Rio Info and Top Picks
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you have only a few days to spend in Rio de Janeiro, here are the must-do’s in descending order:
1) Hiking up the back of Pao de Acucar.
Most people wait in long lines to ride the touristy cable cars that pull you up the side of the mountain. However, if you are the adventurous type, get out your hiking shoes and get ready to get dirty. There is a walking path that leads from Praca General Tiburcio (where you catch the cable cars) to the base at the back of the mountain. The path runs around the smaller Morro de Tijuca and then around Pao de Acucar itself. A large pillar stands at the end of the paved walkway to block further travel.
But here is where the fun starts. Walk around the left side of the pillar and you will discover a rudimentary hiking trail. Follow this trail and always go up when possible. After a while you will encounter sheer rock, up which you must scamper. Follow the imaginary path (just take the route that’s easiest) and you should come to some bolts stuck into the rock. Follow these bolts up (there is some pure climbing here but you won’t need equipment – just a big pair of Brazil nuts) until you find another trail in the brush. This trail will lead you up to the main tourist center.
Caveat: you probably won’t want to climb down, as the climb takes about 1.5 hours. You also can’t buy a ticket going down from there, so you should buy a one-way ticket before you climb up. After taking the cable car down to Morro de Tijuca, you can hike down again (well-defined trails).
2) Walking down the entire length of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
I can’t stress this enough – walking down these beaches gives you a great taste of the carioca lifestyle. People flock to the beaches at all hours of the day (more so around 10am) to soak up the sun and to show off their stuff. You might even meet your own girl from Ipanema.
3) Exploring the Parque Nacional da Tijuca.
Endless hiking and exploring opportunities are available in this pristine forest. Waterfalls, ravines, exotic butterflies, monkeys, and thousands of birds all make this place an assault on the senses. It’s hard to believe that you are actually still within the city limits. This place is so immense that you may even get lost if you’re not careful.
4) Walk through the Copacabana neighborhood.
You will find numerous little shops and great restaurants (some of the best were on Avenida NS de Copacabana, such as the Kilosaurus self-service). You will rub shoulders with the high-class people and feel the richness of the city’s lifeblood.
5) Go see Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer).
Yeah, it’s touristy, but the sight of it is awesome nonetheless. Standing on top of the Corcovado mountain, the gigantic statue raises its arms over the city to protect it from evil. Plus the view from up there is breathtaking.
Rio de Janeiro has been nicknamed the Cidade Maravilhosa – “Marvelous City”, and how true it is. Nestled in the heart of Brazil’s southeastern coast, the cosmopolitan metropolis has just about everything to offer.
Start with the glorious beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, which embrace the warm and fresh Atlantic Ocean. It is here that machismo and sensuality come alive, with gorgeous women and buff dudes. Fun under the sun is an understatement with futebol, volleyball, sunbathing, love, and lounging around going on everywhere.
Next, take the range of mountains that divide the city in half. Numerous hiking and wildlife activities are produced as a result, along with spectacular hang-gliding. Some of the most famous peaks are Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf) and Corcovado (the Hunchback). On top of Corcovado stands Cristo Redentor, the famous statue of Jesus Christ that watches over the city.
In the middle of the city is nestled the Lagoa de Rodrigo de Freitas, in which boating and other activities can be found. Beautiful and serene parks also line the lake with pleasant jogging paths. Found nearby is also the magnificent Jardim Botanico, a botanical garden with exotic plant species.
In the northwest of the city lies the awesome Parque Nacional da Tijuca rainforest. Tremendous hiking and bird watching can be accomplished here, and squirrel monkeys dance through the trees. Along with Singapore, Rio de Janeiro is the only city in the world with rainforest in its city limits.
Last but not least, Rio de Janeiro is a large, cosmopolitan city, and with that comes excellent cultural activity. In the city’s north side is the formidable Maracana stadium-the most famous soccer stadium in all of Brazil. Delicious churrascarias and lanchonetes can be found on every street. Rhythmic passion is the carioca way – the way of Rio de Janeiro.