Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide | Brazil |
Rio de Janeiro Photos and Rio de Janeiro Brazil Travel Guide | | Luke Handzlik




Jammed into the world's most beautiful setting, between ocean and escarpment, are seven million Cariocas, as Rio's inhabitants are called. Cariocas pursue pleasure like no other people: beaches and the body beautiful; samba and beer; football and the local firewater, cachaça. Rio has its problems, and they are enormous: a third of the people live in the favelas (shanty towns) that blanket many of the hillsides; the poor have no schools, no doctors, no jobs; drug abuse and violence are endemic; police corruption and brutality are commonplace.

Rio's reputation as a violent city has caused a sharp reduction in tourism in the last several years, and there is even a special police unit which patrols areas frequented by gringos in an effort to keep them safe - recent reports suggest they have been pretty successful. Rio is divided into a zona norte and a zona sul by the Serra da Carioca, steep mountains that are part of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca.

  The view from the top of Corcovado, the mountain peak with the statue of Christ the Redeemer at its summit, offers the best way to become geographically familiar with the city.

Favelas crowd against the hillsides on both sides of town. The beach, a ritual and a way of life for the Cariocas, is Rio's common denominator.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Geography

Brazil can be divided into four major geographic regions. The long, narrow Atlantic seaboard has coastal ranges between the Rio Grande do Sul and Bahia, but is flatter north of Bahia. The large highlands, called the Planalto Brasileiro or central plateau, which extend over most of Brazil's interior south of the Amazon Basin are punctuated by several small mountain ranges and sliced by several large rivers.

Two great depressions - the Paraguay Basin, which is characterized by open forest, low woods and scrubland, and the densely forested Amazon Basil, lie in the southeast. The 6275km (3890mi) long Amazon is the world's largest river, and the Amazon forest contains 30% of the world's remaining forest.

The richness and diversity of Brazil's fauna is astounding, and the country ranks first in the world for numbers of species of primates, amphibians and plants; third for bird species; and fourth for species of butterflies and reptiles. However, many species are under threat because of the continued depletion of rainforests, desertification in the northeast, poaching in the Pantanal region and coastal pollution.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Climate

Most of the country has noticeable seasonal variations in rain, temperature and humidity, but only the south of Brazil has extreme seasonal changes. The Brazilian winter is from June to August, with the coldest southern states receiving average winter temperatures of between 13 and 18°C (55 and 64°F). In summer (December to February), Rio is hot and humid, with temperatures in the high 30-38°Cs (80°Fs); the rest of the year, temperatures hover around 25°C (77°F).

The northeast coast gets as hot as Rio but is less humid and stifling. In general, the highlands are less hot and humid, and are prone to summer rainfalls. The Amazon basin is the rainiest part of Brazil, and while it is humid, temperatures average a reasonable 27°C (80°F).

Rio de Janeiro Fall: March-May; March is one of the rainiest months in Rio de Janeiro. Fall in general is hot, with temperatures and humidity levels dropping slightly from the subtropical heat of summer. Rio de Janeiro weather in the later part of fall is one of the best times to visit.

Rio de Janeiro Winter: June-August; When the Earth's axis points North America and Europe towards the sun from June to August, Rio de Janeiro and the Tropic of Capricorn experience a mild winter. Precipitation is at its lowest point of the year, and the weather in Rio de Janeiro is cool, but never cold.

Rio de Janeiro Spring: September-October; For those not accustomed to the searing Rio de Janeiro heat, spring is one of the best times of year to visit Rio de Janeiro. The humidity is low and Rio de Janeiro temperatures are warm.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Air Travel

There are frequent flights to Rio from all major cities in South America. Other gateway airports in Brazil include Recife, popular with German package tourists, and Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, which is halfway between Rio and Miami. Varig, Brazil's national airline, flies to many major cities in the world.

Brazil has land borders with every other country in South America, with the exceptions of Ecuador and Chile, so while some travelers may bus in from Uruguay in the south, others arrive via the trem da morte (death train) from Bolivia. By river, many travelers take a slow boat down the Amazon from Iquitos in Peru or into the Pantanal via the Rio Paraguay from Asunçion.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Copacabana

Copacabana is probably the world's most famous beach, and runs for 4.5km (3mi) in front of one of the most densely populated residential areas on the planet. From the scalloped beach you can see the granite slabs that surround the entrance to the bay. 

Copacabana is much more than a postcard. It is one of Rio's most vibrant and eclectic districts, with countless attractions for locals and visitors. The beach, the landmark buildings, nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques, and the trademark sidewalks are more than enough to captivate you.

As you walk around and discover the parks, squares, sights, and especially the people, you become a fan for life. Wake up early and watch the sun rise out of the Atlantic Ocean. 
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Somewhere else in Copacabana at this very same time fishermen are pulling their nets, senior citizens are going for their daily dip in the sea, the first batch of fresh-baked bread is ready for sale at dozens of bakeries, bouncers from Lido nightclubs are finally calling it a night... If Rio is a city that never sleeps, Copacabana is on a guaraná overdose!

