As the plane started descending to Sao Paulo and I could see the city sprawling out beneath me I felt a sense of excitement – this was it, I had finally made it to South America. I would need to contain my excitement just a little longer, as I wasn’t stopping in Sao Paulo, but jumping on a short one hour flight to Rio de Janeiro (Rio) where my adventure would truly start.
I will never forget my first glimpse of the Christ the Redeemer statue (or Cristo Redentor in Portuguese) it was simply breathtaking.
cc licence flickr photo by 39211453@N03
Perched high on Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, it overlooks Rio and is visible from nearly every part of the city. The mountain peak and statue can normally be accessed by a cog railway, however due to severe flooding in previous months this was closed and I had to make my way in a small bus up a narrow winding road. Once at the peak you gain an appreciation for just how big this statue is – at 39.6m tall! The panoramic view is spectacular and gives you a perfect feel for the remarkable mix that makes Rio so special. The view stretches from downtown Rio, across to Sugarloaf Mountain, out to the sandy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and also takes in several of Rio’s favelas – perched precariously on the sides of the surrounding steep mountains.
cc licence flickr photo by xav
For more awe-inspiring views head to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) and catch the two cable cars to its peak, take a stroll on some of the paths and look out for monkeys and other wildlife along the way. Try to time your visit so you can see the sun go down and watch the lights of Rio come to life.
Take time to soak up the Brazilian culture and practice your Portuguese, sip cocktails and spend time people-watching at the beautiful Copacabana beach, see a football game at Maracanã stadium, head out to one of the many Samba dance clubs or even take some Samba lessons.
cc licence flickr photo by adrivdm
If you’re lucky enough to be in Rio on a Friday night you can’t miss the Lapa street party! Lapa is the city’s bohemian hub and is known for its lively culture and many restaurants, bars and clubs. On Friday nights the surrounding streets are closed and thousands of people head to the district to eat, drink and dance. Music pumps from the clubs all around and the streets are filled with food and drink stalls – with the drink of choice being Brazil’s signature cocktail the caipirinha, made from cachaça (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime. The vibe is electric, friendly and fun.
Rio is so much more than just beaches and Carnival – it’s about the eclectic mix of people and culture that gives it a heart and soul that is unmatched in most other cities.
Author bio : Backpacking through South America had always been a dream of mine. So when I saw cheap flights to Sao Paulo I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make that dream happen and what better place to start than beautiful Brazil?
Lea Phillips+ - Had an awesome time in South America and would recommend it to anyone wanting to travel.