Rio De Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Beaches, forest and mountains give the city a picturesque backdrop that can be enjoyed from practically anywhere in the city. If you are headed to Rio for the first time for vacation, here are the top 10 places you must cross off your checklist…
1. Christ The Redeemer
The 30 metres (98 ft) tall status of Jesus Christ, stretch 28 metres (92 ft) wide overlooks the city of Rio from Corcovado mountain. Built in 1931, it has become the single most famous icon of Rio and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
A 30-minute helicopter sightseeing tour over Rio offers some of the most spectacular views of the cities scenery and landmarks.
2. Sugar Loaf Mountain
Located at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, this 396 m (1,299 ft) tall peak resembles the conical shape of a loaf of sugar. The reference originated during the 16th century sugar boom in Brazil. Take a cable car to the top to see panoramic views of the city.
Drive over the 13 kilometers long bridge across Guanabara Bay that connects Rio to Niteroi. There are two reasons to go here – one is for the best views of Rio skyline and second is to see the architecture of famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. You can go inside the Contemporary Art Museum and take photos from the hang gliding takeoff spot at the Niteroi Municipal City Park. Also, get a good look at the range of mountain made of granite and quart that surround Rio.
Luis Darin, is an English speaking Brazil tour guide who offers private and group cultural and sightseeing tours in Rio. Luis took me to Niteroi, Tijuca Forest, Barra and a farmers market during our day long tour. Luis customized our tour and conversations to center on my interest and had a lot to share about his hometown.
4. Tijuca Forest
Tijuca is the world’s largest urban rainforest, and easily accessible from residential and commercial areas in Rio. Many locals go to the park for a daily jog, bike, or to picnic and swim in the waterfall on the weekends. Inside the park, there is Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, the Cascatinha Waterfall, the Mayrink Chapel, a pagoda-style gazebo at Vista Chinesa outlook, and the giant granite picnic table called the Mesa do Imperador.
Most people who come to Rio, enjoy the sun and sand at Copacabana and Ipanema. While these two areas have some of the best known beaches, they are also quite crowded and touristy. There are more pristine and secluded beaches within an hour drive from Rio, where the locals prefer to hang out. Perigoso, Meio, Funda and Inferno beaches are reachable only by boat. Piranha Beach, located inside an environmentally protected area is great for surfing.
6. Hang Gliding
Extreme sporting opportunities are available in many beautiful locations these days. But hang gliding is extremely popular in the Barra side of Rio. There are certified instructors, an official ticket site, and designated jumping area. Flying over Rio offers aerial views of the beaches, mountains, rainforests and favela – stark contrasts that makes this city unique!
After a flight, gliders and guides are often found at the beach, sipping on fresh coconut water and downloading photos and videos taken during the flight.
I went tandem hang gliding with Beto Rotor from Hang Gliding Brazil, a friendly and excited instructor with over 30 years of experience. We rode in his open air jeep up the mountain, where the glider was already laid out for us. After some instructions and security harnesses, we are up in the air in no time! We took a lot of cool shots with the 3 Go Pro cameras he attached to our glider.
7. Farmers Markets
There are about 50 farmers markets held around the city every morning. The open air markets are good places to see daily life of Cariocas as they are shopping for groceries, sample tropical fruits and vegetables and also try local street foods, such as fried empanadas, tapioca pancakes, and sugarcane juice. Download an app that allows you to locate farmer’s markets in your area in Rio.
8. Northeast Traditions Center
If you don’t have a chance to visit the north of Brazil, you can still experience its food, culture and crafts at the Luiz Gonzaga Northeast Traditions Centre, the location for São Cristovão Fair. There are 700 permanent vendors offering food from Bahia, ice creams made with local fruits, crafts of wood, linen and more, as well as exhibitions of folk singers and dancers. You can easily spend an entire day here.
9. Barra da Tijuca
Built only 30 years ago, this new urban suburb of Rio has become one of the most developed places in Brazil. People from Rio head to Barra to enjoy its white sandy beaches, backwater restaurants located around its many lakes and rivers, quiet gardens and large shopping malls selling international brands. Barra da Tijuca neighborhood is known for having homes of celebrities and soccer stars. It is also where the summer 2016 Olympics took place.
As a contrast to Barra, Rio also has the most number of favelas (shanty towns) in South America and many tourists show interest in visiting them. I personally went with a friend to Santa Marta favela, who works there to gain an insider perspective of how people live and what facilities they lack. It is definitely interesting to experience this real side of the city that makes Rio what it is. Read about my trip to the favela in Rio…
Do you have a favorite spot in Rio? Do share in the comments section below…