Rio de Janeiro: Nature and culture in a beautiful city
January 1, 1970
by Rachelle MHi Iltenburg
Welcome to the dynamic city of Rio
Rio, a city everyone’s heard of, but not all of us have been. I had the tremendous pleasure of visiting and exploring this beautiful city in Brazil last summer, the summer of 2016. For 2 weeks I was stationed in the city of Rio, with not one day where we had nothing to do or to see. From the extremely rich culture, delicious food, incredible caipirinha’s and parties to the beautiful nature of, and around, the city, from hikes up in the mountains to boat trips to skydiving! In this city there is something to do for everyone, whether you love a lazy holiday on the beach or an active holiday, you can all find it in this one city.
The culture in Brazil left an impression on me that I don’t think I will ever forget. The people, who were extremely kind and started dancing in a small alley when samba music was being played and who urged you to dance with them. If you have the opportunity, you should visit Scenarium, a samba club, the food and drinks are really nice, but when the hour is a bit later the ground floor transforms into a dancefloor with live music. A place where strangers ask each other to dance and even if you don’t know how to dance the samba, don’t worry, they will teach you. It is really worth a visit.
When in Rio, or better, in Brazil, you should try Feijoada, a delicious Brazilian dish and a traditional Caipirinha. The plates of food are very large, so when it says for 2 people, you probably have enough for 3.
Moreover, the buildings and statues in Rio are prodigious and huge. The first night, when we were in the taxi to our apartment, we could see Christ the Redeemer on top of the mountain and it already seemed very big, but nothing could have prepared me for the moment I stood right in front of it. The view was breath-taking and the statue was colossal and impressive. (tip: try to go up the mountain right before sunset, you have the best view from up there)
As Dutchies, we are quite used to riding a bike, but biking got an entirely different meaning in this city. Along the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana is a beautiful bike lane, but everywhere else in the city it’s a bit of a free for all when it comes to biking. However, it was definitely worth it. We biked from our apartment to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a beautiful lagune and we biked almost entirely around it.
Since we were in Rio the summer of the Olympics, we could see a lot of the preparations, especially close to Copacabana (the stands to watch volleyball from for example), which was very interesting, but also quite disruptive for the inhabitants and day-to-day activities.
Another thing that is definitely worth a visit is the Museo do Amanhã, also called the museum of tomorrow. It’s very beautiful and instructive, it’s about the different cultures of the world and about the environment and how this will affect ‘tomorrow’.
Now on to my favourite part of the trip, the nature surrounding Rio. Two of the most amazing things, in my opinion, that we have done in and around Rio were a hike and a boat trip.
But we did and saw many more incredible stuff, for example:
- Pão de açúcar
- Jardim botânico
- Santa Teresa
- Parque da Lage
- Parque das Ruinas
Pico da Tijuca
The hike took us op to the pico da Tijuca, a hike we did with a personal guide. It is quite a walk up the mountain, but even if you have never did a hike before, you can do it. This peak is the second highest one in Rio and gives you an amazing view of the city. During our walk up we even saw a sloth, and yes, they are as slow in real life as you might expect. Sadly, we did not have the fortune to see monkeys, but the guide said it was rarer to see a sloth than a monkey, so we were lucky in some way.
Angra dos Reis (boat trip)
One of my friends who lives in Rio suggested a boat trip, Angra dos Reis, to us and are we glad that we did it. You visit a few small islands, with beautiful white sand beaches. You also have dinner on one of these beautiful islands, you get to spend a full day with your friends on a boat and see a lot of cool places. And, to top it all off, the sunset looks beautiful reflected on the water. Little heads up, if you are staying in Rio it is a three hour drive to the boat, they will come pick you up at your apartment/hotel and also bring you back again.
The Jardim Botânico is extremely impressive and you can spend an entire day there without getting bored. In this park you can find many bodies of water, green and animals. When we were there it was really calm and quiet which only added to the serene atmosphere of the park. We walked around for quite a while and took a whole bunch of photos.
Extreme sports – skydiving
If you are more of an extreme sports person, I would highly recommend going skydiving, either in Rio or in Resende. I did my first ever jump above Resende, a municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and it was the best thing I have ever done. The view from 4,5 km up in the air was beautiful and it is a hundred percent worth it. However, if you are not up for this, don’t worry. There are so many places in Rio where you have an amazing view of the city and everything surrounding the city.
Beaches and Pão de Açúcar
A few of the things that might be a bit more commonly known are the Pão de Açúcar (sugarloaf) and the beaches Ipanema and Copacabana. Pão de Açúcar is one of the things with a beautiful view where you can see the harbour, something of which many paintings are in circulation, and the beaches are great if you just want a day to relax. However, even on the beaches there are enough things to do, from paddle boarding to volleyball to surfing.
There were a lot more things we could have done in and around Rio. It really depends on what it is you are interested in. We decided to mainly stay in the city of Rio, but there is a lot more to see and visit in the country of Brazil as well.
We were very lucky to have two friends with us, who spoke Portuguese, because there was a bit of a language barrier (even if you do speak Spanish), but it won’t be for a lack of trying. The people are really kind and really want to help you.
For means of travel in the evening, we mostly relied on taxis, because our friend who lives there told us not to walk the streets at night. So, my last advice to the people who want to visit Rio, enjoy, but be careful!