Heading North for the Winter, Rio de Janiero Style
On my recent family vacation to Rio de Janeiro, which I am now declaring the world’s sexiest city, I learned something about myself. I am so pale. Tanned, toned, and taught men and women jogging along the Copacabana boardwalk put my pasty skin to shame as everyone was soaking up rays.
The end of March was a perfect time to visit Rio. Humidity was low, the sun was shining, and the end of summer season meant less tourists crowding the beach. My week in this enchanting city was the perfect amount of time to see the must-see sights and enjoy a few quality beach days with the Cariocas, natives to Rio.
Here are a few suggestions for those planning their next trip to Rio (or for those who will only be able to read on in pure jealousy) :
Hands down one of the world’s most jaw dropping monuments. Perched atop the 2,300 foot Corcovado mountain in the middle of the Tijuca Forest National Park, Christ the Redeemer stands more than 100 feet tall and 90 feet wide. It is truly a sight to be held. With all of Rio de Janeiro available for a 360 degree view, on a clear day visitors can see for miles to all of the city’s beaches, harbor, national forest, and the numerous favelas. This is an absolute must-see to any visitor in Rio.
An activity that surprisingly took my breath away was our visit to the Botanical Garden. We loved the colors, especially the intense green exploding around us as we took in the view of Corcovado mountain and Cristo Redentor above us. We learned about Brazil’s topography and history and spent a refreshing few hours in natural paradise in the bustling city. Check out the rooms of diverse orchids!
Commonly known as Sugarloaf Mountain, Pão de Açúcar is a enormous rock formation jutting out of the bay, overlooking the entirety of Rio. The scenic two-part cable car ride takes you to the top, with plenty of picture opportunities along the way, or you can hike up the mountain on a trail. Make sure you go on a clear day for sunsets, the colors over the harbor are unforgettable. Wash your thirst away with a beer from Bar Urca, just below the mountain and overlooking the boats in the harbor.
Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches
Praia Copacabana and Praia Ipanema are the beaches to see and be seen. Sip on a caipirinha and gaze at the buff men playing foot-volley (volleyball with no hands!) or sarong sellers hawking their goods. The famous Posto 9 at Ipanema from which the famous “The Girl from Ipanema” was based, is the perfect spot to lay back and observe the constant action and energy of the beach. The patterned boardwalks on both beaches close on Sundays to allow for runner, bikers, bladers, and everyone in between to enjoy a ride down the strand and shop at the local crafts and souvenirs fair.
Although my itinerary did not allow a day for a favela tour, I’ve heard glowing recommendations from other visitors to Rio of favela tours, a safe and informative look into the darker side of the city. Especially with the controversy of the upcoming World Cup and Olympics in Rio, government authorities are hard at work to clean up the favelas, or at least make it appear like they are safer from the outside. Regardless of the effectiveness of these attempts, favelas are a large part of life in Rio and home to the majority of its citizens. Local tour companies, like Be A Local, educate tourists on local culture, life and problems in the favela, and even an opportunity to go to an authentic “funk party.”
If you’re looking to go a little bit off of the typical beaten tourist path, look no further than Barra de Tijuca Beach, about 30 minutes south of the city and an incredibly authentic Carioca beach. Watch the locals partake in windsurf, kitesurf, surf, beach volleyball, footvolley, paddleball, and every other sport you can imagine. Local stands are set up on the beach to provide beach chairs, umbrellas, food, and drinks. Make sure to try the Acai, the famous Brazilian berry full of antioxidants. If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and experience a beautiful day and the beach, I would highly recommend Barra de Tijuca.
Whether you will be gazing at your tv screen in envy during the World Cup or screaming along with the crowds at the famous Maracaná Stadium, all eyes will be on this captivating city in the near future.