Rio! The name itself conjures up images of sun-soaked beaches, street football and Christ The Redeemer. Home to Samba, the world’s sexiest beach and the infamous favelas from ‘City Of God’, Brazil’s second-largest city lands on every tourist or backpacker’s definitive bucket list.
Time to brush up on your Portuguese as we go straight to the heart of Rio de Janeiro to find out what makes it Rio.
Many international cities are directly connected to Rio’s Galeao International Airport so you won’t have a problem getting there. Hold on to your sunglasses as you land at Galeao and get a 20Km ride to get to the beaches and touristy parts of the city.
Beaches: In a beach paradise like Rio, you can spend your entire vacation lazing around on its famous beaches. The most popular beaches are Copacabana and Ipanema. And they are exactly how their namesake songs describe them as.
Ipanema has been branded the sexiest beach on the planet and of course, you’ll see bikini-clad women sprawled across the sands, skiers, and windsurfers hitting the waves and people of all kinds in the upmarket neighborhood, restaurants, and rows of shops. And you just can’t give the Ipanema Carnival a miss!
Take a stroll towards the North and find yourself at the heart of the Copacabana which is known for its bars and the most happening nightlife. The restaurants and markets at this beach go real easy on your wallet so leave the last of your worries and wet your feet in the Atlantic waters.
Christ the Redeemer: See one of the most astounding modern wonders of the world, Christ The Redeemer. The 30-meter tall structure is the largest art deco statue in the world. It overlooks the city from atop the Corcovado Mountain and has become the quintessential symbol of Rio. Chances are if you’ve heard of Rio, you’ve seen an image of the statue.
Lapa Stairs: Another interesting place of visit is the Lapa Stairs or the “Escadaria Selar’n”. A flight of stairs in the Manuel Carneiro street, decorated with tiles brought from all over the world. You name a country and a tile from that country would be there!
Brazilian Carnival: You may have heard of Mardi Gras but you haven’t seen a party till you’ve seen the Brazilian Carnival. For six days and six nights, you will see Rio party like there’s no tomorrow! Groups of people parade the streets singing, dancing and playing music dishing out a culture that is unique only to Brazil.
Maracana Stadium: Religion is a football in this city! Wait, football is a religion here. If you are there on any game day, do yourself a favour and get yourself to Maracana Stadium and see for yourself how devotees flock to their temple for a night of screaming, sweat and football!
For both backpackers and tourists, it is safer to stay in and around the more affluent areas like Ipanema and Copacabana. These are bustling with tourist activities and have hotels and hostels to fit any budget. Plus, they are closer to the beach. The Belmond Copacabana Palace and the Hotel Caesar Park in Ipanema land high up on the luxury ladder and of course have magnificent views of the Atlantic.
Rio’s innumerable restaurants serve up a lot of international cuisines to make a melting cauldron of cultures. Even still the local food is incredibly distinct, some you may know as empanadas and churros and others that you may not even recognise.
A must-try is the Carioca Cuisine’s feijoada, a stew based on black beans cooked with pork and pepper seasoning accompanied by rice. On any sunny day sip on the Caipirinha, a drink made from cane liquor, lemon, sugar and ice. Be sure to visit Porc’o, on Aterro do Flamengo beach, which owns the best churrascaria in Rio and famous for their grilled meat.
Like in any city, Rio is infested with tourist traps and touts waiting to ride you in a single take. So it’s advised to exercise caution and watch your back.
Fifa 2014, 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazilian Carnival, Ipanema and its epic New Year’s Ever parties will keep Rio at the top of any traveller’s list of places to nail before you get old!