The image of extravagantly-dressed dancers gyrating their way through the streets is synonymous with Rio, when the entire city comes to life for three days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The official parade culminates in a competition at the specially constructed 30,000-seater Sambódromo, but there are plenty of smaller parades and parties going on across the city.
Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer statue
The icon of Rio, this huge statue towers over the city, arms spread as though embracing it in all its chaotic, exuberant splendour. The view from the top of Corcorvado is a postcard-perfect spectacle of the city strung along sandy bays backed with deep green forests. You can catch a taxi to the top, but the cog railway is much more fun which leaves every 30 mins from the station on Rua Cosme Velho. Tickets can be purchased online at Trem do Corocovado website for $68 in High Season, $56 in Low Season – please note weekends are considered High Season throughout the year.
If ever a strip of sand and surf summed up a nation, it’s Copacabana. Here you’ll find Brazilian life in glorious technicolour, from bronzed bods in microscopic swimsuits to kids from the favelas playing football on the sand. Bars and restaurants overlooking the beach serve up mean caipirinhas. An essential stop on any visit, but best avoided after nightfall.
One of a constellation of classic beaches, Ipanema is the home of the well-heeled, where the beautiful people gather to soak up the sun in between dips in the Atlantic. The adjacent beach at Leblon is equally good.
Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
The icon of Rio, after the statue of Christ the Redeemer, this chunk of rock soars out of Guanabara Bay, offering magical views of the city from the top. Catch the cable car or – if you’re feeling adventurous – various companies offer climbing trips to the top. The views are especially good at sunset. The cable car runs between 8am – 9pm, tickets are $78 Adult.
Parque Nacional da Tijuca
It seems unbelievable that this wonderful expanse of tropical rainforest should be almost in the middle of a city of more than 6 million. And yet this 120km2 park boasts mountains, waterfalls and a good network of trails. A great escape from the bustle of the city.
This bohemian enclave in the heights overlooking Rio can seem like a world apart. Laced with colonial mansions, studios and galleries, half of the fun of visiting Santa Teresa is the ride in battered old open-sided trams that run from the Cathedral.
West of Rio, the Costa Verde is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country. Here, pretty colonial towns and small fishing villages are dotted along a string of forested ridges, in turn giving way to white sandy beaches and clusters of islands.