one of the best views in Rio de Janeiro
The view from here is simply outstanding.
Immediately in front, the white arcs of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches stretch into the distance like a huge wishbone.
To the left of Ipanema Beach, the heart-shaped Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas provides a vivid contrast to the mass of shops, restaurants and apartment blocks of Rio’s party central.
Further to the left, the unmistakable silhouette of the Christ the Redeemer statue peers out over everything from the top of Corcovado Mountain.
Beyond Copacabana, Sugar Loaf Mountain looms at the head of Guanabara Bay. And further still, the faint white pencil marks of Niteroi’s Atlantic beaches are scratched along the coastline.
We decide there’s nothing much else to do other than park ourselves on a smooth, flat piece of granite and simply take it all in. And be thankful that we decided to visit on a clear, sunny day rather than find that this incredible scene is blanketed with cloud cover.
The return trip
The return trip follows exactly the same route down. Only this time we decide to break the journey with a well-deserved ice cold can of Brahma beer, courtesy of the enterprising soul who runs Mirante da Sul. Essentially the brainchild of one young guy from Vidigal featuring two ramshackle tables, an ill-fitting tarpaulin and two polystyrene boxes filled with ice and cans of beer, it’s an oasis in the rainforest we simply can’t resist.
After which, we continue back down to the trail entrance at the sports centre. This time, there are no moto-taxis waiting so we decide to continue our walk along the road, down through the favela until we reach Praça do Vidigal once again.
From there we order another Uber to return us to the centre of Rio.
A welcome stop on the way back down
Final thoughts on hiking Morro Dois Irmãos
Along with Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf and Parque de Cidade in Niteroi, we reckon Morro Dois Irmãos offers one of the best views in Rio de Janeiro.
The hike is perfectly doable for anyone who is moderately fit. And, at about an hour-or-so of steady climbing, it’s not a hike that needs lots of stamina. Indeed, many people manage it in considerably less time than that.
As always, it pays to start early to avoid both the crowds and the heat. There are are also options to climb to the summit at sunrise and sunset. But we’d only recommend doing that with a registered guide.
Hopefully, our description gives you a proper insight into what you can expect. It certainly makes for an adventurous day out. But, of all the hikes in Rio we managed to complete, it’s the one that will linger longest in our memory.
Morro Dois Irmãos / Two Brothers summit
Is hiking Morro Dois Irmãos safe?
Overall, yes – with the usual caveats.
Don’t attempt it in bad weather. If you want to see sunrise or sunset from the summit, hire a guide.
It’s also a hike that’s becoming more and more popular, so you’re not likely to be alone.
Are there any places to eat up there?
There was a guy with a mobile food stall at the summit when we were there. Of course, we can’t guarantee he’ll always be there. If in doubt, take some food with you.
Is there a fee to get in?
To access the trail via the sports complex you’ll probably need to pay an entry fee of 5 reais. We get the impression this is loosely applied – and there’s no official-looking entry point. If you’re asked for the fee, just suck it up and pay it.
Do I need a guide?
No, you can easily complete the hike without a guide. However, if you need extra assurance, or would prefer some further insight into the favelas of Vidigal and Rocinha then a private guide might be a good option for you.
Should I attempt it in bad weather?
No – the trail is not suited to wet weather. It will undoubtedly get muddy and slippery during or after heavy rain. And there were obvious points where rushing water would make the trail impassable.
Any other questions?
If there’s anything you’d like to ask about El Pipila Guanajuato that we haven’t covered here, there are a few ways to get in touch with us.
Firstly, you can simply ask your question in the Comments section below. You can also get in touch using our contact form. Or, if you’d like to join our community on Facebook, you can ask directly there.
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What did you think? Do you have any recommendations on how to hike Morro Dois Irmãos? Or perhaps you’re planning to do it the near future? Either way, we’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
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Hi, we're Ian and Nicky, an English couple on a voyage of discovery around the world, and this blog is designed to reflect what we see, think and do. Actually, we'd like to think it also provides information, entertainment and inspiration for other “mature” travellers, too. So please feel free to pour yourself a glass of something suitably chilled and take a look around.