It goes without saying that Copacabana and Ipanema beach, Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf mountain), and one of the New7Wonders of the World, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) are must-sees when visiting Rio de Janeiro. But after spending just over 2 weeks in this stunning city, I realised that most of my favourite activities are not listed above.
Morro Dois Irmãos
The view from the top of Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Mountain) is certainly worth the adventerous trail to get there. Bus routes run throughout the city to the bottom of Vidigal favela which can be seen from Ipanema beach if you look southwest. (Ipamena is the stretch of beach you can see in the photograph above.)
The only practical way to get from the bottom of Vidigal to the start of the Dois Irmãos hiking path is on a motorbike taxi. Although this may sound very dangerous to begin with, protective motorcycle helmets are provided and the motorbikes never exceed 15mph as the road through the favela is steep and narrow. Minibuses are also available, but will only run when there is a large enough group to fill it. The trek up the mountain will take around 40 minutes to 1 hour and can be considered as moderately difficult.
– If you plan to leave the city centre at around 3pm, you are likely to experience the view in day light, at sunset, and at night time (3 views for the price of 1!)
– Wear suitable walking shoes or comfortable trainers for the hike
– Take a jumper with you as the wind is stronger up there, especially when the sun goes down
– Plan this trip in a group if possible to ensure maximum safety
Tree Canopy Tour
The Rio Adventures website offers countless activities to satisfy any adrenaline junkie, so check out their website for even more things to do. Booking online is genuine and will secure you a place! The best activity that we found was the Tree Canopy tour in the tropical rainforest of Tijuca, a short taxi ride Southwest of the city. A pleasent break from the chaos of the city, my friend and I were the only 2 people on the ropes course when we went (on a weekday), giving us a rest from rubbing shoulders with hundreds of tourists. As far as ziplines through the trees go, this was very safe and the proud owner of the course is very experienced and encouraging.
Tip: Take a bottle of water and a camera with you as there are no shops around, but plenty of photo opportunities.
A trip to Ilha Grande should take up 2-3 days of your time in Rio de Janeiro as the journey includes a 2 hour 30 minute drive to the port town of Angra dos Reis and a 30 minute boat ride onto Ilha Grande. Coach services run from the bus stations in the city, but if there is a large group, hiring a minibus is the simpler (and faster) choice.
The tranquil island of Ihla Grande has so much to offer, considering there isn’t a road or vehicle in sight. Mostly jungle, the easiest way to navigate around the island is via a water taxi. The recommended hostels are Che Lagarto or Biergarten, and the sights include Lopes Mendes (one of the top 10 beaches in the world) and multiple jungle walks with natural water pools.
Tip: Supplies are adequate on the island but there are no cash machines, so make sure you take money out when you are in Rio de Janeiro, or there are a couple of cash machines in Angra dos Reis.
Black Santa favela party
Only a short (but steep) bus journey from Lapa, Black Santa favela hosts their world-famous parties between once and twice a month. Although this may sound very dangerous to some, there is something demeaning about paying to go on a tour through a poverty-stricken shanty town, and therefore I believe the right way to experience life in the favelas is to join its people and party till the sun comes up. Again, I would encourage people to attend in groups, but I am convinced attendees will be surprised by the light-hearted, positive nature of the cariocas. We could seriously learn a lot from them!
Tip: fill a rucksack with your own drinks as drinks can be expensive, and queues can be long.