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.
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.
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.
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.