Rio de Janeiro evokes images of exotic carnival dancers, the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, Christ with his arms outstretched perched atop Corcovado mountain and bikinis that barely exist. They’re certainly all to be found in Rio, but the city has a lot more to offer besides these far-flung icons.
The vibrant cultural capital of Brazil is sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, and is blessed with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Luxury holidays in Rio centre on its beaches, which include the celebrated Ipanema and Copacabana; but if you can drag yourself away from these main attractions you will discover other surprises such as the world’s largest urban forest.
Rio pulses to an infectious beat of choro, samba, boss nova and funk carioca. This is never truer than during the annual festival of Carnival when the biggest, most colourful samba parade takes place on the Sambodromo.
The city’s endless variety is a story told best through its 150 districts, each characterised by its unique features. In Santa Teresa the winding maze of streets is populated by artists and musicians. In the central city area of Rio there are historic monuments and stately public buildings such as the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National History Museum and the National Library.
Rio is a city that endlessly repays exploration. To the east of the city lies the Lakes Region, where 62 miles (100km) of beaches and seawater lagoons harbour the main tourist resorts of Búzios, Cabo Frio, Arrial do Cabo, Rio das Ostras, Marica and Saquarema.
Rio’s main shopping destinations are concentrated in areas such as Rio Sul in the city centre. There are also numerous shopping districts near the beaches, including Avenida Nossa Senhora and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva in Leblon, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema.
The local cuisine is famous for its love of red meat. Churrascarias is a simple beef dish, normally spiced only with salt, and often accompanied with feijão com arroz (rice and beans). Or there is feijoada, a traditional stew made with black beans.
Once you have eaten your fill, the Rio night will still be young. Start off at a beach bar with a coconut juice or toast the spectacular sunset with a cocktail. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing bar for a couple of ‘chopps’ (draft beer), heading for the high-living beach communities or in the mood for a big night out at the city’s finest nightclubs, you’re sure of an unforgettable time in Brazil’s spectacular party capital.
Rio de Janeiro is warm all year round. Summers, between November and March, are very hot and humid with monthly averages of 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit). Winters are somewhat cooler, with some rain from June to September. The month of July marks the depths of winter, and even then the average temperature is 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Portuguese is spoken language in Rio along with Spanish and English.
To enter Brazil, you will need a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry. All travellers must be in possession of onward or return tickets and sufficient funds to cover their stay. A visa may also be required: nationals of EU member countries do not need one, but visitors from Australia, the USA or Canada require a visa if travelling outside a specific holiday period during June and September. Please check rules around visa requirements before you travel, as they may change regularly.
Most visits to Rio de Janeiro are trouble free, but bear in mind that crime levels are high. You should be vigilant, particularly before and during the festive and carnival periods. The most common incidents affecting tourists are thefts or pick-pocketing around Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach and the Lapa area.
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