Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Rio de Janeiro is a place of superlatives, presenting her visitors with a scintillating mix of beach culture, big city sophistication and seemingly endless joie de vivre. Of course, to know Rio, you’ll have to walk, jog or just hang out with the Cariocas (citizens of Rio) along the beaches they love. For two wide-angle views of this cidade marvilhosa, head uphill by cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain and take a tram up to the summit of Corcovado, crowned by the Christ the Redeemer statue. Also high on the hill—accessed by a tram called Bonde—is Rio’s artsy Santa Teresa, a picturesque hilltop neighborhood filled with cafes and restaurants, craft boutiques and galleries and home to a hotel with a commanding view, the boutique and chic Hotel Santa Teresa. Take time to have a good look at Rio at ground level and take a walk in the superb Botanical Gardens, look into Rio’s churches—from the 17th century Sao Bento Monastery to the 20th century Metropolitan Cathedral—and visit the Royal Palace downtown with a break for coffee and pastries at the art deco Confeitaria Colombo. While not known for museums, Rio has many of interest, such as the Belas Artes, the Cultural Center of the Banco Central, Edson Carneiro Folklore Museum and the funky Carmen Miranda Museum. On Saturdays, you’ll want to shop for gemstones and resort wear, and on Sundays hunt for bargains at the Hippie Fair. When the sun goes down, it’s time to step out like a native into an all-you-can-eat churrascaria for a feast of spit-grilled meats (Marius on Leme Beach is hard to beat), then head for a Las Vegas-style, magnificently costumed samba show (Plataforma’s a good pick) or dance the night away yourself at Rio Scenarium in the Lapa district. And from September right up to Carnival time, step out on a Saturday evening to watch a samba school rehearsal for this Mardi Gras event: in 2012, Feb. 17-21.

Facts

  • Best time to go:
    Summer in Brazil, December through March, is hot; winter months, June through September, are mild to cool and cooler, depending on latitude and altitude; in Amazonia, the dry season lasts June to December
  • Fun fact:
    Sure the samba (said to derive from the African slave dance called umbigada) was born in Brazil, but so were other undulating dance rhythms: lambada, ferro and bossa nova
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta to Rio de Janeiro
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport, valid for six months beyond Brazil visit, and a tourist reciprocity visa, obtained in the U.S.; visa cost is $140, valid for 10 years; for Canadians, cost is $72
  • Currency:
    Brazilian real
  • Must-try local food: 
    Feijoada, the national dish and traditionally served on Saturday, is a black bean stew, simmered for hours with meats such as sausage, beef and pork, served with rice, farofa (manioc flour) orange slices, and stir-fried cabbage
  • Best buys:
    Brazilian gem stones, leather goods, wood carvings, sports clothes and shoes
    Information please: Brazilian Ministry of Tourism—brasiltour.com