Rio de Janeiro: the marvellous city

To only spend three days in Rio de Janeiro is tough. It’s a giant city, with many different neighbourhoods spread out over the hills and between the beaches on the Brazilian coast. Three days is simply not enough but I gave it my best shot at ticking off at least the ‘must-see’ sights without rushing too much.

Between my 30-day visa expiring in Bolivia and my pre-booked flight to Kenya from Rio, unfortunately three days was all I had. But it certainly gave me a good taste of what a trip in Brazil could be like, of course somewhere still on my list to see.


My first day was spent mostly at the hippie fair market in Ipanema where I spent the last of my trip funds on clothing and jewellery. I also sampled a lot of local food which, like the rest of South America, is pretty gluten free friendly. I tried my first Brazilian acai smoothie which was to die for; I had missed the ones I used to make at home. I then had snacks like tapioca with banana and coconut, sort of like a crepe made from tapioca flour. Also acaraje, a deep fried ball made from black beans and stuffed with prawns. I tried the coconut dessert, a slab of rice and coconut together, which was extremely popular.

After spending and eating too much I headed for Ipanema beach, Rio’s second most popular after Copacabana. I got my first look at what Rio’s famous beaches are all about with people from all walks of life, shapes and sizes. People playing football and volleyball, people running, people wearing clothes and people wearing nothing at all, people selling clothes, people selling drinks and ice cream, police, life savers; the ultimate people watching space.

I then walked up Visconde de Piraja, a big commercial street and where evidence of the colossal amount of money being spent in preparation for the Olympics and World Cup was on show with an extra underground metro line being put in.


Day two included two of the most famous sights in the world; Copacabana beach and Christ the Redeemer. Copacabana was like Ipanema x10, clusters of micro-cultures and heaps of people enjoying the morning sun. Christ the Redeemer is now considered one of the New Seven Wonders, which means, like Machu Picchu, it’s overly popular. After three hours waiting in the line we were finally taken up to the top in a minivan to admire the view, which was mostly selfie sticks and the backs of people’s heads. The small platform area around the statue at the top was packed full of people. So after three hours of waiting we only stayed about 15 minutes at the statue itself before we headed back down.


My last day in Rio was jam-packed. I caught the metro to the Lapa area and walked up to the famous staircase, Escaderia Selaron. It is a staircase completely covered in mosaic tiles and was done by a Chilean artist called Jorge Selaron. He started the project in 1990 and continued until his death in 2013, when he was found dead at the bottom of the stairs. He covered 250 stairs and included over 2000 tiles from around the world.


At the top of the stairs I walked to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood, which is famous for its old colonial style streets and buildings. It was a very quiet and peaceful area with quirky shops and cafes.

My next stop was a mall, not very exciting, but I walked away with six pairs of Havaianas for friends and family because for $10 a pair they were a quarter of the price to home!


My last stop of the day and in fact, the whole trip, was the beautiful Sugarloaf mountain. I walked to the cable car from my hostel and got a ride to the top at 6pm, perfect for the sunset. I got a caipirinha (Brazilian national cocktail) and sat back to enjoy the last few hours of my adventure. The sunset was terrible, very cloudy, I couldn’t even see Christ the Redeemer but it didn’t really matter. The view of the city, the bay and the beaches was incredible. It really is a marvellous city and what an amazing trip I’d had.


I was starting to get a little emotional. I knew that in a few hours I would be in a taxi heading to the airport to leave. South America had been amazing beyond words. It was so action-packed, I was always doing something exciting. The landscape was the most amazing I’d ever seen, the people and the culture were so interesting and beautiful and I had fallen in love with the language. I’m not done here yet, but it will have to wait for another time now.


*post adapted from my trip here in January 2016 and from my previous site

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