Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
August 16, 2014 – August 22, 2014
After travel through South America for 140 days we finally found ourselves at our last stop in South America, sunny Rio de Janeiro! Rio, the party and beach capital of South America, has tons of great beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, striking mountains like Sugar Loaf and of course the iconic Christ Redeemer statue.
We arrived early in the morning, too early to check in to our hostel but they agreed to hold our bags while we went out to explore the city. Our first stop, the beach!
Just off the beaches were small marketplaces selling fresh produce, meat and seafood, and just off Ipanema beach there was the weekly hippie market, a collection of shops selling t-shirts, handicrafts and other souvenirs.
Free Walking Tour
We took the free walking tour in the central district downtown. We take free walking tours whenever we can, they rarely disappoint!
The free walking tour started with the history of Rio, made a loop of the city seeing sights along the way.
After spending a few days in our hostel close to the central district we decided to move south near Leme Beach, which is really just one end of Copacabana Beach. One of the cheaper and possibly more interesting options than staying in a hotel, would be to stay in a favela. Rio’s favelas are hillside communities built one atop the other up the steep hills and can be seen all over the city. Some are notorious for high crime and are often run by gangs of drug dealers. They do however offer great views from their heights on the mountains, so of course we decided to stay in one!
We stayed in the Chapeu Mangueira favela which is just above the Leme beach neighborhood, and was actually a ‘pacified’ favela, and safe for tourists.
Christ the Redeemer
You can’t go the Rio without checking out the Christ the Redeemer statue. The easiest way is to take a van up to the top, the vans leave from the north end of Copacabana beach and the park outside of the Largo do Machado metro stop. Check the weather before heading up as it can often be covered in clouds and have no view at all. From our limited time in Rio, the mornings seemed to be better, as the clouds seemed to roll in around noon.
Having not yet discovered the nature of clouds in Rio in August we headed up the mountain around noon. Only to discover that clouds had rolled in and almost completely obscured the view! It was also quite cold, bring a jacket! T-shirts might be fine in the city or on the beach but not on the top of the mountain.
Statue Facts: The Christ Redeemer statue is 98 feet tall, its arms stretch 92 feet wide. It weighs 635 tons and sits atop a peak at 2,300 feet above the city. It is also struck by lightning occasionally and must be repaired and cleaned, as was the case when we arrived. Notice the scaffolding next to the statue.
There is one other iconic peak in Rio, besides the one on which Christ Redeemer sits, and that is Sugar Loaf. The tall conical remnant of a volcano which juts straight up above the city. Learning nothing from our cloud experience at Christ Redeemer we once again headed out around noon.
The cable car system heading up to the top of Sugar Loaf, first built in 1912, actually goes up two mountains, stair stepping its way to the 1,299 foot summit of Sugar Loaf.
Just as we were about to head up the second cable car to the summit of Sugar Loaf the clouds came rolling in, and stayed for the entire time we were there. The clouds were thicker than atop Christ Redeemer and we got only a few good views through the gaps in the clouds.
Coming down from Sugar Loaf to the lower half way point of the cable car we could see the cloud problem we were dealing with. Clouds were forming around, and only around, Sugar Loaf mountain. Go early!
The clouds didn’t stay forever, they waited patiently for us to go all the way down to the ground and exit the cable car building and then they dissipated, leaving the summit completely free of clouds for at least 15 minutes.
Thankfully we came home to a beautiful sunset view from our favela hostel rooftop, free of clouds.
Niteroi – The city across the bay
On our final day in Rio de Janeiro, before heading to the airport for our night flight to Sweden, we made a quick morning trip to the nearby Leme beach. Then we took the ferry across the bay to the city of Niteroi.
We visited the contemporary art museum or MAC for short (in Portuguese). A round space ship like building designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, which had great views of the water and Rio across the bay.
Inside can be found one of the worst collections of modern art we had ever seen, but few were actually looking at the art, as the great views out the windows and interesting building itself are the reason to go.
After returning to Rio on the ferry and grabbing some dinner at a restaurant downtown, we got our stuff and headed to the airport for our long flight to Sweden. Goodbye South America!