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Ipanema

Ipanema is Rio's richest and most chic beach. Ipanema is a neighborhood with a tradition of freedom and innovation. Ipanema Beach is where the summer "happens" in Rio. News in Ipanema make big headlines in all major newspapers in the country.

A trend-setter, Ipanema beach was the first in Brazil to see a pregnant woman proudly walking in a bikini the quintessential Ipanema icon, actress Leila Diniz. Rose de Primo, a fashion model with a perfect body and a lot of attitude, set new grounds in the 70's with her tangas, tiny bikinis, that soon became the object of desire of a whole nation. 

Topless became a fad when a local soap opera showed that some women in Ipanema chose not to keep a tan line. Men all over the country started wearing horrible crochet g-strings after a famous personality (Gabeira) was seen in one at Posto 9 (reportedly a bikini bottom borrowed from his friend, reporter Leda Nagle). The dental floss bikini had its world debut here, too.

In the summer of 1996, Ipanema made headline news, when police started arresting bathers who blew whistles! They were protesting against what they felt was unfair police persecution against marijuana users at Posto 9. In the summer of 1997, an air force dentist had to spend 15 days in detention for the simple reason of having been photographed on the sands of Ipanema, with nothing but a bathing suit on. As his uniform shirt was laying in the sand (neatly folded, truth be said), they used an old law reminiscent from the military years to incarcerate the poor guy. The Drags from Ipanema were the first ones to protest, in their own special way.

Tourists and first-timers tend to gather in front of Caesar Park Hotel. Posto 9 , Garcia , Country , Teixeira , Farme Gay , and Cap Ferrat are all reference points used by locals to identify their favorite spot. Practice sports like beach volleyball , soccer and surf, find true romance , have a refreshing drink of coconut water , or just relax and soak up some rays. Bring your sunglasses, so you can watch the good-looking Cariocas without giving yourself in!

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Beaches

Other beaches within and near the city include Pepino, Praia Barra da Tijuca, Flamengo and Aproador. Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) is God's gift to the picture-postcard industry. Two cable cars climb 1300m (4264ft) above Rio and the Baía de Guanabara and, from the top, Rio looks the most beautiful city in the world. The 120 sq km (47 sq mi) Parque Nacional de Tijuca, 15 minutes from the concrete jungle of Copacobana, is all that's left of the tropical jungle that once surrounded Rio. The forest is an exuberant green, with beautiful trees and waterfalls.

Ipanema is the ideal neighborhood to explore on foot. You can walk your way from one end to the other in less than 30 minutes - if you resist the temptations along the way, that is. It is easy to find your way around as the streets are arranged in a neat grid limited by the beach, the lake, and charming neighbor Arpoador. One of the most legendary places in the planet. Ipanema Beach lives up to the hype. The spots opposite across from each street or Posto have developed different personalities. Walking from one end to the other on a sunny day is one of the best ways to get introduced to the social diversity of the city.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: Carnaval

Rio's famous glitzy Carnaval is a fantastic spectacle, but there are more authentic celebrations held elsewhere in Brazil. In many ways, Carnaval can be the worst time to be in Rio. Everyone gets a bit unglued at this time of year: taxi fares quadruple, accommodation triples and masses of visitors descend on the city to get drunk, get high and exchange exotic diseases. 

There's always a story behind a name. And Rio has a funny one... In the year of 1502 Portuguese explorers sailed over to Brazil.

Their mission: confirming the existence of the land Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed he'd discovered (reportedly by accident, as he'd been sent on an expedition to India, and got lost along the way, but that's another story). 

This second journey was headed by André Gonçalves. He was the one who found the bay today known as Guanabara. Apparently mistook it for the mouth of a river, Rio, in Portuguese. The month was January (Janeiro), and he brightly concluded: Rio de Janeiro! The name stuck.

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Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide: 2016 Summer Olympics

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad, informally known as the 2016 Summer Olympics, are a major international multi-sport event to be celebrated in the tradition of the Olympic Games, as governed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The host city of the Games will be Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as announced at the 121st IOC Session (which is also the 13th Olympic Congress) held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 2, 2009. They are scheduled to be held from August 5 to 21, 2016 (when it is actually winter in the Southern hemisphere). 205 nations will participate. An estimated 12,500 athletes will compete.

The 2016 Summer Paralympics will be held in the same city and organized by the same committee, September 7 to 18. The Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be the first edition held in Brazil, the second edition held in Latin America after Mexico City 1968, the first edition held in South America, the third edition held in the Southern Hemisphere after Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000, the first edition in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Australia, and the first games in a Portuguese-speaking country. (Special thanks to Wikipedia and its authors for this article).

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