This is still a big one to tick off my bucket list: Rio de Janeiro. When we travelled from North to South America, this was one of the countries we left out, unfortunately. But it’s just such a big country and we were running out of time as we had to catch our cruise ship to Europe with 100 other digital nomads. If you haven’t done so already, check out our posts from our trip through Central and South America, from Mexico to Ecuador. But now, sit back and enjoy this guest post about one of Brazil’s most thrilling destinations!
What to do in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most otherworldly cities on our planet. As major cities go, it strikes the ultimate postcard image, with its vast harbor, famous beaches, curious mountains, and the towering, world famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. It’s also known as something of a wild destination, characterized by beach parties, bustling crowds, and at times, unfortunately, a high crime rate. Provided you plan your trip well and stay in safe areas, however, a vacation to Rio can be incredible. If such a trip is on your radar, pay attention to these suggestions for the coolest things to do once you’re in town.
1. Christ The Redeemer Up Close
I already mentioned Christ The Redeemer, which more or less defines the skyline of Rio. But it’s something you should absolutely make the effort to see up close if you get the chance to visit. Widely viewed as one of the manmade wonders of the world, it’s a towering and imposing statue. What some don’t fully realize, however, is that it’s atop 690-meter-high Corcovado Mountain, which only makes its effect all the more striking. Up close you can appreciate both the magnificence of the statue itself and its position overlooking one of the planet’s most beautiful and intriguing cities.
2. Sugar Loaf Mountain
If there’s a view to rival that from Christ The Redeemer, it’s the one from Sugar Loaf Mountain. This is a mountain you’ll probably recognize even if you’re not familiar with the name. It’s essentially a tall, rounded peak that frames the city of Rio in the bulk of images of the town. Roughly 1,300 feet high over Guanabara Bay, it’s actually reachable via cable car, making for a pretty thrilling (yet relaxing) experience. Many tourists prioritize this cable car ride, and with good reason.
3. Local Dancing
Brazil is home to one of the most famous festivals in the world, simply called Carnival. But dancing in the city, you can actually experience a taste of Brazilian Carnival no matter when you happen to be visiting. That’s actually a point that’s made in the description of a casino game based on this cultural aspect of Brazil, and that speaks to the popularity of dancing in Rio. That everything from an online slot machine to an internationally renowned festival can spring up from a city’s dancing culture ought to be a pretty big draw. Even if you don’t personally like to dance, you might consider checking out the city’s clubs to watch some of the experienced dancers.
4. Prainha Beach
If you’re familiar with the image of a gigantic beach packed with people, you’re probably thinking of Copacabana. This is the most famous beach in Rio, and certainly something you have to see and experience for yourself. But Prainha Beach may actually be the more pleasant experience for a lot of tourists. Located a short distance outside the main city, it’s just a little bit smaller and more secluded than the main attraction. That’s not to say you’ll have it to yourself, but it’s a more relaxing alternative to the busy (but still very fun) atmosphere at Copacabana.
You might consider looking into a tour of the Maracana – Rio’s famous soccer stadium – whether or not there’s actually a match going on. But if you happen to be in town when the national team is playing or any other soccer event is being held, the Maracana should be at the very top of your list. Ranking it among the 10 best soccer stadiums in the world, the sport site FourFourTwo goes so far as to say it’s partly thanks to this football shrine that Brazil’s passion for the sport is known the world over. It’s a massive, historic venue that, on the right day, can make a sporting event seem almost like a spiritual experience. And if that sounds like it might be a little bit of an exaggeration, just ask some of the local fans how they feel about it!
There are plenty of other spots worth exploring, for sure! This is just a short list, an appetizer to get you into the Rio-mood! What about you? Have you been to Rio yet? What must-sees have we missed to mention? Drop a line in the comments below, we’d love to know!
NOT DONE READING YET?
Are you looking for more Latin American travel guides? Check out our post on Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize if you are into scuba diving. Or what about a less sporty and therefore more cultural trip? Then you might like to read our Guatemala Travel Guide with tips for the ancient Mayan ruins in Copan.
Or are you curious about the lesser travelled routes in Honduras or Nicaragua, make sure not to skip these gems of Central America! Here is another post on Nicaragua about our fun day sailing along the coast of Playa Gigante.
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