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Rio de Janeiro. Brazils 2nd biggest city with sightseeing, restaurantss and accomodation.
Sadly, most people also know Rio for its violence and crime. The drug lords and the slums, or favelas, are the tip of very old social problems. The favelas are areas of poor-quality housing, slums usually located on the city's many mountain slopes, juxtaposed with middle-class neighborhoods. The South Zone holds most of Rio's landmarks and world-famous beaches, in an area of only 43.87 square km (17 mi²). Many of them are within walking distance of each other (for instance, the Sugar Loaf lies about 8 km/5 mi from Copacabana beach). Most hotels and hostels are located in this part of the city, which is compressed between the Tijuca Range (Maciço da Tijuca) and the sea. There are important places in other regions as well, such as Maracanã stadium in the North Zone and the many fascinating buildings in the Centre.
Rio is one of the country's major transportation hubs, second only to São Paulo.
What to see
Waves in Rio vary from tiny and calm in the Guanabara bay beaches (Paquetá, Ramos, Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca) to high, surf-ideal waves in Recreio. In Leme, Copacabana, Arpoador, Ipanema, and Leblon, there's a popular way of "riding" the waves called pegar jacaré (pe-GAHR zha-kah-REH; literally, "to grab an alligator"). You wait for the wave to come behind you then swim on top of it until it crumbles next to the sand.
Commerce is common in Rio's beaches, with thousands of walking vendors selling everything from sun glasses or bikinis to fried shrimp to cooling beverages (try mate com limão, a local ice tea mixed with lemonade, or suco de laranja com cenoura, orange and carrot juice). For food, there is also empada (baked flour pastry filled with meat or cheese), sanduíche natural (cool sandwich with vegetables and mayo) and middle eastern food (Kibbehs and pastries). Vendors typically shout out loud what they're selling, but they won't usually bother you unless you call them. All along the beaches there are also permanent vendors who will sell you a beer and also rent you a beach chair and an umbrella for a few Reais.
Pedro II ordered the construction of the railroad to Corcovado and, in 1885, a steam train brought the first visitors up the steep mountainside. Some 50 years later, the elegant art deco statue of Cristo Redentor was assembled on site and opened on October 12, 1931. Ever since, Cristo Redentor on top of Corcovado hill is Rios ultimate symbol, receiving over one million visitors a year.
Before going, check the weather, because sometimes the clouds envelop the peak, some days throughout the day and more often in the late afternoon. On the other hand, afternoons usually have less haze and no backlight when taking pictures in the direction of Pão de Açúcar. At dusk, enjoy watching as the city lights come on and the statue is bathed in golden lights. When there are low clouds, consider going to the Dona Marta lookout by taxi. At 340m the view is not bad either and there are no crowds.
The most popular way of reaching the top is the funicular train, ascending 20 minutes long through lush vegetation. It operates 365d/a 08h00 - 19h00 every 30 minutes. A round trip ticket is R$51 (students from Brazil and the elderly pay 50% but are usually requested to prove showing some ID or document). You can purchase tickets at numerous lotto kiosks and post offices throughout the city or online with the option (R$5) to reserve a seat for any time between 09h00 and 18h00. The queue for the train, in Cosme Velho, can get rather long. Try going when the morning coach parties have already passed through (and many tourists are having their lunch) or in the afternoon.
If you opt for a taxi to go atop, expect to pay R$20 round-trip to enter the park, then another R$18 or so for the shuttle up to the monument. Along the way, views onto the city are better than from the funicular.
Pão de Açúcar
The huge vaulted twin peaks of Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar are a natural monument, made mostly of 600 million years old granite. The massif is endowed with lush vegetation, a remnant of the forest that once covered all of the bay area. The lucky ones can see toucans, parrots, monkeys and butterflies flitting through the trees.
Access is by means of an aerial cable car offering magnificent views. Built in 1912, the so-called Bondinho was one of the first cable cars of this type in the world. The Bondinho is used by 2000 people every day and has two sections: the first going to Morro da Urca (220 m high), the second atop Sugar Loaf (396 m). On top, there is well-developed infrastructure like cafes, restaurants, shops, a cinema and even a helipad.
Samba School parade at the Sambodromo during Carnival
Still the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnaval. This highly-advertised party lasts for almost two weeks and it is well known for the escolas de samba (samba schools) that parade in Centro, on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo (Sambadrome). During Carnaval, Rio has much more to offer though, with the blocos de rua, that parade on the streets. There are now hundreds of these street "samba blocks", that parade almost in every neighborhood, especially in Centro and the South Zone, gathering thousands of people. Some are very famous, and there are few cariocas that have not heard of "Carmelitas", "Suvaco de Cristo", "Escravos da Mauá" or "Simpatia É Quase Amor".
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