Rio's 'Wonder', Cristo Redentor, known in English as Christ the Redeemer. Original photo by Artyominc
Built in 1931, Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It's certainly a stunning statue and amazing panoramic location that makes it a tourist must-see, but we have some trouble in thinking of Cristo Redentor in the same category as the Great Pyramid of Giza or India's Taj Mahal. On the same planet but not the same ball park!
The platform beneath the statue is quite small, gets very congested and can be quite dirty. Go early to beat the crowds but watch out for cloud cover that can easily spoil the views around and even of the Christ.
Rio's justly famous Copacabana beach.
Brazilian beaches tend towards long, wide stretches of soft white sand, and those along Rio's coast also offer excellent facilities, free beach showers, efficient pay toilets, lifeguards and police patrols.
Water cleanliness is probably the biggest issue in this highly populated area. The water in enclosed bays like Botafogo is nowhere near international Blue Flag standard. Lovely beaches, forget the swimming. Better are the so-called oceanic beaches that are naturally cleansed by the Atlantic, but even then we have heard alarming news from supposedly high-flying oceanic beaches such as Leblon.
Prainha Beach is a charming, isolated spot protected by cliffs and one of the best surfing spots in Rio. Get there by car or by the orange 'surf bus' that passes through Copacabana and Ipanema. Otherwise try the oceanic beaches at Barra da Tijuca and Recreio past Leblon.
Copacabana promenade, looking west towards Ipanema.
The wide promenade stretches along the whole length of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches, with kiosks selling food and drinks on the way. One of Rio's star attractions is definitely strolling the beach or prom with regular stops for coconut milk or beer.
Fresh water showers are freely available at intervals along the beaches. Photo by Adam Jones
Other than Abricó, the nudist beach, Brazilians don't do topless. Thongs and string bikinis are fine but men/boys, do keep your eyes under control.
Showers are free but there are other products for hire such as sun loungers and parasols or for sale by masses of wandering vendors selling cold dinks, snacks, sunglasses and much more.
Ipanema beach with the little Rasa island on the left. Photo by Eduardo P
Ipanema is as wide, white and soft as Copacabana but shorter and generally a more affluent area. It's west of Copacabana.
There are mixed opinions on Rio's three key beaches, the hub of life here. Leblon is popular with more adventurous tourists as it's populated more by locals and so great for people watching, lazing in not too crowded space, with magnificent sunsets and terrific bars, restaurants and shops nearby.
The notorious favela slum area in the hills above Rio. Photo by Doug88888
Pedra da Gávea (Topsail Rock) is a top attraction for very fit hikers. It's a massive granite monolith 840m high just behind Rio's coast that kind of looks like a huge face. Partly strenuous hike, partly not-too-hairy rock climbing, this ascent will take between two and four hours depending on fitness. Needless to say, the vista from the top is incredible. Many tourists sign up with a local guide/tour company to lead the trek. To be honest you can also drive practically all the way, but we don't like to encourage cissies.
Hang gliders also take off from a ramp up there, flying tandem if you care to pay for a cruise waaaay above Rio's skyscrapers. They land, perfectly comfortably, on Leblon beach. That was definitely the best glide the bugcrew has ever experienced. And we hate heights. Smooth and cool.
Classic, high quality graffiti on a Rio back street, 'The Hand of God'. Looks like a certain Argentinian footballer lying down there with the eternal bonfire licking around him?! Photo by Mario Dourado
Good night Rio!