There’s something deliciously remote and romantic about Rio’s hilltop neighborhood Santa Teresa, with its little yellow tram service reminiscent of Lisbon, and imperious mansions straight out of The Addams Family. Its USP is the lofty location – and from the best boutique hotels in Santa Teresa you’ll get heart-fluttering views over the cinematic contours of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Vila Santa Teresa’s isolated location is easy to forgive once you take sight of the views. Central restaurants and bars might be out of reach, and the beach is a 20-minute cab ride away, but you wake with Sugarloaf and Guanabara Bay visible from the end of your bed – and your poolside sunlounger. The white and cream rooms are fresh, with polished wood floors and large granite and marble ensuites. Make sure you’re aware of hidden extras – unlike in most Rio hotels, breakfast and water are not included.
Since this is a chain hotel, the hipster touches have a corporate feel – notice the street-art dedications to Rio as “the Marvelous City,” and the kitschy lamp shades. There’s a young-at-heart, hostel feel that’s reflected in the service – expect to carry your own bags to your room. Highlights include the DJ-driven bar, loungey restaurant space and mesmerizing views of Rio from the rooftop. Top tip: book rooms on the upper floor for air, light and views, as some on the ground floor have no windows.
If you want to blend Santa Teresa’s dreamy Sugarloaf views with the five-star facilities you’d find by the beach, check in here. The hotel sits on a hillside with the Rio skyline spread at its feet. It can lay claim to the neighborhood’s biggest pool, as well as a fine French-inspired restaurant and luxurious rooms decked-out in warm woods. Deluxe rooms have hammock-slung balconies, while designer furnishings are by the likes of Sergio Rodrigues, the “father of Brazilian furniture.”
Tick boxes for: Rio views from the communal garden and some rooms, breakfast included, restaurants and bars on the doorstep and edgy Lapa’s nightlife a five-minute cab ride away. Sant Martre has much to offer at an economical price. Rooms are simply fitted and furnished in wood-laminate and whitewash, with workstations and ensuites. Consider upgrading from one of the standards to a suite for much more space and a garden or city skyline view from your balcony.
With excellent rates, Geranio is built for peaceful intimacy. There are only a handful of rooms, named after herbs and spices, all decked out in modern creams, neutral tones and polished woods. The setting is terrific – expect views over thick forest to downtown Rio’s serrated skyline from the plunge pool balconies in the plushest suites. Alternatively, gaze down over terracotta tiles from the shared pool and patio as you indulge in a lazy breakfast, included in the price.
Immerse yourself in Rio’s natural beauty by embarking on the city’s gorgeous outdoor tours. Eat like a local by trying the very best Brazilian desserts, or, if you can’t make it to the city, explore it from the comfort of your own living room. If you want to extend your Brazilian vacation, book yourself into the best hotels and best resorts in the country now via Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally written by Sarah Brown.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.