The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro

I first discovered this hotel when I was walking up the Estrada das Canoas to visit Pedra Bonita.

*Note: before I continue, let me advise you that walking up Estrada das Canoas is not only incredibly long and tiring, it isn’t, in fact, the usual route up to Pedra Bonita. Most people take a bus or catch a lift with one of the hang-gliders to get to the entrance of the hike. It avoids walking up a paved road that cars and trucks hurtle down. My friend and I didn’t know that at the time so we walked and were exhausted before we’d even done the actual hike itself.

However, the advantage of taking the long way up was that I had more time to appreciate the surroundings. After a while, it was impossible to not notice a large abandoned hotel in the middle of the forest. Off the road, it simply looms through the surrounding trees and looks kind of eerie.

Not that that has put me off wanting to explore it – I’m dying to check it out. My friend Andrew who lives in Sao Paulo (you should check out his What About Sao Paulo? blog if you ever venture that way) wants to go there too so I’m waiting for him to come to Rio next and go adventuring with him. In the meantime, I’ve naturally done some research about it and have discovered that this ghost hotel (I don’t know if it is actually considered a ‘ghost hotel’ but anything abandoned has that other-worldly feel, doesn’t it?) has been abandoned for the last 44 years and is known as the Esqueleto Hotel or, in other words, the Skeleton Hotel.

The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro
The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro

Ok, so now it really does sound like a ghost hotel. The name, however, probably comes from the fact that all that remains of the hotel is its skeleton shell, rather than actual real-life skeletons inside. Its actual name is also the less exciting Gavea Tourist Hotel. It does have an interesting story though, despite no skeletons being involved.

It all began with an idea from Decio da Silva Pacheco who decided to create a luxury hotel in the middle of the forest between Gavea and Sao Conrado. The 30,000 metre-squared area would have a restaurant, 16 floors, hundreds of upscale rooms and even cable cars to get about. Construction began in 1953 yet progress was slow. That didn’t stop Pacheco throwing a couple of outrageous parties there, like the one in 1965 which was a huge New Year’s Eve party or the others at the Sky Terrace nightclub within the unfinished venue.

The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro
The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro

However, it just wasn’t meant to be. 19 years later, the construction was cut short by the developer, California Investimentos who was responsible for building it yet didn’t have the money. 5 years later, they admitted defeat, declared themselves bankrupt and all works on the hotel stopped. The owners didn’t have the resources to protect the property and it wasn’t long before on-site construction materials were stolen. By the 1980s, homeless people moved in and criminals used the site as a meeting point for dodgy deals. Nowadays, it’s simply an empty shell of what promised to be an incredible hotel.

The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro
The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro

I spoke with Diogo Vasconcellos who supplied me with the stunning photos of the place which I’m using here and he said that when he went, he was charged R$5 to get in. A bit of digging around informed me that the owners, worried that an accident may happen, hired security guys to guard the property. It wasn’t long before they started charging people to get in, anywhere from R$5 to R$10, sometimes more. There is also a rumour that someone died there last year and it now remains closed, but I wasn’t able to find confirmation of that. People who I know have been there all say the same thing – they don’t consider the area dangerous but like with any urban exploring, you have to take care. We are talking about a 16-floor hotel with no elevators, wide, open stairways and not a hand-rail in sight. Yet there is something captivating about this abandoned hotel that has led me and many others wanting to explore its empty remains.

So I haven’t been yet, but I am fascinated by it. Have you been? If you have, please let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The Gavea Tourist Hotel Rio de Janeiro