5 days in Rio

Jodie Love on 07 August 2019
Brazil has always been high on my list of countries to explore so I always imagined going there for a few weeks to pack in everything from the Amazon to Iguassu Falls. So, when I found some incredibly reasonable flights to head to Rio for my partners birthday back in August 2019, I came to realise that Rio was actually the perfect destination for a city / beach break. It might seem like a long way to go for 5 nights but the flight times were perfect, allowing us to make the absolute most of the time we had. Our trip was the ultimate mix of exploring and relaxation and I would highly recommend Rio both as an add on to a South America trip or as a standalone city / beach break.

We travelled out from London on a direct flight with British Airways which got us to Rio in the early evening. Our hotel was right on Copacabana beach so there was a huge selection of bars and restaurants right on our doorstep. On our first evening we found a beautiful restaurant right on the beach and enjoyed a delicious meal and cocktails with a view, the perfect start to our mini break.

Waking up on our first morning we really got to appreciate the views of Copacabana Beach from our room. There was no time for us to hang around this morning though as we had thrown ourselves right in at the deep end and booked a tandem hang-gliding experience over Rio. After a quick breakfast we were collected from the hotel and whisked up to the top of Tijuca National Park which is at an altitude of 517m. The view from the top was incredible but the beach we were going to land on seemed forever away, so the nerves really started to kick in. No backing out though, so before we knew it we were strapped to our guide and running off the edge of the take off ramp. It really was an amazing experience! I soon forgot how far from the ground I was and started to really appreciate the views over Ipanema, Copacabana, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado and the city of Niteroi on the other side of the Guanabara Bay. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to do something a bit different. The views were truly stunning and being able to land right on the beach directly in front of a beach bar was the perfect way to top off the experience and celebrate with a cold lager.

Day two was much more relaxed with a full morning spent between our hotel pool and Copacabana beach. There are lots of vendors on the beach offering up the most incredible grilled halloumi and cold beers so there was no danger of us going hungry or thirsty. This meant we could just sit back and watch the world go by all morning - I don't think there's a better spot in the world for people watching than Copacabana beach. In the afternoon we decided to hire electric scooters and zip down the promenade to the adjacent beach neighbourhood of Ipanema. Ipanema beach is a slightly quieter and more up-market version of Copacabana beach with lots of cocktail bars, fancy restaurants and boutique shops to keep you entertained. After dipping in and out of the cute boutique shops for the afternoon we chose a traditional Brazilian barbeque restaurant for our evening meal which was delicious, and then caught an Uber back to our hotel.

On day three we had booked ourselves an action packed tour of Rio which included Tijuca National Park for some amazing panoramic views over the city, the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, Santa Teresa which is a traditional old neighbourhood in Rio and still home to much of it’s original architecture, Escadaria Selaron (the colourful Lapa steps), before being dropped off at Sugarloaf Mountain just in time to get to the top before sunset. Rio is huge with lots on offer so the tour was the perfect way to see all the main highlights in one day. The stops were long enough to appreciate your surroundings and take plenty of pictures and we didn’t feel like we were being rushed from place to place. Ending the day at the top of Sugarloaf was a particular highlight as the sunset was incredible and it was amazing to see the city light up at night. There were also plenty of food and drink options once at the top so it was the perfect place to spend the evening.

On day four we decided to walk from our hotel to Botafogo. We wanted to see the football stadium which was en route as well as visit the beach, although it’s not the best beach in Rio it does boast amazing views of Sugarloaf Mountain. We also discovered there were plenty of shopping opportunities on the way which was ideal for picking up souvenirs and countless pairs of Haviana flip flops! The walk wasn’t as pleasant as we expected as most of it was along a highway which we couldn’t seem to get away from. We also had to cross the highway or locate the subway crossing to access the beach which was a bit of a pain and although there were plenty of street signs the directions were confusing. In the evening we really wanted to experience a traditional Samba bar with live music and dancing. We were recommended Rio Scenarium which was a huge multilevel bar offering food, drinks, live music and dancing. We arrived early and we quickly made friends with one of the waiters who offered to move us to one of the front row tables, these tables are usually reserved for locals and bookings made well in advance so we felt very lucky. We had a great night, the music was incredible and it was the perfect mix of tourists and locals giving it a really authentic feel. We even had a go at Samba dancing ourselves assisted by some lovely locals! It wasn’t a cheap night and we definitely had more caipirinhas than we should have but it was definitely one of my favourite experiences in Rio.

Our final day was departure day but because our flight wasn’t until later in the evening we still had almost a full day to enjoy. We spent the day on Copacabana beach enjoying our last few hours in beautiful Rio with the sun on our faces, the songs of the beach vendors in our ears and the taste of kiosk caipirinhas on our lips. I was so glad we’d made the decision to travel to Rio, it was well worth the longer flight and we had the most amazing 5 days here. Although we do feel like we’ve seen the best of Rio and we didn’t miss out on anything we would still come back again for another visit if we got the chance. If Rio is high on your must visit list feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to tell you more about my experience and help you arrange your own bespoke itinerary for Brazil.