If you’re heading to Brazil any time soon, these five things to do in Rio de Janeiro are an absolute must for your itinerary.
5 Incredible Things to Do in Rio De Janeiro
1. Go Hang Gliding from Pedra Bonita
Head out to the São Conrado neighborhood to the south of the city. From the meeting point by Pepino Beach, you are taken up to Pedra Bonita, part of the Tijuca National Park, to get kitted out and prepare for take off. After a safety briefing and orientation you are strapped in and ready to take off. Running off the platform and soaring over the forest is a real adrenalin rush. The views are incredible and after having a go at flying yourself, you will be brought in to land on the golden sand of Pepino Beach. It is an incredible experience and one that should not be missed on a trip to Rio.
2. Learn to Surf in Recreio dos Bandeirantes
Ignore the surf schools on Copacabana and Ipanema. Instead, head to where the locals surf. 35km outside of the city in the West zone is the quiet neighbourhood of Recreio. The area is on the ‘up’, largely due to its pristine beaches and regular surf. I had never surfed before and arranged a morning lesson and was standing up in no time. A two hour group lesson cost R$100 with the opportunity to buy professional photos after.
3. Take a Tour of a Favela at Santa Marta
The favela is located in the Botafogo area of Rio’s Zona Sul, it is one of the city’s steepest, and is home to roughly 8,000 residents. Santa Marta is famous for two reasons; The first is that it was once the setting for Michael Jackson’s music video ‘They don’t care about us’ and is commemorated with an MJ statue and mural. More recently, the favela was used as a filming location for Fast Five. The second reason is that Santa Marta was the first of Rio’s favelas to undergo pacification from drug trafficking.
In 2008, the first Pacifying Police Unit took control of the favela, since then it has enjoyed relative safety from major crime and drug trafficking. Santa Marta is safe for tourists to visit and can be done so via the tourist information office at the favela entrance, or through any number of private registered guides.
4. Hike to Christ the Redeemer through Parque Lage
Parque Lage is a public park close to the Jardim Botanico. The land was formerly the residence of industrialist Enrique Lage and the mansion still stands in the middle of the park. There are several walking trails through the park, including one that will take you all the way to Christ the Redeemer. The path takes you through Parque Lage past caverns within the forest and up a path to Corcovado and the entrance to Christ the Redeemer. The hike is straightforward and a much better option to the tourist buses that ferry passengers all day. However, if you get the option to take the rack railway it is worth the ride.
There are a few other ways to visit Christ the Redeemer, check out the below tours.
5. Rent a Bike and Cycle Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
Known as ‘The Heart of Rio’and located in the Lagoa neighborhood of Zona Sul, the lagoon is linked to the the Atlantic by a dredged canal and is one of Rio’s principal tourist spots. It played host to the rowing events at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic games. Along its edges lie the jockey and rowing club, as well as the Jardim Botanico and Parque Lage. The best way to enjoy the lagoon is to do as the locals do and get on a bike. Dotted around the fringes are several bicycle rental stands supplying bikes per hour, half day or full day. It takes about half an hour to circle the lagoon on the 7.5 km bike path and is highly enjoyable, with plenty of stunning viewpoints.
Five Things Not to Miss in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Touristy Stuff
There are two main attractions in Rio de Janeiro that you can’t miss: the famous Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. I recommend you go early in the morning so you can take advantage of the sunlight and there are fewer people than later in the day. Don’t forget your camera!
Whether you want to relax lying on the sand or be more active on the beach, there’s volleyball, football or capoeira. Ipanema and Copacabana are the meeting points for Brazilians. Try the famous pineapple and coconut juice at one of the outdoor bars.
Brazilian called it Scola do Samba. At night, take a taxi and go to one of the many Samba schools from a neighborhood of Rio and let yourself go. Let the music flow through your veins and dance the whole night while enjoying an amazing Carnival show.
Don’t leave Rio de Janeiro without tasting the best food in Brazil: Picanha. It’s a juicy cut of beef that you can eat with rice and vegetables while drinking the famous Brazilian drink, caipirinha. You won’t be disappointed!
The best thing to try on a sunny morning is Paragliding or hang gliding. Go to Sao Conrado mountain and have the amazing experience of watching Rio de Janeiro from the air, flying like a bird. From there, you can see the beach, huge favelas, and amazing Corcovado. It’s a truly unique moment!
If you do all this things, I assure you, you will experience the best of stunning Rio de Janeiro!