Until now my favorite city from all the ones that I visited is Rio. It really does have something of its own that snatched your heart and won’t give it back.
Rio is a city of contrast: it has favelas (poor neighborhoods) that are located in the hills (for me it was strange because most of the luxurious houses are on a hill in Europe) and big impressive condo buildings near the beach that are fenced and some of them even barbed wired.
People are very happy and they send a positive vibe whenever you walk down the street. It seems normal to be happy when you have such a view as Rio does and the beach always close to you, doesn’t it?
But Rio is a city of contrasts as I said above…although it has a breathtaking scenery and people full of life, it is one of the most corrupted cities and among the poorest for its potential. People are living in the favelas are extremely poor, they manage with a wage that allows them to pay only the utilities. Poverty is the main reason why Rio is so crime oriented and this is a shame because it loses some of its potential as a winning country for scenery.
Knowing this and watching Ciudad de Deus movie right before leaving to Rio de Janeiro got me a little jumpy before my trip to Rio.
The very first moment I arrived in Rio, I felt unsure because from the airport to the city you pass by some favelas that don’t look very appealing. Having in mind the fact that we should be careful when taking a cab, we caught a cab that was driven by a woman s I felt more at ease, but she didn’t speak English at all. She spoke to us in Portuguese and amazingly we understood and could communicate very good (at that time I didn’t know a word in Portuguese).
She showed us around the city while she drove us to our apartment that was located in Santa Teresa, the most bohemian and safe neighborhood in Rio.
She kept driving on some narrow streets that went up a hill that seemed impossible to reach with us in the cars and our luggage. But we made it and she left in front of our building were Fred waited for us.
We checked in the studio and it was amazing! After more than 24 hours on the road to see that wonderful view that the place had, was just a magical moment!
When I will come back to Rio, I will definitely stay again at Sugar Loft Apartments because the price was right for what we got, Fred was so nice and even helped us with a prepaid SIM in order to have Internet access on our phones and the neighborhood is lovely.
In most of my travels, I walk a lot and try to explore the city while exercising. But choosing Santa Teresa as our location was a workout that I never expected :))
The neighborhood is up on a hill with narrow streets and beautiful colonial houses and you can get to it through the Selaron stairs or by a small van that takes you to the neighborhood center (we found out this on our last day :)) ).
Rio is a never ending fountain for walks, places to eat or drink, beaches, dancing, hikes, sports, sunset watching or simply loving life. It has such a powerful vibe that it makes you smile from the bottom of your soul and just take everything at a slower pace. But that is not what we did! :))
We walked around and visited like maniacs since day 1 because I didn’t want t lose time, to make the most of it because it is a destination I dreamed of for a lifetime and it was perfect.
So we started by visiting Selaron stairs, Lapa aqueduct, Christ the Redeemer, Lago Roberto Feira, Copacabana beach, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Botanic garden, Tijuca National park, Vista Chinesa, Ipanema beach, Santa Teresa with its museums, Ilha Grande and Buzios, Lapa by night, Pedra Bonita and the city center.
The main attractions were breathtaking but the road in between them was also nice because we got to discover the Selaron stairs and the Colombo cafeteria on our way to the bank when we wanted to change money, we saw the true Brazilian women (and they are gorgeous!), we discovered the Odeon theater and a nice places that had freshly squeezed juices (acai, maracuja, you name it!). On our way home from the beach we discovered the Sunset Rock on Ipanema Beach which is the main stage for people to watch the perfect sunset that Rio offers – that was the moment that I felt like I needed nothing more in my life…
We had two amazing dinners in Santa Teresa ar Bar do Mineiro and Cafecito, but there are a lot of nice restaurants in Santa Teresa like Aprazivel, Bar do descasados, Tereza and many others.
And the view is amazing because you are on top of the hill and can see everything from atop. I recommend that before or after dinner, you take a walk around Santa Teresa and admire the beautiful houses, streets, plants and people that it has. You can also visit Museo do Ceu that has a nice view around the neighborhood and you can spot even some monkeys in the trees. In Santa Teresa there is also a tram that crosses the CCariocaAqueduct but when we were there it was in reabilitation for the Summer Olympics 2016.
2 days we had booked a trip to Buzios and one to Ilha Grande with Rio Maximo travel agency.
Buzios is around 180 km from Rio and it is a famous seaside village due to Brigitte Bardot that was there in the 70s. It’s very posh, it has nice beaches and restaurants and some luxurious hotels.
It was a former fishing village that became a pearl for seaside tourism after Bardot’s visit.
Ilha Grande is an island 180 km from Rio that is not very populated, it has pristine beaches and lush jungle. We were there only for a day and did some lagoon diving and a lovely lunch on a secluded beach.
In my opinion, the best views of Rio are from Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain where the view is spectacular during the day and even more at dusk and nighttime.
In some of the nights we went to Lapa to have some drinks and some music. The bar offer is unlimited, there are a lot of nice places and in some they even have guards checking you when you come in and stay at the terrace. I can’t say it was very nice at the beginning but we felt more at ease with them, knowing that the place was safe.
One of the best food streets I had in Rio was a Nutella pancake made out of tapioca and a stuffed pastry with chicken meat inside named Frango. DELICIOUS!
At Cafecito you can eat amazionian fish in an unbeliable romatic setup in a colonial house and at Bar do Mineiro you can taste the famous Feijoada.
So this I why I like to be active in my trips because besides travelling, I also LOVE food! 🙂