Welcome to Rio, the most mesmerizing city in South America. The colorful personality of the beach city of Rio attracts tourists from all over the globe. While the Rio Carnival is the focus of attention for five days before the season of Lent, the city has plenty to offer the discerning traveler. From the Sugar Loaf Mountain to the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado and the infamous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, there is much to see and do in Rio before and after the carnival. Many travel operators offer a variety of tours in Rio with the opportunity to explore the city by helicopter or its warm and inviting waters by boat.
On the top of the list of must-sees among tours in Rio is a trip to Sugar Loaf Mountain. The mountain is one of Rio’s most famous tourist attractions that offer a magnificent view of the city and Guanbara Bay. Cable cars take you to the top of Sugar Loaf in two stages. The first leg runs from the base at Praia Vermelha to Morro de Açúcar at a height of 220 meters above sea level. This stop-over is well equipped with shops, restaurants, and an amphitheatre. The next leg takes you to the top of Sugar Loaf to experience breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Tijuca National Park, and the beach city. A journey by cable car allows you to enjoy a 360 degree view of the surroundings. While the cable cars take you up Sugar Loaf in a few minutes, there are trails and rock climbing options for the adventurous. A late afternoon visit is the best time to catch the sun setting over the city.
The second largest Art Deco statue of Christ the Redeemer stands 130 feet tall atop Corcovado Mountain, welcoming people to the city. The statue is among the new Seven Wonders of the World. Located in the Carioca Mountain Range, Corcovado rises 2,329 feet through the Tijuca Forest. A 2.4 mile journey by road will take you to the top of the mountain. Alternatively, you can enjoy a ride on the Corcovado Rack Train that runs from the foot of the mountain to the top in 20 minutes. 220 steps take you to the observation deck of the statue of Christ the Redeemer. If you don’t fancy walking, you can take an elevator to the top. Operators that offer tours in Rio have Corcovado on top of their itinerary.
Much of Brazil’s natural wonders can be attributed to the Tijuca Forest. Tours in Rio always include a trip to this rainforest that is the largest urban forest in the world. The forest covers the mountains that dominate the city. The beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and Barra de Tijuca are nestled between the slopes of the mountains and the waters of Guanabara Bay. A trip to the breathtaking Cascatinha Falls can be taken by train, which stops at Pepino Beach. A large granite picnic table called the Mesa do Imperador or Emperor’s Table is one of the major attractions. There are plenty of trails including one to Pico de Tijuca or Tijuca Peak, the highest peak in Rio at 3,340 feet, which offers the best panoramic views.
The best way to experience life as it is like for thousands of Rio’s residents is to tour its slums or favelas. Tours in Rio include a visit to the largest slum in Latin America, Rocinha Favela, which houses over 150,000 people. The favela introduces you to the other side of Rio with cramped streets filled with roadside vendors selling traditional handicrafts. Many of the people from the slum are gainfully employed under various projects including preparations for the Rio Carnival.
Located at the foot of Corcovado Mountain is Jardim Botanico, a natural paradise with over 7000 plant species from all over the world. Spread over 340 acres, the garden is home to the Imperial Palm planted by the Portuguese in 1842. Jardim Botanico is also a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 140 species including the Toucan, and Dusky-Legged Guano making their nests in the lush green vegetation that is part of the Atlantic Rainforest. The garden is the ideal place to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty in all its splendor. Tours in Rio will take you to the beautiful Japanese Gardens within Jardim Botanico, known for its sculptures and fountains add to its beauty.
Helicopter tours in Rio are the best way to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the diversity of the city. From the magnificent mountain ranges to the Atlantic Ocean and beaches on the other side, a helicopter tour lets you experience Rio in its diversity. Take the high ground for magnificent views of Guanabara Bay, Jardim Botanico, the Tijuca Forest, statute of Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, and Copacabana and Ipanema in all their glory. These sightseeing tours last up to 8 minutes and operate during the day.
There are plenty of places located just outside Rio that are natural paradises and include some of the most exotic islands and beaches, best explored on a schooner ride. The schooners stop at many locations for tourists to enjoy snorkeling and swimming. They are fitted with a glass bottom for those who want a close encounter with marine life without getting wet.
Among the major attractions just outside the city is Petropolis, the former home of the royal family. The imposing Cathedral of St. Peter and the Imperial Museum situated in the home of former emperor Dom Pedo II attract a large number of tourists. On display at the museum are royal artifacts which include a crown with over 600 diamonds and 77 pearls. The Crystal Palace is also located in Petropolis, which was a greenhouse built for the Emperor’s daughter. Itacuruca and its group of 40 islands is a great place to hop across from Rio on a day trip in a beautiful schooner for a close encounter with some incredible marine wildlife. Many tours in Rio include a trip to this tropical paradise nestled in the Bay of Sepetiba.