When: Summer of 2016 during the Olympics
How long: 10 days
Here is a list of the top 5 things to do from my trip:
5 – Beaches
How can you mention Rio de Janeiro without mentioning the beaches!? There are the obvious famous beaches in Rio but there are lesser known beaches that are just as beautiful. I spent most of my time on Ipanema beach as I found it less busy than Copacabana and a little more chilled. You can get anything on the beach from the vendors, beer, food, glasses, and sarongs but please be sure to try the caipirinha’s! Just sit there for the day, drinking cocktails and taking in the scenery! You can then stumble to the end of Ipanema beach to the Arpoador Rocks which give a beautiful spot to watch the sunset with the iconic two brothers in the background. The Copacabana is a short walk around from Ipanmea beach which offers a similar experience but if you want to try and find some quieter beaches then try the Barra de Tijuca Beach, Praia Vermelha and Prainha Beach.
4 – Party in Lapa
Make sure to check out the party scene in Santa Teresa and Lapa. This is less ‘touristy’ than the Copacabana area and lies at the base of the mountains which Santa Teresa scales. Think more colonial buildings, music, culture and trendy than henna tattoos and glow in the dark toys. This neighbourhood of Rio is where many of the young Cariocans choose to party and you can just feel the energy of the place as you walk through it. Lapa really comes to life at night and some of best bars include Leviano Bar, Carioca da Gema, Bar de Boa and Rio Scenarium to name a few. Again, the drink of choice is the Caipirinha’s, it’s rude not to make the most of these when in Rio! (Notice a theme here?) The sound of samba rings through the streets and the mouth-watering smell of churrasco wafts down from under the famous arches of the Lapa Aqueduct. Why not combine this with a trip to see the famous Escardaria Selaron
3 – Sugarloaf Mountain
Another icon of Rio which is a must do. There are a couple of ways to get to the top. One of them is rock climbing…. . I went for the much safer option of the famous cable car. There are plenty of facilities as you go up, you can ever buy a pair of Havaianas from the official shop if you wish to! I opted for a beer and a caipirinha though! In terms of timings I would recommend going up late afternoon so you can see across Rio during the daytime but then wait up there for sunset and then see Rio light up before your eyes from an amazing viewpoint and watch the city come to life.
2 – Christ the Redeemer
This was a huge item on my bucket list and I definitely was not disappointed. I took a taxi to Rua Cosme Velho station to catch the tram upto Christ the Redeemer. This was brilliant and an added bonus to the whole experience. The tram leaves from the station on Rua Cosme Velho every half hour, between 8:30 AM and 7PM, every day of the week.
Once up towards the statue there are lots of shops, facilities and restaurants so there is plenty to do. Be sure to check the weather in the morning as it can get cloudy and you do not want to be disappointed as I was on the first time I went up. Fortunately on the second time I planned it much better and the views of the coastline of Rio and sugarloaf in the distance were priceless. You really get a feel for the scale of the city from this perspective. I would do the trip in the morning as it seemed to be clearer and less busy than the early afternoon.
1 – Tijuca Forest
Possibly a surprising choice to some people to put at number 1 but the beauty of this rainforest and the views from it are unbelievable. As I was short on time I booked a hiking tour with Jungle Me and it was brilliant. They offered hotel pick up and a really knowledgeable tour guide who educated us on the history of Rio and Tijuca National Park forest and then led us to two of the highest peaks in the forest which would have been difficult to find on your own. If you have less time constraints it would be amazing to hire a bike and go and explore this place but I would really recommend this company. The park contains some natural waterfalls, beautiful flora and fauna, amazing peaks that climb above the forest below and offer unrivalled views across Rio where you can also see the Christ the Redeemer too.