Travel

Succumb to the samba

Brazil’s famous Copacabana Beach is a magnet.
Brazil’s famous Copacabana Beach is a magnet. Contributed

DOES the thought of Brazil itself beat the act of kicking a ball into a net hands down? If so, don't be alarmed.

You've got good reason to be on this side of the stadium.

With awe-inspiring samba dance troops, bohemian Lapa district street parties, and some of the world's best churrasco-style steak houses, travel.com.au executive general manager Helen Demetriou assures travellers that Rio de Janeiro offers endless possibilities for both football fans and the unenthused alike.

"Enquiries are flooding in from Aussies interested in using the 2014 World Cup as a timely reason to visit this vibrant South American destination," she said.

"Most people are planning to explore beyond the football field, expanding their itinerary to include a rich mix of all Brazil has to offer.

"Rio de Janeiro will be bursting with life so there will be plenty to keep all types of travellers entertained during the Cup."

If you're a traveller with a passion for the unusual, vibrant and the exotic, here are travel.com.au's top 10 reasons visiting Rio in 2014, other than for the love of football.

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1. Copacabana beach: Endless white sand stands out against the backdrop of Rio's stunning Sugarloaf Mountain.

Traditional Brazilian bikinis parade up and down the beach and diehard beach volleyball players bring the beach to life.

If you work up a thirst, visit the incidental beachside mojito stall. The famous Copacabana beach is the embodiment of the vibrant Brazilian lifestyle.

 

2. Corcovado and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer): This awe-inspiring statue of Jesus Christ atop Corcovado Mountain boasts the most spectacular view of the city.

Once you've reached the top of this 710m tall granite peak by the Corcovado Rack Railway, it's then another 223 steps to the statue base - but it's well worth it! It's a humbling experience to look up at the grand figure spanning almost 30m from fingertip to fingertip.

An awe-inspiring statue of Jesus Christ is perched atop of Corcovado Mountain in Rio.
An awe-inspiring statue of Jesus Christ is perched atop of Corcovado Mountain in Rio.

3. Parque Nacional da Tijuca: If you find yourself wanting to escape the urban chaos that is Rio, slip away to the Parque Nacional; approximately 3200 hectares of protected urban reserve - the world's largest rainforest located inside a metropolis.

Hiking fanatics are encouraged to leave time to climb Rio's highest mountain, Pico da Tijuca. The views of Taunay Waterfall and Guanabara Bay are breathtaking.

 

4. A Lapa street party: Festivities erupt every Friday night in Lapa, a colourful neighbourhood in the old part of Rio de Janeiro.

With the dancing, music and street stalls going crazy for no other reason than it's Friday, one can only imagine what this neighbourhood will be like during the World Cup. Keep your wits about you and party like only the Brazilians can!

 

5. The Ipanema Hippie Fair (Feira Hipe): The Ipanema Hippie Fair has been held every Sunday from 9am - 5pm, no matter what the weather, since the 1960s.

From its humble beginnings, it has now emerged into a major arts and crafts market. It still remains the best place in Rio to pick up high quality souvenirs at reasonable prices. Get there early to avoid the crowds.

 

6. Experience churrascaria: The mere thought of Brazilian steak often gets the mouth watering and if you haven't yet enjoyed the exquisite delights of a Brazilian Churrascaria, you haven't quite lived.

These Brazilian steakhouses are home to waiters who circle the room with large skewers of superbly cooked meat. Mouth watering yet? We recommend Porcão or Plataforma.

 

7. Cable car at Santa Teresa: Deemed one of the most iconic Rio experiences, this historic tram journey begins in the Lapa district and will take you up to the artsy hilltop haven that is Santa Teresa; a lure for intellectuals and artists at large.

This bondinho or "little train" is affordable, accessible, and a great way to see one of Rio's most famous districts.

 

8. Learn to samba: The African-Brazilian dance of samba has become synonymous with the Brazilians, so a trip to Rio would not be complete without shaking your bootie to the beats and rhythms that pulse through the city.

Head along to one of many samba schools dotted around and then follow the music as you make your way to one of the local clubs. It doesn't matter if you know the steps or not, just let the music take over and you'll have a ball.

There are many great reasons to visit Brazil.
There are many great reasons to visit Brazil.

9. Sao Bento Monastery: Completed in 1641, this monastery stands as one of the most beautiful in all of Rio.

An oasis within the city, the baroque architecture and intricate gold interior is sure to leave you inspired.

Visit on a Sunday morning to hear the priests sing their famous Gregorian chant.

 

10. Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil: This free, beautifully presented gallery showcases ancient, modern and local masterpieces all within an impressive art deco-style building.

Check out the upcoming exhibition calendar as there are always fascinating new displays to be enjoyed.

For those into Brazilian music and jazz, make sure you get all the way up to level six to indulge in a wide array of recordings from the '80s through to the present day.

Topics:  brazil, rio, travel


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