Second place on my list goes to this Cidade Maravilhosa! Rio de Janeiro’s location at the mouth of gulf Baía de Guanabara is either exceptionally perfect, or then the whole coastline of Brasil is a pure paradise! I don’t know which one, maybe both! My visit to Rio was only short stay of 10 days or so and we didn’t travel elsewhere. There is plenty to see in this huge city itself. We had some plans heading to beautiful green island of Ilha Grande quite closeby , but then we decided to focus on the city. Must see it some day!
Rio de Janeiro is a city where you want to travel again and again. There the main touristic attractions which really are worth visiting! First of all, the great beaches. Of the most celebrated beaches Praia Ipanema and Copacabana I found Ipanema more beautiful and somehow more agreeable. The view southwards is amazing! But there was nothing wrong with Copacabana either. There are still several more beaches in Rio de Janeiro, like Praia do Botafogo and Praia do Flamingo. We heard lots of good things about the beaches in the direction of Barra da Tijuca. Smaller ones, more quiet ones and also some that are almoust in natural condition. But we decided to stay with the crowd, since it was very far and it was hard and slow to go there with public transport.
Favelas could be visited, but it’s recommendable to do it only with a guide, not alone. You never know how the situation there is. Our trip to one of these favelas was cancelled, because of a riot there.
It is very good to be cautious in Rio, though. Some American girls were robbed with knives closeby our hostel. They had taken a wrong street up from Lapa to Santa Tereza, and were robbed in a full daylight, close to the famous stairs of Santa Tereza! The same day, we also had been walking down the same street higher up on the hill, and though afterwards, that if we had missed the chairs the other day, it could have been us that had been robbed, too…
In Rio, it’s better to take a cab, metro, bus or a van whenever you have to go further, not to walk too far alone and keep an eye on people and the neighbourhood around you. I don’t know if we were lucky or what but nothing happened and we felt even a little funny being so carefull. For example we left our drinks away from our hands immediately after one suspicious moment at a parade we attended. On the other hand we still managed to break almoust all the cautiosness rules from the guidebooks what not to do.
Mountain hills of Rio
Rio is full of hills and verdant mountains and the city has grown on the mountainslopes. The view high up from the hills is amazing! We went up to Corcovado Mountain, where the famous statue Christ Redeemer is situated and had to take some touristic photos there with the statue of course! But the view was incredible! You think you could really see how big the city is, and still it’s too big to see it all!
We went up to Corcovado with a cabletrain from Cosme Velho. Corcovado is part of Tijuca National Park, an artificial rainforest planted there in the 18th century. One could take different kind of hikes or tours in Tijuca.
We decided to skip the other famous mountain view from Pão de Acúcar, Sugarloaf Mountain, because, we figurred out it’s just another mountain in Rio, and Rio is all about them. Maybe we didn’t need to see them all.
Santa Tereza, Lapa and the blocos all around the city
Even our hostel Terra Brasilis was situated in the hills of Santa Tereza and had incredible views over the city! The neighbourhood of Santa Tereza was filled with beautiful buildings, nice boutiques, restaurants and at the time, just before the annual Samba Carnevals, there were block parties all around the city, also here!
We went to couple of blocos in Santa Tereza district. Other one more like an north brasilian ethnic cortege and the other one an ouside party for the whole neighbourhood of Santa Tereza, with live bands etc. For both of these blocos we met some of my old brasilian friends from my exchange student times in France. It was great to meet all those lovely persons again, after so many years (7) and everything was just like it was then except our lives of course!
Except those blocos in Santa Tereza, we also attended some blocos in the Centro, Lapa and Ipanema. The one in Centro was sort of a hippie party in my eyes. We attended it on our last day invited by some people from the hostel and after dancing we headed to Ipanema for the big Hippie Fare to buy some souvenirs. To Lapa I actually went with some people from the hostel, and we ended up dancing in a salsa bar. I found Lapa a bit scary place. It was well known fact that after the bars closed, people leave fast and you shouldn’t stay in the empty neighbourhoods, if you don’t want to get mugged. There were loads of party people, drunken men fighting, whores, anything… It wasn’t my place really, even though dancing was really fun! Lapa seemed to be a 7-days-a-week party district assuming from the sound of hulabaloo carried all the way up from Lapa to Santa Tereza every night.
We also attended the Banda Ipanema, which was a sort of a practise parade for the big ones with the costumes. We danced and sang along with the crowd proceeding the streets of Ipanema already on our first day there! So much fun! The first Banda Ipanema was enough for us, we also saw the next Banda Ipanema, even some samba costumes there then, but it felt that already then, there was a little too much people for my taste and one couldn’t see a thing. And the real parades were even not yet there….
Aside all this, we of course went shoping (some Hawaianas etc…) and ate well. The brasilian culinary culture didn’t fully open up to us on this visit, the food we got to try was pretty mainstream and european-like and we didn’t end up to any very great restaurants. Meat was good, the locals recommended us the traditional black eyed peas and french fries made of manioc, we also tried yams and tapioca. I also tried some African influenced street food in Ipanema.
But the fresh fruits were something amazing. We had a nice small breakfast every morning at the hostel terasse. When ever you come to Brasil, the breakfast is usually served also in hostels. At least pick one that does! At our place, someone complained that the breakfast wasn’t too special compared to other places, but after my travels I would say it was very nice for a hostel: fresh fruits, toast with butter and ham or jam, sugar cake or some other pastry, fresh squashed juice, tea and good coffee. No complaints especially since we were on a budget trip!
Wildlife in the city and a theatre play
We also went to see the Rio Zoo and Jardim Botânico. I’m not a fan of zoos in general, but we got to see loads of animals I haven’t seen before. Jardim Botânico was great, one has to visit it when in Rio, especially if you don’t get a change to go to the rainforests. One of the coolest things was to notice that that even in the middle of this huge metropol, there was loads of wild animals and birds. We saw monkeys all over, also on the hills next to our hostel! And, we saw some hummingbirds (or that’s what we think, because what other bird moves it’s wings so fast you can’t really see them?). Pretty cool huh?! There should have been also parrots and pelicans in the parks, but I didn’t get to see any.
My brasilian friends took us to see a theatre that was one of the best theatre plays I’ve ever seen. We hesitated at first, since we didn’t know any portuguese at all… but no worries! The play was totally mimic, amazing physical theatre based on movements and some universal voices only! The play was Irmãos de Sangue, Blood Brothers, by this French theatre assembly, Dos à deux. Just amazing, hope to get this assembly to perform in Finland some day!
Best moments come outside of the guide book
Last but definately not least, I want to share you this important fact: best moments on travels don’t often come from the guidebooks. You know, they come suddenly, when you take the opportunit to do stuff you didn’t plan. Aside many cool surprising things we did and saw during our trip, maybe the most inspirational moment of my visit in Rio was this little poolparty we attended somewhere high up in the hills of Santa Tereza. We ended up there with a group of lovely travel mates after a bloco in Santa Tereza invited by some local people we had met earlier. Imagine the feeling while listening to an awesome liveband playing bossa nova etc…, accompanied by cascades/ grasshoppers in the warm and dark night, discussing about life with your old and newly found friends, while diping your dancing sore feet in the nice cool pool water, siping your incredibly strong but delicious caipirinha, staring at the stars and and the city lights below us. ❤ It was just, wow!
That is truly something to remember. Any photo couldn’t have captured the moment, not that I had carried a camera or a phone when attending bloco, anyways (even my money was in my bras 😉 ). So, it’s only in my head and heart.
Até mais, Cidade Maravilhosa!