Rio de Janeiro Attractions, Brazil

cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain, view of Copacobana beach, Brazil

The cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain, one of the most famous of Rio de Janeiro Attractions. Photo by Doug88888.

Copacabana is the beach on the far left side with Ipanema and Leblon beaches beyond. Botafogo beach, near centre in the picture is nice but not good for swimming due to polluted waters.

One of Rio’s best attractions, the cable car up the granite Sugar Loaf offers incredible 360 degree views. Some like it in full sun, like the one pictured, though romantics might go for a sunset ride. Or get the best of both worlds by taking a late afternoon ride and hanging around – not difficult with a panorama like that and a cold beer or a glass of wine (OK, a coffee if you insist! ) to keep you company.

This is a short, easy hike to the top of Morro da Urca (the big bump beside Sugar Loaf), taking about 30 minutes. Since there’s a cable car station there you can get a free ride back after 6pm when it runs free The hike begins at Pista Cláudio Coutinho in Urca.

Many tourists wonder whether it’s worth seeing the view from Corcovado’s Cristo Redentor as well as from Sugar Loaf. It is! They’re both magnificent but offer very different perspectives on this wonderful city. Personally if I had to choose one or the other, I would go for Sugar Loaf.
Remember, there will be queues, perhaps long, so take plenty of water, a hat and a camera and don’t lose your ticket, you need it to come down!

View of Rio de Janeiro from Cristo Redentor on Corcovado Mountain, Brazil

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!
Access to the top of Corcovado is easy via modern, comfortable Cosme Velho train station where visitors can also see displays on the the history of Cristo Redentor. It is possible to drive there but parking is pricey and very congested

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.

Best of Rio de Janeiro attractions, Copacabana beach

Copacabana beach high view looking towards Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de janeiro, Brazil

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.
Bottom line is, if you’re going to swim, stick with the wide-open spaces such as Copacabana and if you come across a floater call it a day!

Prainha Beachis 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.

The wide promenade stretches along the whole length of Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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.
If you’re interested in nude sunbathing you’ve got a long trip ahead of you as the nearest is at Abricó, past Grumari, which is way past Leblon. Public transport would take a couple of hours so take a car or taxi.

Fresh water showers on Copacabana beach, Rio de janeiro, Brazil

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

Ipanema beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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.
Leblon beach is also similar and merges with Ipanema beach to the west. Leblon (short for Le Blonde, a French businessman, and not related to Lebanon), is Rio’s wealthiest district.

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 sand is sugar soft but the sea water is unclean (dark mutterings of untreated sewage) so if you are OK with not swimming just cool off in the beach showers.

Favela slum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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.

Street graffiti, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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

Copacabana beach at night under lights, rooftop view, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Good night Rio!