7 Reasons Every Traveler Should Visit Rio De Janeiro In Their Lifetime

7 Reasons Every Traveler Should Visit Rio De Janeiro In Their Lifetime

Rio de Janeiro. Just the mention of this iconic city conjures up visions of wild carnivals, white sand beaches, exotic cocktails and samba in the streets.

Known as the “Cidade Maravilhosa”, or Marvelous City, Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and the third largest in Latin America.

Blessed with dazzling landscapes and host to the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, Rio is hotter than ever as a tourist destination and one that you really can’t miss if you love a good time.

Here are 7 reasons every traveler should visit Rio at least once in their lifetime.

1. Carnival

Things get loco at Rio Carnival.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

Dubbed the world’s biggest party, Rio Carnival more than lives up to its almighty reputation. For a couple of weeks each February, Rio’s streets burst alive with music, parades and wild dancing.

You can watch the official parade at the Sambadrome, where samba schools dance for hours in spectacular costumes and imaginative floats led by drummers and bands stream by for hours. Tickets range from 45 USD to 1655 USD (146 to 5371 BRL), depending on your seats.

Do not expect the city to be peaceful during Carnival. Jump on the metro at 8 am and you’ll likely be confronted with people dressed as nuns, and devils doing shots of alcohol for breakfast. Streets become so heavily congested with revelers the only way you will get through is by dancing along with a samba party whether you like it or not.

If you want to check out this incredible spectacle for yourself, you’ll have to book many months in advance to score a hotel.

2. Ipanema

Sunset on Ipanema beach.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

The place to see and be seen, the beach made famous in the 1960s hit “The Girl from Ipanema” remains one of Rio’s hottest tourist spots, and with good reason. Featuring a long stretch of soft white sand, cleaner waters than those in Copacabana and bounded by classy restaurants and nightlife, Ipanema is regularly named one of best beaches in the world.

The beach features sections knowns as posts or “postos”, which mark off subcultures as diverse as the city itself. For example, the area near Posto 9 attracts free-wheeling artists and hippies, families flock to the section between Posto 11 and 12, while sports lovers battle it out at Posto 10.

This is the place where you can join “the beautiful people” flaunting themselves in tiny bathing suits and spend all day drinking Caipirinhas — the national cocktail of hard liquor made of sugarcane mixed with lime. Beach life does not get better than this.

3. Copacabana

Take your pick... bikinis for sale on Copacabana Beach.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

You’ll find more active vibes at Copacabana than at its equally well-known neighbor Ipanema, which is separated to the west by Arpoador Beach, Rio’s most popular surf spot.

At Copa, Rio locals (known as “Cariocas”) engage in spirited games of soccer and volleyball, while vendors enthusiastically hawk all kinds of wares, from drinks and snacks to bikinis, sarongs and swimming tubes.

One of the joys of Copacabana is strolling along the promenade that borders the 2.5 mile (4 kilometer) long beach. Watch out for the promenade’s famous wave-like design laid out in black and white stones, a symbol of Copacabana.

A word of warning: if you plan on lazing on Copa’s glorious sands don’t take any valuables or keep your gear very close by, wrapped around an arm or a leg. Petty theft can be an issue.

4. Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer stands guard over Rio
Source: Roberta Mancuso

One of the seven wonders of the modern world and a world-famous icon of Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer stands with arms outstretched gazing protectively over the city.

Sitting atop the 2,330 foot (710 meters) high Corcovado Mountain and standing at 125 feet (38 meters) tall, this concrete and soapstone monolith can be seen from anywhere in Rio. Most people board a vertical cog train to get to the bottom of the summit but you can also take a van, which leaves from outside Largo do Machado metro station and Praça do Lido in Copacabana. Both options are priced from 17 USD or 56 BRL and include round trip transport and admission to the monument.

Arriving at the feet of Christ the Redeemer is an incredible experience and there are plenty of photo ops here. You’ll soon be joining the throngs of people trying to get that iconic shot of themselves with the statue looming behind.

5. Sugarloaf Mountain

Taking the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

Towering 1,300 feet (400 meters) above Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain offers a bird’s eye view of Rio de Janeiro via a glass cable car known as a “teleferico” or “bondinho”.

The first leg of the trip is from Praia Vermelha in the Red Beach District, which takes you to the top of Urca Mountain. The 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) ride offers the first magnificent views of Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer and Guanabara Bay. The second cable car takes you from Urca to the peak of Sugarloaf with a 360-degree view of the area.

Get ready to work your camera hard here — Sugarloaf is another spot for outrageously beautiful views of the mountains, beaches and forests. If you can, get there at sunset for a truly Instagrammable moment. Tickets are 23 USD or 76 BRL.

6. Lapa

Escadaria Selarón, the famous multi-colored steps of Lapa.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

Once the city’s red-light districts, the Lapa neighborhood is today known for its vibrant nightlife packed with samba and choro bars, and where wild music and dancing spills out into the street on the weekends.

This buzzing section of downtown Rio is the perfect place to meet up with friends and Cariocas to try out the local cuisine and sip on a Caipirinha.

You’ll also find a good dose of colorful architecture here from the 1800s including the Arcos de Lapa (Carioca Aqueduct), which once served as an aqueduct, and Escadaria Selarón, the neighborhood’s famous multi-colored staircase.

7. Favelas

Rochina, Rio's biggest favela.
Source: Roberta Mancuso

A sign on the front wall of a house sums up how life is viewed in Rocinha: A vida nao precisa ser perfeita para ser maravilhosa. In other words: Life need not be perfect to be wonderful.

Rather than a depressing gawk into Rio’s poorer communities, a tour of a favela like Rocinha (Rio’s biggest) will show you the diversity, history, art and vibrancy of these communities firsthand. You’ll meet locals, see how they live, learn about the improvements being made and see some of the best views in the city.

You should never head into a favela on your own — there are plenty of tours available. However, think twice about jumping on what is known as a “zoo-tour” in open-backed jeeps. You look like a tourist on safari and the locals do not like them. Opt for a walking tour instead. Rocinha Guesthouse offers an excellent walking tour through this favela.

Get ready for the time of your life

After hosting the World Cup and the Olympics, Rio has picked up its act and become much easier and safer to get around. Like Christ the Redeemer, this “Cidade Maravilhosa” is waiting with open arms for you to explore.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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A freelance writer and travel junkie, Roberta has explored over 50 countries and has perpetually itchy feet. Trekking to Machu Picchu twice, sailing the Dutch Caribbean, cuddling with sloths in...Read more

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