South America Living

Travel Destinations & Things To Do Around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Inside Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is a city where the fun just doesn’t stop. All-night beachside clubs, trekking in the world’s largest urban forest, to marveling at some of the country’s more memorable landmarks… you won’t be bored in Rio.
Travel Guide to Rio de Janeiro

In case the options are overwhelming and you need somewhere to start, here are five things to do in and around Rio de Janeiro. If you’re looking for cheap fight deals to
Brazil, has a range of great options.

  1. Hit the Highlights

    Rio de Janeiro is famous for many things but two postcard perfect spots are Christ the Redeemer Statue on top of Corcovado Mountain and the tippy top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Both offer panoramic views of the cityscape and are easily reached by public transportation. To avoid the tourist rush and sweltering heat of the mid-day sun, try to visit in the morning or late afternoon.

    Christ the Redeemer is one of the largest statues of Jesus in the world and its largest Art Deco sculpture.

    Tourists Enjoying the View at Christ Redeemer Statue

    It recently won recognition as one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” and is visited by taking a steep train ride to the top. Entrance tickets cost 43 real ($23 USD) in 2012.

    Sugarloaf Mountain hasn’t won any awards, but offers a view that rivals if not outright beats those from the top of Corcovado. The two-tiered cable car ride to the top of the second peak is part of the attraction, and tickets and entrance cost 53 real ($28 USD) in 2012. Located along the coast and Guanabara Bay, visitors enjoy views of both the city and the sea. Try to visit at sunset if possible.

  2. Favela Tour

    Although travelers some feel uncomfortable with the idea of touring was is basically a slum, favela tours can be an enlightening experience for visitors while also benefiting the local community. Favelas are the crowded, low income, hillside districts that surround Rio. Tours typically include transportation, a guide, and an inside look at part of the city you probably otherwise would not have seen. A recommended company is Favela Tour, which uses part of its profits to support a community school, which is highlighted during the tour.

  3. Go to the Park

    Although Rio is a large city, it has plenty of park space. It is home to Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world, which offers a plethora of outdoor activity options such as hiking, rock climbing, and even hang gliding. Other outdoor options in Rio where you can cool off in the shade include Jardin Botanico and Parque Lage, both located behind Lagoa Rodrio de Freitas. Jardin Botanico charges a minimal entrance fee and can keep you occupied for hours as you stroll its wide and well maintained paths.

    A Favela - Slum - in Rio de Janeiro

    Parque Lage is a bit more bohemian with interesting sculptures hidden among wild tropical plants. The main building often hosts art shows. Both have cute cafes.

  4. Head North to Buzios

    If you want to check out the beaches beyond Copacabana and Ipanema, consider a weekend trip north to Buzios. Located three hours from Rio de Janeiro, Buzios is a beautiful peninsula surrounded by over 15 beaches. The area has a distinctly bourgeoisie feel and is filled with fancy restaurants, yacht clubs, and high-end boutiques. Buzios beaches on the northern side are best for swimming while those to the north are best for surfing.

  5. Head South to Paraty

    If cobblestone streets and picturesque islands are more to your liking, take a Costa Verde bus south to Paraty. Located along the coast, Paraty is surrounded by jungle beaches and isolated islands. The colonial center covers only few blocks but is lit up splendidly at night and is overflowing with charming restaurants that serve seafood and pastas, as well as boutique selling unique handmade souvenirs. Popular Paraty activities include island hopping tours (just walk toward the docks and someone is sure to approach you with an offer; you can also rent an entire boat if desired) and day trips to nearby beaches such as Trindade and Sono.

Laura Elise writes about South America travel and destinations for a company that specializes in South America vacations, including Brazil tours.

Photographs by Laura Elise, all rights reserved.

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