Rio de Janeiro

A sultry fusion of green mountains, blue skies and golden sand


A sultry fusion of green mountains, blue skies and golden sand

There’s no denying that Rio is special. You can feel it in the throb of samba beat. You can savour it in the sour sweetness of a late afternoon caipirinha. And if you’re still not buying it at the end of another sun-soaked day, ask the good folks at UNESCO. The World Heritage office found Brazil’s second city so exceptional that, in 2017, they designed a whole new category to encompass the unique combination of natural phenomena and man-made wonders united within one extraordinary urban landscape.

Mystical cone-shaped mounts surround the azure lagoons and sandy beaches of Guanabara Bay. The city centre is filled with stunning Portuguese colonial and modernist Brazilian architecture, world renowned landmarks and the largest urban forest on the planet. It’s a site of breath-taking natural loveliness and that’s before you even consider the sleek bronzed bodies of the beauties who daily line the Ipanema and Copacabana shores.

A hugely popular destination, Rio enjoys its most hectic party vibe during huge New Year celebrations and the famed carnival, held annually just prior to Lent. This period coincides with the tropical South American summer, meaning soaring temperatures and packed beaches as sun-seekers hit the water to escape high humidity. A low season option though is to get the party season and Easter holidays out of the way, and take your Rio break from mid-April to November. At this time the humidity breaks and you can expect clear blue skies and more pleasant temperatures around 20 to 25°C. It’s the perfect time for exploring the city’s culture, hiking the iconic hills, or grabbing an outdoor table at a favourite restaurant, while remaining warm enough for beach days and watersports.

Iconic Landmarks

Rio’s legendary hotspots are best explored under cloudless low season skies when crowds are fewest and the views at their most brilliant. Explore the distinctive Sugar Loaf mountain and its thrilling cable car; reach the towering Art Deco statue of Christ The Redeemer; or get your perfect profile pic at the Insta-famed Pedra do Telegrafo, the illusionary cliff edge monolith for wannabe adrenaline junkies. In fact, during the high season summer, visitors often find these iconic features to be surrounded by disappointing haze and views full of cloud.

Outdoor Living

Al fresco adventuring is part of the Carioca way of life. Rio has a staggering 400km of bike tracks and when cooler it’s one of the best ways to see the city, either on a tour or using the bike share service.

Hike to stunning waterfalls and caves inside Tijuca National Park, home to ocelots, howler monkeys, and more than 300 species of birds. Hang gliding off the steeply rising mountains which link the land to the ocean is a very popular pastime for both an adrenaline rush and the most amazing vistas. Feeling less active? Tour the city in an open top jeep, stroll round the beautiful Botanical Gardens, or wander through the colonial heritage of Rio’s downtown.

Golden Shores

World renowned beaches like Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana are equally adored by tourists and residents. The coolest months of July and August might see fewer sunbathers, but activities like volley ball and watersports continue through low season. Don’t stop there though, some of the beaches and islands in outer Rio are absolutely stunning and a great way to escape the crowds and return to a more tropical feeling. Check out the wilder beaches of Prainha which has a more secluded location, and Grumari for skinny dipping and nude sunbathing if that’s your thing.

Low Season Months

Jan Feb Mar Apr
Nov Dec

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Top Experiences

Downtown and Santa Teresa

Enjoy low season exploration in Rio’s cultural centre, taking cool contemplation among the beautiful stained glass of the cathedral; checking out the colourful mosaicked Selaron Steps and the spectacular Museo do Amanha; or the colonial buildings and street art in winding alleys of Santa Teresa.

Guanabara Bay by Sailboat

See Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer, historic forts and landmark architecture from a different angle while enjoying the calm waters of the Bay. Explore Fiscal Island just off the coast and its wonderful Gothic Revival palace before a spectacular sunset as the sun lowers over Corcovado Hill.

Bike the Beaches

There are plenty of places to rent a bicycle and hundreds of miles of cycle paths throughout the city. A favourite route is the beachfront path taking in the Copacabana, Ipanema, Leme and Leblon beaches and the Botanical Garden with one of the best collections of plants in the world.

Insider Tips

  • Enjoy carnival even during low season at a behind the scenes carnival museum showing how the world famous event is created, including some of the massive floats and magnificent costumes used in the parade. Or visit Lapa’s samba clubs boasting the best musicians in town.
  • The city has several handicraft fairs. The popular Lavradio Fair, in buzzing Lapa takes place on the first Saturday of each month where Cariocas go to buy cool clothes, antiques, craftwork, and vinyl records, and enjoy live music. Or check out the hippie fair in Ipanema on Sundays.
  • Try local delicacies. Snack food or ‘salgadinho’ includes ‘coxinha’ fried dough stuffed with chicken and ‘bolinho de bacalhau’ a fried potato and cod ball. Caipirinha, the national drink, is lime, sugar and cachaça, a sugar cane spirit, sometimes with seasonal fruits like passion fruit.

Good To Know

  • Take advantage of the cooler weather when visiting Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s possible to hike to the top of the first hill Morro da Urca on a beautiful trail through tropical forest, then take the cable car to the iconic second hill. It takes 30 minutes and is well worth the effort.
  • For a different sunset spot try the city of Niteroi across the Bay. There are amazing beaches and the famous Niemeyer Way. The Parque da Cidade features a hang glider ramp where locals often sit to see tremendous views of a sunset looking back over the Bay and Rio’s skyline.
  • A common error is to try and cram too much in to your Rio visit. The best way to get into the vibe is to take time to chill on the beach, stroll, and people watch while absorbing the energy of the city. Rio has a rep for crime but statistically is just as tourist friendly and safe as any big city.

Food & Drink

Território Aprazivel, Rua Aprazivel 62, Santa Teresa

Overlooking the charming neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, this atmospheric place has beautiful views and typical Brazilian dishes made with imagination and affection. Try feijoada, the most typical dish of the city, a black bean stew cooked with pork.

Assador, Avenida infante don Henrique, s/n. Flamengo

This well-known barbecue house or churrascaria overlooks the bay and boasts a bright interior with huge windows. It’s a premium, all you can eat, restaurant offering an endless meat feast, prepared and served in a tradition that dates back 300 years.

Masserini Osteria di Mare, Av. Vieira Souto 320

On the first floor of the Sol Ipanema Hotel, this venue serves contemporary Italian cuisine in a cosy yet elegant atmosphere. Super fresh ingredients are on the menu with a focus on sea food. Tables overlook Ipanema Beach and the sparkling sea beyond.

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