For our first article, we felt we should highlight how important Rio de Janeiro is to Brazil and the reasons why you should start your trip to Brazil in this very special place.
Rio de Janeiro is for sure a must-see destination for anyone passionate about travelling or discovering new places and cultures. This city is the main gateway to Brazil, and it offers all the infrastructure of a big city and vibrant tropical nature landscapes at the same time. And most importantly, the cariocas, as we call the super open and friendly habitants of Rio, are very proud of their city and culture and won’t miss any chance to share it with you. So, if you’re planning a trip to Eastern South America, Rio might be the best starting point. Brazil is a huge country, with not less than 6 biomes and over 211 million habitants, and one could get confused about the distances between cities and states, and specially with where to start. Rio might be your choice.
Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and covers a total area of 8,514,215 km² (3,287,357 sq mi), which includes 8,456,510 km² (3,265,080 sq mi) of land and 55,455 km² (21,411 sq mi) of water.
The country is in fact so large that it could fit many European countries and still have gaps.
We really think Rio is the best place for first-timers and let us tell you why.
Even though Rio is thought as the main gateway to Brazil nowadays, it has been historically essential for Brazil since the late 17th century, after becoming one of the capitals of Portuguese colonies, land of various native American populations and one of the main gateways of the African Diaspora to the American continent. Rio has even been the capital of a European empire between the years of 1808 and 1821, being the only city outside Europe that was once upon a time the capital of an European empire. Which has made Rio a very diverse city since the beginning with people from all over the world visiting and moving into this city.
So, as you may guess, Brazil’s history and Rio’s history are deeply linked, and if you’re one of those people that enjoy trying to understand a country’s culture, its roots, and history, Rio might be the place for you. That being said, if you’re not really into history, visiting Rio might be your chance to get into it without taking boring lectures. Instead, you can walk through the city, seeing beautiful landscapes and architecture and meeting locals. This time, you won’t be only reading a book or watching a documentary, you will experience it, interact with it, you will go through its local trivia, from folklore to historical sites. And chances are that you will go back telling everyone how great discovering the history from a place can really be.
As important as it is as a city – a metropolis, actually – one of the most special things about Rio is that it does definitely not lack beautiful natural landscapes and it is a very green city. On top of that, it contains some of the oldest rock formations in the world, which allows you to enjoy stunning views from places like the Corcovado, the Sugar Loaf, and many others. If you like practicality and comfort, Rio will take you nice and easily to those places. If you like challenges, outdoor activities, and being around nature, Rio will offer that too, with a huge national park right in the middle of the city, called Parque Nacional da Tijuca, or PNT, with its very biodiverse fauna and flora. Usually, when being in a big city, one would travel outside to enjoy nature and calm, but not in Rio. Here, with a 20 minutes’ drive, you can go from downtown to the middle of a forest. Because of this very peculiar way of being a big city, in 2012, Rio de Janeiro, a Carioca landscape between the mountains and the sea, became the first urban cultural landscape ever inscribed on the World Heritage List. (Source: https://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1955#:~:text=In%202012%2C%20Rio%20de%20Janeiro,on%20the%20World%20Heritage%20List.)
For that reason, Rio de Janeiro’s lifestyle is built around being outside, and you will quickly notice it when you visit the city. That comes not only from being a very diverse and charming city overall because of its infrastructure and landscape, but also thanks to its climate. Being located in Southeast of Brazil, on the Atlantic Forest biome, makes Rio an all-year-round destination, with temperatures from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius most of the time. In the winter (June to September), Rio’s temperatures rarely reach under 20 degrees Celsius, and in the summer (December to March), some days can reach over 40 degrees Celsius. The perfect weather for enjoying not only the famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema, but also the waterfalls in the PNT. Since the city is by the coast and surrounded by mountains, forecast predictions are pretty “unpredictable”, and it can change very quickly from a day to another. Normally, and once upon a time, one of the cities with the bluest skies in the world, Rio’s weather is more often great for outdoor activities and enjoying its viewpoints. But when in Rio, make sure to get an umbrella or at least a raincoat, as we do have some rainy days and even small tropical storms. Don’t worry, no hurricanes, and the rain usually comes at the end of the afternoon or in the evening, when you normally already had all day to enjoy the city. Rain is crucial for keeping our forest green 365 days a year, and to regulate the temperature in this city, so it is welcomed.
Now that we’ve covered a bit of history and geography, let us tell you the very best Brazil has to offer, its happy and vibrant people and culture! As we say in Brazil, “Sem tempo ruim”, that could be literally translated to “There’s no such thing as bad weather”, meaning, there is always time to enjoy yourself, we will always find ways to celebrate life and make the most of it, no matter how adverse the situation is. Because Rio is the second largest metropolis in Brazil, first one being São Paulo, it means people come from all over Brazil to live and work here, and that means that you can get a foretaste of the many Brazilian subcultures, which are very often related to each different region and state within Brazil. And the common thing between most of them is that we are excellent hosts and great teachers when it comes to teach you how to have a good time as a community. It is not a coincidence that one of the biggest open-sky festivals happens here, and you might have seen footage on the TV or heard of our very notorious Carnaval. Rio has such great people that you will definitely make at least a couple of good friends here, which will make your trip in Rio a very rich human experience. A simple walk by the beach, a tour to your local bodega, or a walk in a fresh products street market (we have one every single day on a different part of the city, so there will always be one close by no matter where you stay) will create plenty situations for locals to interact with you. Last but not least, you should definitely get out there and enjoy some of the street festivities, parties, soccer games and a bit of the nightlife. Keep this in mind: one (or maybe two 😉) caipirinhas will give you just enough confidence to try to learn some Portuguese and some samba steps.
As for the time you need in Rio? Well, we would say that the most, the better, because of all the different aspects of the city and the many things to do. Not to mention the fact that many people fall in love with this city and wish they could stay here for good. But we understand that holidays are, unfortunately, limited in time. And that maybe you plan to visit other places in Brazil if coming from far distances, and might take advantage of the fact you’re already flying to Brazil to go elsewhere, so we highly recommend four days as a minimum time to get a taste of what this city has to offer.
This short article about Rio is the first of many to help you organize and enjoy this beautiful place. Most of them will contain very practical information, such as safety tips, where to stay in Rio, where to go, how to use transport in the city, places to eat, to go out at night and much, much more. We hope to provide you with helpful information.
We wish you all the best and happy travels wherever you’re going next!
Good Guide in Rio’s Team.