No list about Rio would be complete without a mention of its most famous and iconic monument. Perched on top of Corcovado (which means ‘hunchback’ in Portuguese) mountain, this symbolic statue attracts tourists every year for its sensational views and tick-list status. Stray a little from the tourist route and hike up the mountain. It’s long but relatively easy-going, and often hikers are accompanied by monkeys, butterflies, and prehistoric-looking lizards.
Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) is on par with Christ the Redeemer for tourist wish-list status yet for good reason; the views are breathtaking, especially at sunset when spectators will be mesmerized by the colors of the descending sun scattered across the ocean. The cable car is the typical way to get there, but mountain-climbing to the top is available for the more adventurous.
The most bohemian neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, it is the place for artists and hippies. With its liberal mood and chilled-out vibe, its perfect place to buy handcrafts and unique clothing, listen to samba and admire locally designed pieces of art.
Tucked into Tijuca Forest and a little off the snaking main road that runs through it, Cachoeira do Horto is a small waterfall that provides calmness and peace unlike anywhere else in the city. The water gathers in a shallow pool where bathers can wade waist-high and sit under the spilling water to feel refreshed. Bask on a nearby rock, and enjoy the reflective atmosphere in this natural sanctuary.
While the guidebooks will say to avoid the city center at night, this is one place tourists should not miss. Cobbled streets, rustic buildings, and an archway entrance give this heaving nightlife spot a closed-courtyard feel that makes the compact bars that are lined up side by side even more cozy. The best nights are Thursday for live music, when a whimsical mix of stiff business suits let go in the after-work samba and happy hour, and the weekend, which always get crowded with various animated events.
A stunning public park with a magnificent mansion known as Lage stands at the foot of Corcovado mountain surrounded by exotic trees and wildlife. Here visitors will find an art school with many open exhibitions, a café with wi-fi, the beginning of the hike up Corcovado and plenty of unique photo opportunities. It is also the backdrop of the final scene in Snoop Dogg‘s single ‘Beautiful.’
Rio de Janeiro is a city where its residents take aesthetics and fitness very seriously, where people of all ages and physical condition wake up at the crack of dawn to run, cycle, or engage in some kind of sport. With the old saying ‘when in Rome…’ as encouragement, tourists can get involved in any number of sports from hiking, aerobics on the beach, running, cycling, capoeira, judo, cross fit, football, volleyball, surfing…just to name a few! A trip to the main beaches is enough to find many of these sports in action; simply ask to join in.
One of the most astonishing views across Rio comes from the top of the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers), which are two small mountains side by side at the end of Leblon. The hike up there is fascinating and filled with adventure; take a moto-taxi from the entrance of Vidigal, one of Rio’s safest favelas, to the top of the community where the trail begins then embark on a relatively easy hike to the peak of the mountain. The views across Leblon, Copacabana and São Conrado are unforgettable.
No Monday night is complete without getting caught up in the buoyant atmosphere of Pedra da Sal. A lively square in the city center with live samba music, street-vendors and makeshift stalls selling the strongest caipirinhas, this place gets heaving on a Monday with locals coming from all over the city to dance, sing and drink. Taking a taxi there and back is the safest option, but buses are available, too.
Located in Guanabara Bay, this island is a pleasant retreat from the city’s rush. Getting around is done on foot or bicycle, which is easy to rent, as there are no cars on the island. The colonial buildings added a certain charm to the modest beaches and simple bar, and often parties are held there on the weekends.