Many travelers who are planning South American travel will be drawn to Rio de Janeiro for famous sights like Sugar Loaf mountain or Copacabana beach. Yet as much as these are part of the identity of the city, there's another part of Rio that most tourists don't often see: the favelas.
Favelas are essentially shantytowns that surround the city. Residents here are desperately poor and homes are often made out of pieces of scrap metal and wood. For many years, tourists were told to ignore these areas, as they were considered unsafe for tourists.
Yet a new initiative is now looking to highlight the favelas and their unique culture. The Rio de Janeiro government recently began upgrading some favelas to serve as tourist attractions. And several independent tour operators have been taking groups into the slums for years, according to the New Zealand Herald.
The favelas have many problems, but there are bright spots as well. These tight-knit communities have formed their own unique culture and feature an authentic experience for travelers. The most breathtaking views of the city can also usually only be seen from a favela. In addition, they offer travelers a unique perspective on how others live, which is for many people what travel is all about.
The great thing about these new initiatives is that much of the money generated will go straight into the community, especially the schools. Many of the favelas have already cleaned themselves up, and if the new tours prove popular, more could achieve that soon.
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