Highlights of Rio de Janeiro

As I told you two weeks ago, I was very lucky and won a trip to Rio de Janeiro. I still cannot believe I got to spend a week in that amazing Brasilian city. While even seven days weren’t enough to visit all the sights I wanted to see, let me share some of the absolute highlights that everyone should see when in Rio de Janeiro.

 

1. Copacabana and Ipanema Beach

Brasil - Copacabana 1
Copacabana Beach

These two are the most famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro (and maybe in the whole of Brasil). Everyone should go there! If you take a whole day, you can spend the morning on one beach and move to the next one in the afternoon.

Brasil - Ipanema
Ipanema Beach

Unfortunately, I was in Brasil in winter and cold winds with a sudden temperature drop meant that I couldn’t swim in the ocean. But I could still take a long walk on those beaches and watch people strolling along the promenade.

Brasil - Copacabana 2
Yes, it was very windy.

2. Christ the Redeemer

Brasil - Christ 2

I’m not sure which sight is more famous, Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf. If possible, go and see both. For Christ the Redeemer, there are two ways of going up. You can either take a van from Copacabana or, and this is what I highly recommend, you can take a cog train from the base of Corcovado mountain. To get there, simply take any of the busses going to Cosme Velho and make sure to arrive early since tickets tend to sell out.

Brasil - Christ 1
Pretty little cog train

Even though the platform around the statue of Christ is full of people, it is worth a visit. You can see the statue from many points in the city but you will not appreciate how large it is until you actually stand in front of it. Plus, you can learn lots of interesting facts while up there. Did you know that Christ the Redeemer gets hit by lightning on average six times a year?

Here’s my advise: Don’t go up there in a thunderstorm.

(Plus, if you’re there on a day with bad weather, you’ll miss out on this amazing view of the city.)

Brasil - Christ 3

 

3. Sugarloaf Mountain

This one is my favourite in Rio de Janeiro! I went up here for sunset and it was totally worth it. The day was almost clear, with just the right amount of clouds that were soon bathed in all shades of orange and red. Standing up on the mountain, I could see the lights in the city being turned on one by one.

Brasil - Sugarloaf 1

Make sure you come early enough! In July, sunset takes place at about quarter past five. In summer, it’ll be later but you’ll also have long queues to deal with. It can take up to two hours to get to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain itself. If you realise you don’t have that time anymore, no problem. Just stay on the lower mountain in front of it, where you need to get out of the cable car anyway. You’ll have amazing city views from there.

Plus, as of July 2016, construction works are happening on the top of Sugarloaf so you won’t get access to the best sunset viewing spots.

Brasil - Sugarloaf 2

 

4. The Historic City Center

Brasil - Rio 2

A visit to Rio is not complete if you only stay in the southernmost part of the city. I highly recommend a trip to the city center. The best way to take in the sights and learn about what you’re seeing is a free walking tour. These tours are based on tips, so at the end of it, you’ll give what you think the tour was worth.

I can highly recommend the walking tour I did. It starts in front of the municipal theater at 9.30am every morning. You’ll recognise your guides by their yellow t-shirts and umbrellas.

Brasil - Rio 3

 

5. Hang Gliding

My absolute favourite, though I am biased as this is the main reason I wanted to come to Rio.

Sao Conrado, one of Rio’s best neighbourhoods, houses one of the largest hang gliding schools in Brasil. And the ramp, up on a cliff in Tijuca Forest, is the busiest hang gliding ramp in the world! If you go flying, it should be here.

Brasil - Rio 1
Don’t you have a beautiful view right after take off?

From the glider, I had a beautiful view of the mountains, covered by jungle, the beaches and the sea. I caught glimpses of Latin America’s biggest favela, Rocinha, as well. In the end, we landed at the beach. I started running way before we landed, seeing how fast we were and being afraid of falling. But it all went smoothly, with my tandem partner stopping the glider with a swift movement and us looking almost elegant when we came down.

I booked my hang gliding flight through Delta Flight. They’re very concerned about security which was my main reason of going with them. Plus, Ricardo Hamond has been doing this for a very long time so he knows his business well.

 

6. The Tijuca Forest

I knew that I wanted to explore this giant forest as soon as I heard about it. What could be better than a jungle spreading out over the hills in the middle of the city? The weather wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, so there wasn’t much of a view, but I had already seen the city from above from Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer. Plus, fog adds a special atmosphere to the jungle.

Brasil - Rio 4

We hiked to one of the highest peaks in the jungle and stopped by a waterfall in the end. On a sunny and hot day, it’ll be refreshing to swim here. When I came, it was a bit too cold but I still enjoyed it.

Many companies offer trips into the Tijuca Forest. Just google them or ask at your hotel. I went with Jungle Me, who were amazing.

Brasil - Rio 5
It might have been a cold day but I was still sweating by the time I got to the top of the mountain.

That’s it for now. With the above suggestions, you should have more than enough ideas for your time in Rio. Or have you already been there? What did you do and what did you like?

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