You can feel it yourself. The people, the beaches, the languorous music, the abandon, the sea, the sand, the wind – everything talks to you in that inimitable Brazilian rhythm Rio de Janeiro is famous for. Of course, you listen and you can’t help it but give in.
The beaches and the mountains with the backdrop of samba and bossa nova rhythms, the world-famous Ipanema, the world’s largest Art Deco statue and Rio’s annual Carnaval celebration of music and dance and street revelry – these are the elements made famous by this extraordinary city. Or, these extraordinary elements made Rio de Janeiro one of a kind in the world.
Let’s take them one by one.
The long and scalloped Copacabana beach (made famous, again, by a song) is some 4 kilometers long. Zooming in, one sees the overflow of activities along its length: soccer players singing their anthem, cariocas (Rio residents) and tourists queuing at kiosks for their caipirinhas, kids from the favelas showing their soccer skills and loud vendors.
At once, you can see each group staking their small real estates around. From the Copacabana Palace Hotel and Rua Fernando Mendes is the gay and transvestite crowd with their rainbow flag. Then there’s the young football players, favela kids and carioca retirees, fisherman’s colony. Up north, there’s a mix of older Leme residents.
This is one long beach divided by postos (posts) which marks the different cultures around. Posto 9 has Rio’s most lithe and tanned bodies. At Praia Farme, the gay society converges. Posto 8 is the domain of favela kids. Arpoador (between Ipanema and Copacabana) is the most popular surf spot in Rio de Janeiro.
Posto 10 is for sports enthusiasts where there are always ongoing games of volleyball, soccer and frescobol (beach tennis with wooden rackets and rubber ball.) Leblon attracts the single cariocas and some families from the surrounding neighborhood.
Parque Nacional da Tijuca
This magnificent 120-square kilometer tropical jungle teems with trees, creeks and waterfalls, mountainous terrains and peaks. The whole place has an excellent well-marked train system doe families to have picnics and for some serious hikers who want to the summit, Pico da Tijuca.
Inside are lovely picnic spots, elegant restaurants, a chapel and several lovely waterfalls.
All by his lonesome, Cristo Redentor gazes over Rio, all 1145 tons of concrete, looking calm and composed. He is visible at nearly every part of the city, especially when the statue is lighted at night. Corcovado where the statue lies is part of Tijuca National Park.
Tourists take the narrow-gauge train that leaves every 30 minutes, and takes around 20 minutes to reach the statue at the top.
Rio is not just these sites. There is the renovated Theatro Municipal stands side by side next to Odeon cinema, the last sign of a once-thriving cinema industry. It is the site of the city’s many film festivals.
Lapa by night (on Fridays), is the center of all things samba and the street party. There’s non-stop music and there’s dancing, and people float around like they’re flying. The Samba sound rules this part of Rio de Janeiro.