After a gruelling 11 hour flight and late night arrival at our Hostel, we decided to start our first day of the trip with a pretty cushy itinerary – find beach, sit on it.

Luckily for us Rio De Janeiro isn’t short of beaches, so we headed first to perhaps the worlds most famous – Copacabana. The curved white sand stretches almost 5km, so we managed to find a spot to plant our pasty behinds amongst the people parade. Perhaps less known than Copacabana, the adjacent Ipanema beach where we visited next is arguably the nicer of the two. Curiously the beach is divided into sections, with good looking people at one end (I’m not sure how entry is adjudicated), followed by the gay section (between the rainbow flags), followed finally by the family section. We opted for the pub opposite and settled in for some quality people watching and a few Brahmas – the local brew.

Home from home

During our time in Rio we stayed in Santa Teresa, a charming little area perched high above much of the city. With its cobbled streets, colourful old buildings and relaxed bohemian atmosphere, we would definitely recommend the area.

We spent four nights at Casa 579, a friendly little hostel with a huge communal dining area always buzzing with activity, and a rooftop terrace with brilliant views of the city below and Jesus looking down on you from above as you chill in a hammock with a beer. The hostel is situated on the outskirts of Santa Teresa, where the town and the Atlantic rainforest of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca meet. This proximity to the rainforest results in a few extra guests arriving each morning, capuchin monkeys with a taste for continental breakfasts.

The staff at Casa 579 were awesome and very knowledgable about what was going on each day in the city and offering advice on nights out etc. In addition to running the hostel, the staff also all work in the local favela, teaching children who would otherwise receive no formal education. Good stuff.

The view from our Hostel

The view from our Hostel

On our second day in Rio we hiked through the Parque Nacional da Tijuca to reach the Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer). There is also a bus, tram, train, minivan and an abundance of private cars which will happily take you up through the park to the summit. All of which seemed to us like cheating so early in our trip. So we opted for a hot and sweaty 4 hour round trip on foot. For which we’re glad we did, as the walk up through the rainforest was spectacular, with views of the Atlantic, the mountains and the city below. The silence of the rainforest only broken by the odd monkey (triumphantly brandishing the bananas from breakfast) and us chasing them with cameras in hand.

As for the statue – well it was much smaller than we had both imagined, and more crowded than we could have imagined. I tend to agree with Karl Pilkington – it really does look like he has a massive chin instead of a beard. As it is often the case with Rio, it’s the natural beauty, rather than the man made, which steals the show. And it was the 360 views from Christ’s vantage spot across all of Rio and beyond that were the highlight of the day..the monkeys were also pretty good.

The view from Corcodova

The view from Corcovado

Sugar loaf-ing around

The highlight of our time in Rio however came on our final day, after a few hours of exploring the central district of Rio, the harbour and the Museum of Modern Art (all of which were quite underwhelming), and getting *slightly* lost in a questionable residential area, we took the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf mountain to view the city from atop another iconic landmark. Glad to see the cable cars were sturdy swiss-made contraptions and not ski lifts as Lou thought! We were fortunate enough to arrive just as the sun was setting behind Corcovado, so we watched as the cityscape transcended from day into night. Very cool.

On top of Suger Loaf, seeing in the sunset.

On top of Suger Loaf, seeing in the sunset.

We spent our last night in Lapa, one of Rio’s best spots for Samba clubs, jazz bars and nightclubs. With many of the clubs spilling out onto the streets it creates a carnival like atmosphere most nights. Agreeing our samba was a little rusty and we made better spectators, we watched and drank Caprihanas for a few hours as the locals played up to the crowds dancing to a brilliant live samba band. Incredible atmosphere and perfect people watching – we could spy all the heated love triangles playing out and Brazil’s answer to Samuel L Jackson lurking in the corner.

A few photos

From Brazil > Rio!, posted by Stefan Brierley on 5/09/2013 (26 items)

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Next stop > Ilha Grande