Commonly known as just Rio, the exciting Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil with a population of 6.4 million (though it’s not the capital, pub quiz fans). Famed for its breathtaking views, chilled beach culture and annual carnival, Rio’s a must-see hotspot for travellers with a hunger for partying and beautiful vistas. Can’t ask for more really, can you?
The real Rio de Janeiro
Getting there and away
From South Africa to Rio de Janeiro/Galeao Airport (20km north of the city),
the flight’s around 13 hours , stopping in Sao Paulo-Guarlhos on the way. Hop on a bus into the city for – the journey should take 40 minutes – or grab the airport shuttle bus which stops at all major hotels, leaving every hour.
What to see
Rio de Janeiro is home to some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Take the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas: a huge four mile path encircling the lagoon with open air cafes and restaurants dotted along so you can chow down while enjoying an amazing view. If hiking’s where your heart lies check out the Tijuca National Park, one of the largest urban forests in the world. You can hike to Rio’s highest peak, the Pico de Tijuca, and take in the extensive views of Guanabara Bay and the city below.
There’s also the Mayrink Chapel, full of murals painted by famous Brazilian neo-realist artist Candido Portinari. If you’re more of a night owl, the Lapa neighbourhood might be your favourite. Once known as the city’s red-light district, it’s now frequented for its vibrant nightlife. Filled with samba and choro bars (playing popular Brazilian ‘choro music), the party’s non stop all weekend.
Do we even need to mention the carnival? The 2020 Rio de Janeiro carnival will run from Friday February 21st to Wednesday February 26th. It’s the biggest carnival in the world, with two million people filling the streets every day. If you like a party – and who doesn’t? – you don’t want to miss this one.
If you’re in Rio, you can’t not go on a Christ the Redeemer tour – one of the new 7 wonders of the world, is one of Brazil’s most iconic landmarks. Naturally, this attracts lengthy lines, so we’d recommend booking a skip-the-line tour to bypass the queues. This way, you’ll be able to take the first available train to the summit of Corcovado and experience magnificent views of Rio’s two most famous beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana. Insider tip – you’ll be getting the perfect Insta-worthy shot between 9am and 11am where most tourists are still recovering from the previous night’s cocktails, so be sure to get there early!
The ferry service in Rio is terrific; you can take it from bay to bay whilst taking in the city’s sights. Buses are the fastest and most frequent means of travel in Rio – roads are long and narrow so it’s never a big deal if you get on the wrong one. Though just like in any busy city, it’s wise to keep an eye on your valuables when you’re riding a packed bus. The metro is another great, speedy way to get around the city. And there’s no need to worry about being on a packed train in the scorching heat since the lines are air conditioned, hurray!
What to eat and drink
The food of Brazil is heavily influenced by dishes brought over by African slaves and Portuguese colonisers, so it’s a varied cuisine. The national dish, often eaten on a Saturday, is ‘feijoada’, a black bean stew with beef and pork, seasoned with orange peel and served with rice and greens. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, well you’re insane. But fear not, there’s plenty more on the menu. Churrasco Rodizio is an all you can eat barbecue made with up to ten different types of meat including chicken, wild boar and sometimes alligator. I’m not going to lie, I just got so hungry writing this bit that I went out and bought a toasted cheese croissant. So now that’s out of the way…
Drinks wise, Rio de Janeiro residents like coconut water in the summer, and local tropical fruit juices. Perhaps the post popular is the Caipirinha, made of cane liquor, lemon, sugar and ice. If all this talk of partying, playas and pork have you reaching for your passport, check out our Latin America Adventure tours or book a flight with Latam Airlines! If you are ready to hit Rio, enquire here!