What It’s Like To Stay In A Pacified Favela: The Highlights of Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro

What It’s Like To Stay In A Pacified Favela: The Highlights of Vidigal, Rio de Janeiro

    Looking back on the six weeks we spent in Rio de Janeiro, we can easily claim that our experience would not have been the same had it not been for the neighborhood of Vidigal. A pacified favela just outside of Rio’s posh South Zone, Vidigal is become an increasingly popular spot for backpackers and wealthy foreign investors alike. But what was it really like to rent a room in Vidigal for six weeks? And how do the locals feel about the influx of foreigners now flocking to this once off-limits favela? It’s a difficult topic, but in today’s post we’re diving into the details of our experience in Vidigal. Whether you’re traveling to Rio or you just want to learn more about pacification in Rio’s favelas, then this is the post for you!   The Vidigal Favela     The Vidigal favela recently celebrated its official 75th anniversary, but most locals know the neighborhood to be much older than that. Many of the residents grew up here, and feel a deep connection with their Vidigal roots, even if it hasn’t always been easy to live here. Despite the favela’s spectacular views (in our opinion the best in all of Rio de Janeiro) and nearby beach, before 2011 you likely wouldn’t have entered Vidigal unless you had an insider to escort you. Even then, it would have been risky. Vidigal, like most Brazilian favelas, faced problems from drug trafficking and gangs. Violence was prevalent, especially the farther you went up the hill. Access to public transportation, medical services and good schools was (and still is) limited.    ...
Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    This week continues our flashback to one of our favorite places on earth: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Last week we shared some of our favorite Instagram photos that we felt so perfectly captured the contagious energy and vibrance of the city. If you happened to read the post, then you might remember that we said this week we’d be talking more about what it was actually like to live in a pacified favela. Unfortunately when we sat down to put the post together, we realized our photos of Vidigal are on our external hard drive—in Costa Rica. And we are currently visiting with family and friends in North Carolina. Since we simply cannot talk about Vidigal without our favorite photos of the favela, it will be another two weeks or so before we can share that story with you. So that’s the backstory :) But in the meantime, we decided to dive into one of our absolute favorite aspects of living in Rio de Janeiro—the great (and gorgeous) outdoors!     Rio de Janeiro is one of the most uniquely beautiful urban landscapes in the world. ‘La Cidade Maravillosa’ is fringed by golden sand beaches, verdant mountains, and dense tropical jungle. That means that no matter where you are in the city, you’ll find an array of outdoor activities and adventures easily accessible. We love nothing more than spending time outdoors, but we also love the energy of city living. Typically it’s a difficult balance for us, but in Rio de Janeiro, the city and stunning natural beauty go hand-in-hand. If you’re anything like us, then we...
5 Reasons We Love Rio de Janeiro – In Instagram Photos

5 Reasons We Love Rio de Janeiro – In Instagram Photos

    It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly nine months since we were in Rio de Janeiro. It seems like only yesterday we were drinking caipirinhas, swaying to sultry samba beats, and bouncing from one beautiful beach to the next. What’s even crazier though is that we have barely written anything about Rio on the blog in that time. Rio de Janeiro is probably our favorite city we have ever visited. We loved the perfect combination of abundant natural beauty and enticing city vibes – not to mention the people are some of the funniest, most authentic we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. In the upcoming weeks we will be sharing more about our time in Rio. But first, we thought we would give a visual recap as to why ‘The Marvelous City’ is in fact so marvelous. Though they might not be ‘instant’ anymore, here are 5 of our favorite things about Rio de Janeiro – as demonstrated through our Instagram:    Vidigal Clockwise from Top Left: Sunrise Over Vidigal, Yoga On Our Roof, Working Online Overlooking Ipanema, The View From Our Room. Vidigal is a pacified favela just past Ipanema. It used to be super dangerous, but now more tourists are starting to discover the neighborhood. We stayed in Vidigal for six weeks and never felt safer. The favela’s gentrification is a complicated issue though, one we’ll be talking more about next week. We’ll also be sharing tons of photos from live inside the favela, so stay tuned!   Beaches Clockwise from Top Left: Crowded Ipanema Beach, Relaxing With A Cold Coconut, Playa Prainha, Ipanema Looking Back At Two Brothers Mountain....
Capturing the Baroque Beauty of Ouro Preto – A Photo Essay

