Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro was
discovered by Portuguese conquistadors on January 1, 1502. They mistook
the large Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river, thus the name River of January, which
has remained ever since despite the misnomer. The French began scouting out the area in search of brazil wood,
so the Portuguese
decided to establish the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro
on March 1, 1565, to resist French occupation.
wood was valued for its red dye*
The country's first capital city of Salvador da Bahia
was transferred to Rio in 1763. In 1808, Napoleon's army began the invasion of
Portugal and the King Joao VI decided to move the monarchy to the 'Marvelous
City', Rio de Janeiro. The city had its colonial status elevated to the United
Kingdom of Portugal at that time. Brazil's independence from Portugal anointed
Rio de Janeiro as the official capital of Brazil in 1822, allowing Rio to grow
to one of the world's largest cities by 1891 with 500,000 inhabitants. This
brought in huge growth, with mountains removed, waterfront reclaimed and
skyscrapers being built. One can easily understand the need to expand after
seeing the distinctly abrupt scenery of Rio de Janeiro, sandwiched between steep
escarpments of mountain and sea.
In 1960, the world's premier planned city of Brasilia formally opened up in the
interior of the country, thus officially dethroning Rio de Janeiro as the
national capital of Brazil. Rio continues today to be the cultural and emotional
capital in many aspects of Brazilian culture. Lots of the federal politicians
scurry back for weekends.
Where do you start to describe a city with such great natural beauty? Lush
tropical mountains meet a crystal green sea and golden sand beaches line the
coast, making it difficult to know where to begin.
tropical mountains divide
Rio de Janeiro
into distinct areas. There is a significant difference between the zones, with
all the majority of the good stuff in the southern and newer western zone. This
should become quite apparent to you as you arrive in
Airport on Governador island, 30 km from downtown in the industrial northern
zone. The route to the beaches in the zona sul is made through a series
of tunnels that have been blasted through the solid crystalline Serra do Mar.
Upon leaving the airport, you will immediately see the mouth of the Bay of
Guanabara on your left side. It won't be till you get through the second tunnel
that you will enter the zona sul and the Lagoa de Freitos area, with the
towering statue of Christ the Redeemer above, and minutes from Ipanema and
Copacabana beaches. Your mood will change instantly from ho-hum to one of 'Wow,
I can't believe the spectacular beauty of this place'
Copacabana possesses the majority of the hotels, with the better ones on the
beach walk, Avenida Atlantica, with it's famous mosaic black and white stones.
Ipanema beach is a neighbor to Copacabana beach, and one that makes a definite Brazilian
fashion statement. Ipanema beach also has a stunning view of the prominent rock
formations known as Dois Irmaos (two brothers) that look like torpedoes, and
Pedra de Gavea which stands alone with its pronounced flat top. This is the
neighbor rock to Pedra Bonita where the hang gliders launch their wings, landing
on Praia Pepino in Sao Conrado, home of the prestigious Sheraton Rio
Resort and Golf Club. The famous Copacabana Palace has entertained well known
celebrities and dignitaries since its beginning in 1923. Barra da Tijuca, in the
western part of the city, has many luxurious properties to accommodate guests,
as well as excellent restaurants and shopping.
There is so many attractions and things to do in Rio de Janeiro that you can
easily spend your entire three week vacation here alone and never feel as if you
missed anything. The beaches would be on the top of the list with excursions to
both with stunning views of the city. Corcovado is where the famous statue of
Christ Redeemer stands, further up the ridge from
which drops off into the sea at the end of the line, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay.
This is where you will find the cable cars which take you to the top of the two
peaks. It's hard to imagine a more stunning setting. If you go up on a Friday
afternoon, you will be treated to a free samba show. Anytime is a good time to
visit with morning light ideal. If you like to hike, you will find some nice
trails below the first hill. To find these trails, take the steps down below the
second lift, which takes you to the top peak. The second hill is routinely
scaled by those satisfying their adrenalin fetish.
Corcovado is also better visited in the early morning hours. Due to its
steepness and height, the peak lies at the cloud line and tends to be covered
later in the afternoon. Even shrouded in clouds it's a mystical experience. The
steady breeze embraces you as the sky dances and swirls about, inspiring an
You can take a cab to and from Copacabana for about $30 while the cabbie waits.
