8) Rio de Janeiro is a huge seaside city and the most visited capital, famous for the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The most famous landmarks are the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as well as Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable car. The city is also known for favelas (shanty towns) and the carnival festival held each year with around two million on the streets for six-day party featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancing. This took place on 5th February 2016, apparently next date is 24th February (the forty-day period before Easter).
Guides – With thanks to Leah, Tim, Daniela who lead me to these handsome guys who live in Brazil. Weslei, Marcos and Leandro were happy to show me around. Thank you for making it such a memorable outing!
On my arrival after midnight from Buneo Aires, I was so excited but also a little freaked out at the Christ the Redeemer statue glowing at night. It is a bit spooky there!
Rio’s best beaches – I must admit usually I’m not a beach bum, as I prefer the adventure of walking around the city and exploring. But the beaches here were beautiful, and my hotel was only 5 minutes walk to Copacabana beach. The reception at the hotel did warn me that I should be careful walking around, especially at night. When you head for the beach, I would advise you to leave your mobiles/cameras etc at home. Nonetheless it is a popular beach, well worth the visit, as is Ipanema beach which is less crowded and more clean if you prefer to relax there. Did you know Rod Stewart played for around 3.5 million people on Copacabana beach in 1994? Amazing.
Sugarloaf Cable Car, one of Rio’s most famous attractions, opened in 1912, only the third cableway to be built in the world. In 1972 the cars were updated, with the capacity growing from 22 to 75 people. Today it is used by approximately 2,500 visitors every day. The cable cars run every 30 minutes, between 8am and 10pm. I would recommend you to bring some snacks as options are limited up there. It runs over a big mountain with a great view of the city and surrounding sea, situated in a nice shore.
It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was so nervous especially when the pilot turned helicopter sideways and rolled! I absolutely loved the views.We flew around the statue of Christ, though unfortunately it was cloudy so we focused on the city underneath. You can also hire a helicopter to fly around with choices that they have offered on a list. It cost me £75 for 7 mins, definitely expensive but worth the once in a lifetime experience.
National Institute of Education for the Deaf (INES) – Weslei has a job as a teacher there, he was very kind to fit me into his busy schedule to take me around the school buildings. I met deaf students and teachers who are all profoundly deaf. Our sign language is very different but we managed to pick up things from body language and expression. These days, you can download apps and practice international sign alphabets. It’s interesting that Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country in South America.
Arcos da Lapa – Tramway along landmark white Lapa Arches in Centro of Rio – It’s one of Rio’s attractions, a lost tramway that is a rather isolated part of Rio with the trendy Lapa district. Lapa lies at the heart of Rio´s historic center. It was interesting to see the Lapa arcs whose original architecture design dates back to the mid-1700s and are definitely worth a photograph. Due to an accident that caused a few deaths, the trams are no longer operating so it has become famous for its lively nightlife.
World-famous steps (Escadaria Selaron) in Santa Teresa – The area of Lapa is not known for being the safest in Rio, with a police presence on most days. I admired the graffiti on the walls of the neighborhoods, and these famous 215 steps with a variety of ceramic tiles on them done by a famous Chilean Brazilian artist. He had decided to decorate the steps he used every day. He first made them in the colours of the Brazilian flag (green, blue and yellow) but then decided to change them. He received tiles from all parts of the world and included them. A must see while in Rio! We were fortunate to get there when it was not crowded (before noon) and were able to get some pictures without tourists.
Favela is the name of slums within urban areas which are quoted as being dangerous due to things like drug dealing, stealing and violence. There are over 1000 Favela in Rio. You might have seen a film called City of God (2002) whose plot is based on real life events about gangs and was shot on location in the poorest neighbourhoods.
I noticed armed soldiers while exploring in the biggest favela called Rocinha, and I think it’s important to go with a guide or just someone who knows the area well. Fact of the day: Fast Five had scenes in a favela that was actually filmed in Puerto Rico!
Four of us got to Rocinha by a very crowded bus, it was so humid and made us sleepy, but we finally arrived after 2 hours. We had a look around but turned back fairly soon to get back before it got dark. There was a motorbike taxi for getting up the steep hill, but after seeing the way it sped up the hill I chose to walk instead! You can also see this view from the Sugar Loaf cable car if you like.
To learn about safety in Rio, including a map of dangerous neighborhoods and pickpockets zones, see the CitySafe page about Rio de Janeiro.
The lights of Vidigal favela in Rio de Janeiro as seen from Ipanema and Leblon beaches. The cone spire to the far right is part of the famous Dois Irmãos.
Cristo Redentor From wikipedia: “Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 . The statue was struck by lightning during a violent thunderstorm in 2008, and suffered some damage to the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration was put in place by replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue. It was damaged by lightning again in 2014, when a finger on the right hand was dislodged.”
Certain things I found interesting from wikipedia – “In 2010, a massive restoration of the statue was undertaken. The statue was washed, the mortar and soapstone that cover the statue were replaced, the internal structure of iron was restored, and the monument was made waterproof. The statue was vandalized during renovation, when paint was sprayed along the arm. Mayor called the act ‘a crime against the nation’. The culprits later apologized and presented themselves to the police. The four-month restoration focused on the statue itself.
The statue’s internal structure was renovated and its soapstone mosaic covering was restored by removing a crust of fungi and other microorganisms and repairing small cracks. The lightning rods located in the statue’s head and arms were also repaired, and new lighting fixtures were installed at the foot of the statue. The restoration involved one hundred people and used more than 60,000 pieces of stone taken from the same quarry as the original statue.”
I was worried when I heard about the Zika virus, which apparently comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. The virus has now spread to more than 50 countries, but Brazil remains the country most-affected. I watched a BBC documentary about it that said it was proven to cause a severe birth defect resulting in babies born with abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains. My GP emailed me all the advice I needed, for example to buy Deet bug spray, a mosquito net bed, Plug-In Mosquito Killer and to cover up well. I’m lucky because my hotel was near the sea which meant less mosquitos. Friends who live there have been bitten but these go away after few days after seeing a doctor to make sure everything was okay.
The World Health Organization published advice about how safe it was to go ahead with the Rio Summer Olympics? They said it was safe to do so as long as pregnant ladies or those planning to have a baby soon did not travel – if they had already booked, say by travel agents, it would be reimbursed, and airlines that offer insurance potentially offer refunds or a change of destination.
Olympic Games was between 5th August – 21st August 2016. Weslei suggested that I check out the Olympic City Museum called Museu Cidade Olímpica . This is a new museum/digital centre which opened to the public on 5th July 2016. Visitors are able to use state-of-the-art virtual reality technologies to ‘visit’ Olympic venues and tourist attractions all over the city. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to explore but from what I did see I would recommend you to check it out if you’d like to learn more about how the venues were built etc.
Food – There is a variety of cuisines for example Italian (pizza, pasta), Spanish (empanadillas – folding a dough or bread patty around stuffing which is a common ready-to-go lunch), Arabs (spiha, lamb, kibbeh), Chinese and Japanese (like wontons). At breakfast, it is common to eat tropical fruits, like papaya, and local cakes, tapioca, couscous, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, bread and butter or jam, coffee, juices or tea. Lunch is normally the biggest meal of the day.
At some of the restaurants, they have a self-service system and the food is charged by the weight! Staff labelled my receipt and tick sheet for me to pay once I leave, and there is all-you-can-eat at a fixed price. I found that is useful because in England, they can charge such small portions for very high prices.
I am now at the end of my blog on South America! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope that the travel tips I’ve discovered along the way inspire you for your next trip. 😀