I thought I’d make a bold statement to begin my blog post: I think Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city in the world. And by beautiful, I am referring to natural beauty. The city is blessed with numerous mountains, stunning beaches, a lush and expansive forest, as well as a colossal lake to top it all off. That by itself can make anyone fall in love with the city… The succulent local food, festive ambiance, good looking people, and relative affordability are just icing on the cake!
- Hike / climb up Pedra da Gavea. By far the highlight of the trip, and maybe even the highlight of my entire life! Warning, though, this hike is not for the unfit nor for those who have fear of heights: Pedra da Gavea sits close to 1 kilometer above sea level, and you’ll be hiking in what seems like a 45 degree angle for more than 2 hours, with a surprisingly scary 15 meter rock climbing part. However, it is one of the most rewarding hikes you’ll ever make: the view from the top is out of this world, and pictures you take there will definitely inundate your social media profiles with likes!The use of a guide is a must, since you will need rock climbing gear to reach the top. We strongly recommend Rio adventures; our guides were extremely helpful, unobtrusive, and came to pick us up directly at our hotel in a taxi! Cost: 280 BRL (less than 80 USD, or about 100 CAD).
- Christ the Redeemer at Sunrise. This one is less of a secret; if you think of one image of Rio, it’s probably this one.You have a couple of options here: hike up there (less than 2 hours, medium difficulty), take an enjoyable train ride through the Tijuca forest up to the top (our choice), or hire a private van to take you up there.Getting there: If you will be hiking up, take any bus toParque Lage (near the botanical gardens). If you are taking the train or private van, take any bus going to Cosme Velho (ex: 583 or 584 from Copacabana / Ipanema), and ask the driver where to stop (or follow the hoard of tourists!).Cost: Hike : Less than 30 BRL including the bus ticket. Train: About 50 BRL. Van: A little more expensive than the train. Here is the link for the most up to date prices.
- Pão de Açucar at sunset: Another must for anyone visiting Rio. Stunning views of the city. The easy way up is by taking the funicular (about 62 BRL) from the base. If not, you can rock climb your way to the top. That option is quite flexible, as there are varying levels of difficulty (from relatively easy to expert) depending on which side you climb.
- Beaches, beaches, and more beaches! Free and easy to reach, the main beaches in Rio are a must:
- Ipanema / Leblon: Nicer beaches with a more elegant feel. Set up your HQ near the volleyball nets at Posto 9, and you are set for the day!
- Copacabana: The view at Copacabana beach is amazing, but the beach itself is not as nice, and definitely more crowded. Many feel this beach is also less safe than Ipanema or Leblon.
- Sunrise at Arpoador: Arpoador is a huge rock located between Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Try and not hit snooze too many times and catch the sunrise; you’ll be happy you did!
Without going into specific restaurants, make sure that your trip includes at least a couple of these local delicacies:
- Pao de queijo : cheese bread
- Feijoadas: A stew of beans with beef and pork, served with rice. This dish is served in many places on Saturdays, but can be found in some places on other days too.
- Fruits / juices: The quality and variety of fruits is impressive. Try the açai and maracuyà (passion fruit)
- Pasteis: Brazilian version of the empanada
Notes on safety:
- Surprisingly, we did not feel any danger whatsoever during our stay in Rio; we felt as if we were in Miami Beach! However, this is only our experience; as in any other place, avoid dispays of wealth, and safely secure your valuables in crowded areas. At night, it is advisable to stay in the tourist areas.
- Taxis are very safe and all use meters.
- You never need your passport, so always leave it in the safe at your hotel.
- Mosquitos were actually quite rare; therefore, we never felt zika was a possible danger. However, we made sure to always put on insect repellent.
- Most stores accept Visa or Mastercard, so limit the amount of cash you carry on hand.
- Avoid withdrawing money as much as possible. If you must, do so at the airport or inside your hotel (if possible).
I hope this itinerary helps! Any of you planning on going there anytime soon ?