Request that he pass by the Vista Dona Marta, which has one of the best
views of Rio. It sits alongside the heliport which operates those non-stop runs
between the two famous landmarks, under a $100 for a 15 minute flight.
option is get to the statue of Christ is to take the tram.
Estrada de Ferro do Corcovado was originally built in 1882 by Emperor Dom Pedro
II. This trip winds its way through the tropical Tijuca jungle. To get there,
you have to take a cab to Rua Cosmo Velho 513. >>www.corcovado.com.br
Downtown Rio - O
The downtown area of Rio is very nice and has some historic buildings that are
well worth the visit. Taxis are moderately priced considering the high cost of
petroleum in Brazil. The Metrô subway system is quite modern and reasonably easy
to use. To get to the downtown area, you have to get on the first or second stops of
Cantagalo and Siqueira Campos in Copacabana. This is the first line to and from the
zona sul. You then can get off at Cinelandia to see the Teatro Municipal and
the Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil - Brazil National Library. Here's a
link to the Metrô >>www.metrorio.com.br
The Rio de
Janeiro Botanical Gardens
O Jardim Botanico de Rio de Janeiro is conveniently located near Copacabana and
Ipanema and is an excellent option to get away from the hustle and bustle of the
big city. It's hard to even imagine that you haven't been transported to a
tropical jungle. And that just happens to be the case, as Tijuca forest
is tropical and actually the largest urban park of any city in the world.(32 sq.
miles) The gardens (8000 acres) reside in the Floresta da Tijuca and were founded on
June 13, 1808 by Dom João VI, who was Prince Regent of the Kingdom of Brazil
and Portugal at the time. The tropical gardens are well-stocked and labeled with
a large variety of plants, including a very nice orchid house, a Victoria Amazonica
lily pond and a spice garden. The gigantic royal palms that line the pathways
will give you a feeling of the true soul of Rio.
Rio de Janeiro
on the Town
Rio is never short on night life, but other than the a few mainstay bar and
clubs, the majority come and go through the trend cycle fairly quickly. Pick up
the Friday's weekly entertainment guide. One infamous local party area is
Lapa, where you will find the Carioca da Gema, an old house converted into a
intimate and animated bar with live Brazilian music. >>-www.barcariocadagema.com.br
suggestion is Barra da Tijuca, a ritzy and modern suburb on the west end of the
city, where you will find a nice variety of higher-end clubs, restaurants and
shopping. The malls here are enormous and luxurious. Barra as it's
commonly known, has beautiful scenery as well, with lakes on one side and beach
on the other. The beach is 11 miles long and has some good waves for surfing.
The only downside of Barra is that it's a bit far from the hotel districts of
Copacabana and Ipanema. It will cost about $30 for round trip cab fare.
Avoid the rush hour traffic.
Mountain Living - Teresópolis and Petrópolis
Within a couple hours drive from Rio, you can arrive at the mountain cities of
Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Novo Friburgo, in the Serra das Órgãos mountain range. You will
instantly begin to fill the relief of leaving the hot and hectic metropolis on
initial ascent, about an hour out of Rio. Within an hour you will arrive in
Petrópolis, the Imperial City of Brazil. This was due to the fact that the city
was named after Brazil's first emperor Pedro I, after he declared independence
of Brazil from Portugal. He visited the area in 1830 and liked the climate so
much that he had his summer residence built here. The summer in Rio heats up to
about 100F/40C with extreme humidity. If you have experienced it first-hand,
you will understand why many wealthy families in Rio have a summer home here as
well. The main attraction is the climate and the Imperial Palace, as well as
some colonial churches built by Brazil's royalty. There are some excellent
trails in the area for those interested in hiking in the great outdoors.
question is, where is the end to all the wonder associated with this tropical
jewel, Rio de Janeiro?
The fact is, Mother Earth took her sweet time when she sat down to create Rio de Janeiro.
Cariocas (Rio natives) are extremely blessed with an abundance of natural
beauty. The list could inevitably cause this text to run well off the page, and
there should be some things left for you to discover on your own.
With that thought in mind, know that
Rio de Janeiro
is waiting on your beckoned call.
So, what are you waiting for?
Pack your bags
so that you can experience one of the beautiful cosmopolitan cites in the world.