- Head to Rio de Janeiro for the holiday of a lifetime!
The currency is the Brazilian real (R$) and at the time of writing R$1 was worth 22p
Nice and natural
Take a walk on the wild side with a day in the Parque Nacional da Tijuca, an area of preserved tropical jungle complete with cascading waterfalls. There are plenty of well-marked trails to follow and two restaurants where you can enjoy lunch – or take a picnic along with you. Keep your eyes peeled for numerous birds, monkeys and iguanas.
Of course, while you’re there, you won’t fail to notice Cristo Redentor – the famous statue of Jesus who stands on top of Corcovado mountain in the Parque. A narrow-gauge train departs every half an hour, shuttling people up to the top if you fancy seeing the whole city spread beneath you.
•Open from 8am-5pm. Call 21 2491 1700 or visit www.parquedatijuca.com.br
Another spot where you might see a monkey or exotic birds is the enormous Jardim Botânico (botanical gardens) that are also home to more than 8,000 plant species from Brazil and around the world including around 600 varieties of orchid.
It was built in 1808, and alongside established collections there’s also a new visitor centre where you can learn more about the history of the gardens. It’s a perfect spot for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.
•Admission costs R$9. Call 3874 1808 or visit www.jbrj.gov.br
Go up in the world
If you’re feeling strong, why not tackle the most artistic stairway you’re ever likely to see? The 215 steps leading up from Rua Joaquim Silva were covered in colourful mosaic tiles by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón and are now a stunning, free work of art – stopping for photos is a must.
Another way to rise to giddy heights is to take a two-stage cable car journey up Pão de Açúcar (also known as Sugar Loaf Mountain) where you can enjoy incredible views over the whole city – from Copacabana Beach on one side to the Cristo Redentor statue on the other. It does get crowded though, so visit first thing in the morning.
•The cable cars leave every 20 minutes from 8am- 7.50pm. Tickets cost adults R$62, children R$31. Call 21 2546 8400 or visit www.bondinho.com.br
The best way to truly get under the skin of Rio is to learn to Samba. This sensual, joyous dance will make you feel part of the scene, even if you’re a complete beginner. Take a one-hour group or private class in Copacabana with Rio Samba Dancer, in English, and you’ll soon be feeling the Latin spirit. There are classes available for couples, groups, women only or men only, and they’re a great way to make new friends.
•Classes cost R$60 group or R$100 private. Available any day after 3pm. Call 21 98202 9810 or visit www.riosambadancer.com
Once you’re feeling confident, why not seek out some live music and put your moves into practice? Rio Scenarium, on the third floor of a mansion on Rua do Lavarasio, is always a popular choice and hosts a wide range of musicians.
•Open Tuesday – Saturday, times and prices vary, starting from R$35 for a mid-week visit. Call 21 3147 9000 or visit www.rioscenarium.art.br
No round-up of Rio would be complete without a nod to its incredible beaches, which have long been immortalised in songs such as The Girl From Ipanema and Copacabana. Both, as you’d imagine, are popular with tourists but worth a visit thanks to their beautiful sandy shores and even more beautiful people.
Sit beneath an umbrella on Ipanema to watch the world go by, before wandering the chic shops and trendy cafes that run alongside it.
Alternatively, sip a caipirinha cocktail at a beachfront restaurant on Copacabana before a stroll on the famous boardwalks, which were designed by celebrated architect Burle Marx (fun fact – he was also a passionate ecologist and has more than 50 plants named after him!)
Shop like a local
For an authentic taste of Brazilian life, pick up some fresh produce at a market stall. Browse the fruits, spices, crafts and jewellery of the Gloria market (a Metro ride from Copacabana) on a Sunday morning. Even if you don’t buy anything, you’re sure to get some lovely photos of bright produce that’s beautifully displayed.
Visiting Rio during the five days of carnival celebrations should have a place on everyone’s ‘bucket list’. It’s been running since the 1700s and attracts around two million people to the streets to shake their tail feathers. There are all sorts of parades, parties, balls, samba events and competitions to enjoy.
•Carnival falls before Lent and in 2017 will be held February 24-28. Some events are ticketed. For timings and to book visit www.rio-carnival.net
We’ve included local phone numbers to use once in Rio, but if you want to call from the UK just add 0055 to the start of each number. Obviously international rates will be higher.
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