This may sound a little dramatic but its true!
“Soaring rock faces rise directly from the ocean floor hosting the most breathtaking views. Waterfalls descend lush mountainsides that abruptly collide with bustling streets. World-class beaches line the coast, ranging from the umbrella filled, super energized, Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, to the deserted white sands of Prainha, Gurmari and beyond. Challenging hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, hang-gliding await the adventure traveler, while national parks, botanical gardens, postcard beaches, incredible vistas, allow any traveler to explore their ‘nature’ side.”
There is no denying the magnificent beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro ranks highest in places to visit in Brazil and all of South America for a reason. It is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, because it truly is. It is a cultural melting pot of European, African and indigenous traditions, influenced by modern western ideals and alternative lifestyles. The metropolis’s energy and natural beauty is rivaled by none, and it leaves every visitor wanting more.
Brazilians are fun-loving, free spirited people who welcome all with contagious smiles and enthusiasm. Samba tambourines and beating drums ignite the after-hours; mouth watering ethnic cuisine, tropical fruits, and the world famous churrascarias (Brazilian steakhouses) delight even the most refined palettes; and fit, exposed, tanned bodies blanket the beaches and streets of the south zone (Zona Sul).
There is no true “best time of year to come”, it just depends on the type of traveler, because every month has its charm. Summer months, the high season (December to March), are energized, swelteringly hot, beaches are packed, and the streets are bustling full of people from all over. It hosts two of the most well known international parties in the world: Carnaval (carnival), a celebration before Lent where the entire city takes part in dancing, singing, and drinking; and the biggest firework show in the world , on New Year’s Eve, where millions of people dressed in white join together to celebrate on Copacabana beach. The off season (April to September), you will find a more true Carioca (people from Rio de Janeiro) lifestyle, or at least a calmer version. The streets and beaches empty out… just a little, people get back to their routines, the temperature drops to a very pleasant level (don’t worry you can still leave your jackets at home), and the energy from summer dissipates, but definitely doesn’t disappear. Fun cultural and social events continue throughout the year, including the Festas Juninas, music festivals, film festivals, beer or cachaça festivals (it never stops). People still head to the beach everyday, and the samba tambourines continue to play at night and all over the city prices drop as well.
“A sunny day in Rio de Janeiro is without question one of the most memorable days you’ll have on any trip!”
It may be easier to ask ourselves what can’t you do… Because the list of awesome activities is endless. It can involve a visit to a New 7th Wonder of the world, the unmistakable Christ the Redeemer Statue, hovering over every part of the city. It can involve beach relaxing and caipirinha drinking with the local Cariocas at post 9 in Ipanema, or a heart-wrenching ‘futebol’ (soccer) match between rival teams. Maybe an exhilarating hike through waterfalls to an incredible vista. Could even be a little park picnicking. Try a nice bike ride around the picturesque lagoon, an eclectic city tour of colonial, baroque, rococo, and Brazilian modern architecture or admire the wonderful park and landscape design. The extravagant samba school performances, wild nights in Lapa, or bohemian in Santa Teresa vibe await the nighttime visitor. And the list goes on! Check out the Hidden Gems.
Another unique aspect of Rio de Janeiro, and too often looked over because of its controversial history, are the communities that inhabit many of the surrounding hillsides and outer perimeters of the city. These communities are known as Favelas (slums). The word ‘slum’ may turn people away, but in fact they are some of the most culturally rich parts of city. Located on the steep hills, surrounded by Atlantic rainforest, these ‘unplanned’ and often ignored neighborhoods of stacked brick and concrete make up a big part of Rio’s culture. Renowned street art covers the walls, music and social events fill the local plazas, the night time groove is always entertaining, and they host some of the best views in the city. As they become more integrated into local society, economy, and culture their positive contributions are growing. NOTE: Not every Favela is worth going to and most are still burdened with violence and extreme poverty. I recommend being well informed before entering them alone, and would encourage a guided tour.
A trip to the Cidade Maravilhosa doesn’t have to be limited to just the city. Its surrounding towns can be even more the reason to travel to Rio de Janeiro. They are some of the most beautiful getaways and travel destinations in all of Brazil and South America. The list starts west of Rio with Ilha Grande (the big island), known for its amazing landscape, fun hikes, and simple island vibe (no cars allowed!). Continuing west down that same beautiful coastline you hit the extremely charming colonial town known as Paraty, and its neighbor Trinidade, who’s romantic cobblestone streets, traditional colonial plazas, baroque architecture, rushing waterfalls and heavenly beaches, make you never want to leave. To the east, entering the ‘Lake Region’, you could mistake Arraial do Cabo with the Caribbean, known for its translucent turquoise waters and fine sand beaches. Then comes the Cariocas favorite vacation destination, Buzios, with its elegant vibe, delicious restaurants, and numerous sunset beaches. Also for you non-beach lovers don’t worry, Rio de Janeiro has more than just a coastline. Rio State’s mountain range, Serra dos Orgãos, just outside the city, is not only a hikers dream, with world class trekking trips, but it is home to the old Imperial town of Petrópolis. Its rich history of royalty, German immigration, and amazing mountainous landscape make it an excellent place to visit.
A trip to Rio de Janeiro simply has to be a top the list of your next travel plans.
Travel to Rio de Janeiro because it is worth it!