Rio de Janeiro is a huge seaside city in Brazil, world famous for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, enormous Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado and for Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite peak with cable cars that take you to the summit. The city is also known for its sprawling shanty towns called favelas and has the world’s largest Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancers.
We fell in love with Rio and see why it is a very popular destination – one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere, probably because of its spectacular natural beauty!
This Portuguese speaking city has so many wonderful and unique attractions. We spent one morning at Sugar Loaf Mountain, one of Rio’s most famous icons. We took an exciting ride in a cable car to the top of the Sugar Loaf for panoramic views of this breathtaking city and beaches.
Rio and its endless beaches, dramatic mountains, and backdrop of samba and bossa nova rhythms make this place magical. Made famous in song, Ipanema Beach is still the place to dine, stroll, sunbathe and people watch, but we prefer Copacabana Beach, because it’s not nearly as crowded. Like the famously tanned and toned beachgoers who frequent them, Rio’s beaches are dramatically beautiful, with white sands flanked by mountains and swaying coconut palms.
We were surprised to find that exercise stations line the beaches, allowing locals, and visitors, to work out for free while simultaneously working on their tans. And…anyone looking for an almost all-over tan can rest assured that a couple of postage stamp-sized swathes of material are considered sufficient for tops and bottoms. Female backsides are rarely seen with anything more substantial than a thin triangle of cloth that perches atop the buttocks – this includes all ages and sizes. And to our surprise, the male sun seekers strut proudly in the smallest and tightest trunks imaginable. Those photos did not make the cut!
One afternoon we took a tour to Rio’s most famous attraction, Christ the Redeemer. To say it’s impressive is an understatement! It’s so big that there’s actually a chapel and gift shop in the base of the statue that I was surprised to find. This iconic statue was completed in 1931 and stands 98 feet tall, its horizontally outstretched arms spans 92 feet. To get there we traveled through the Tijuca Rain Forest by cog train to Corcovado Mountain which provided breathtaking views. The sights of Rio from this incredible mountain-top vantage point were just fantastic. This was a bucket list item for me!
For a more in-depth look at the Tijuca Rain Forest, we hopped in an open Jeep for a tour of this National Park. This section of one of Brazil’s many lush green rain forests offers more panoramic views. The 4-hour eco-tour included an easy hike with a guide where we saw monkeys, birds and butterflies — even sloths! You’ll be amazed by the remarkable contrast of a tropical rainforest right at the edge of a huge city with a population of over 6 million.
And no visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without experiencing the glamour and rhythm of a colorful samba show. Most shows include more than 30 brilliantly costumed dancers and musicians. It was a fun evening full of excitement that included live percussion, capoeira and hip-shaking samba moves on stage which is a fusion of Portuguese, indigenous and African cultural influences. It’s easy to get caught up in the celebration of the mesmerizing dancers!
If you’d like, you can include dinner at most shows and enjoy a barbecue buffet of a variety of marinated meats or go later to a famous Brazilian steakhouse. No matter where you dine, be sure and try the delicious caipirinha, it’s an iconic and refreshing cocktail that you’ll see people drinking at all hours of day or night around Rio. I learned that this famous drink is simply made from fresh limes and a type of sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled called cachaca. This is the national drink of Brazil! So sit back, relax and sip on a caipirinha while enjoying being at one of the most beautiful cities on earth!
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