Rio de Janeiro is a city of light and dark, but during Carnival the two blend into one swirling kaleidoscope of color and music. The city’s Samba Schools take to the streets, battling for supremacy in a thunderous combat of dance and percussion. You can fix yourself among the crowds attending the main parade, Sambadrome, or adventure off into one of Rio’s neighbourhoods, most of which host their own wildly inventive Carnival celebrations.
Beyond the Carnival, Rio is a spectacularly located city and travelers can explore its crescent beaches, jagged mountains, and the flourishing forests that seem on the verge of pouring down into the town and consuming the streets themselves. It contains a couple of the world’s most famous urban beaches, Copacabana and Ipanema, and there are a diversity of labyrinthine districts to explore. Looming over it all is the wide-armed Christ the Redeemer, seemingly poised to dive into the swarming mass of people below and relieve them of their hidden woes.
When visiting Rio it’s important to remember that extremes of inequality remain integral to the city’s daily life. Consequently, serious crime is an everyday occurrence in some districts, which you’ll probably want to avoid.
Photo by TerryGeorge/Flickr.
Carnival is celebrated in many countries around the world but nowhere are the festivities as famed and feverous as in Rio. For four heady days, the city’s streets cease their commercial roundabout and stream with colorful costumes, marvellous parades and pounding music. Inhibitions are shed as drinking and dancing take precedence over all other activities. The roots of the festival are as diverse as its contemporary contents, with one foot planted in the music and traditions of enslaved Africans and the other in Catholicism’s "Fat Tuesday" indulgence preceding the abstinent month of Lent.
Rising from the canopy of Tijuca Forest and towering over the city below, Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue in the world. It has watched over Rio’s sprawling multifaceted world – its countless joys, its endemic violence, its immense inequalities – since construction was completed in 1931. The figure’s open arms resemble the shape of the Cross, but his face is noticeably less redolent of agony than most Catholic images of Christ.
A crescent of golden sand and sparkling blue water framed by mountains spread with lush green forests – a glance is enough to understand why Copacabana is a Mecca for the world’s beach-lovers. Its 2.2 miles of sand ensure that, despite its immense popularity, there is still sufficient space for bustling bars, volleyball courts, football pitches, unofficial stalls, traveling vendors, and countless supine bodies.
Photo via their official FB page.
Situated on the shoreline of trendy Ipanema Beach, Zazá Bistro’s flamboyant design blends with both its locale and its colorfully attired clientele. It cuisine, too, is stylishly presented, an inventive mix of meaty main dishes and creamy desserts. And it’s hard to resist ordering one of the terrific cocktails, even if you’ve just dropped in for lunch.
Copacabana Palace is the grand dame of Rio accommodation, a billowing art deco landmark that has sat on the Copacabana seafront since 1923. It was designed in a Mediterranean style by a French architect, and has seen several glamorous generations pass through its doors. Today it contains an array of exquisite and state-of-the-art luxuries, including a gorgeous bar-encircled pool.