Capturing the Baroque Beauty of Ouro Preto – A Photo Essay

    Ouro Preto is often referred to as the colonial gem of Brazil – and it’s easy to see why from the very first moment the surrounding verdant hills and pastel colored buildings come into view. Ouro Preto (meaning Black Gold) was the center of Brazil’s golden age and gold rush. Today the small town has managed to retain its 17th century colonial architecture and old world charm with barely a hint of development, save for a few well-planned renovations. With over 23 churches, unique Baroque architecture and works of art from the highly regarded Brazilian artist Aleijadinho, there’s no shortage of things to do in and around town. But our favorite activity was easily to put down our maps and go get wonderfully lost along the narrow cobblestone alleys. Just don’t forget your camera – Ouro Preto is a photographer’s dream!     Where is your favorite colonial town you have ever visited?   Like this post? Pin it for later!...
Gardenia Boshor Boutique Guest House – Intimate Accommodation in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil

Gardenia Boshor Boutique Guest House – Intimate Accommodation in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil

There’s no doubt about it: Iguazu Falls is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of South America. As such, there are throngs of hotels and sweeping resorts to choose from all around the city of Foz do Iguacu. But we weren’t really interested in a cookie-cutter hotel purely catering to busloads of travelers. Rather, to accompany the one-of-a-kind experience of visiting Iguazu Falls, we wanted a one-of-a-kind accommodation experience, too. And that’s exactly what we found at Gardenia Boshor Boutique Hotel.     Gardenia Boshor Boutique Guest House is an enchanting bed and breakfast located in a residential neighborhood just a few minutes walk from the city center (and the buses that head to Iguazu Falls). To put it simply, the house is absolutely gorgeous. Immediately upon our arrival, we felt transported back to an era of Portuguese colonialism, both due to the extreme spaciousness of the house and grounds, but also due to the traditionally elegant decor. Massive windows, vaulted ceilings and large open patios were just a few of our favorite details, while the chandelier couldn’t be missed.     Our room was on the second floor following a grand spiral staircase. Everything about the bedroom oozed charm, from the cozy bed and blankets to the hardwood floors to the personal patio entrance. Additionally, each room at Gardenia Boshor Boutique Hotel comes equipped with a mini-bar, WiFi, cable TV, room service, and the most incredible black-out curtains we’ve ever experienced. We didn’t have a private bathroom, but we didn’t see anyone else using the shared bathroom, either. Hugely spacious (like everything else at the B&B), the bathroom...
Getting Up Close With Jaguars in the Pantanal – An Ultimate Bucket List Experience

Getting Up Close With Jaguars in the Pantanal – An Ultimate Bucket List Experience

The Amazon may get all the hype, but the world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal, boasts some of South America’s finest opportunities for spotting wildlife—including the ever-elusive jaguar.   Never the best at having to choose, we strategically opted to base ourselves in the Brazilian city of Cuiaba; this easily allowed us to visit both the Southern Amazon and the Pantanal in the same trip. And honestly, we couldn’t have planned it any better. Not only did we get an iconic Amazonian adventure, but we also had an intimate encounter with a jaguar that was unlike anything we could have imagined.   A Journey Into The Pantanal   Our journey into the Pantanal began when Junior from the Jaguar Ecological Reserve picked us up in Cuiaba. Still groggy from our overnight bus trip, little did we realize that half of the adventure would be arriving at the lodge!     The Jaguar Ecological Reserve is one of the last lodges along the Transpantaneira, a 146-km dirt road crossing the Pantanal. In between driving around potholes and crossing the 120 rickety wooden bridges, the journey took a total of four hours. But we had plenty of entertainment as we bounced along on benches from the back of the rustic pick-up truck. We would tap on the back of the truck anytime we wanted to stop and whip out our cameras and binoculars. When we saw storks, hawks, foxes, macaws, deer and toucans in the first hour alone, we realized we would have to exercise a bit of discretion in stopping the vehicle if we were ever to arrive at the...