One of the coolest, hottest and the hippest cities, all rolled into one, in South America is the tropical Rio de Janeiro. The former Capital of Brazil is renowned for its picturesque landscape, easy-going beach life and its vibrant and colorful annual carnival. This vivacious carnival is one of the major reasons for tourists to rush to this city as the streets are packed with thumping music, costumed dancers with a festive atmosphere felt all over the city.
One of the iconic landmarks of the city is Christ the Redeemer. Situated atop the 710 meter (2,330 feet) high peak of Corovado Peak, the statue of 'Cristo Redentor' proudly stands with arms outstretched, overlooking the city. When in Rio, it is imperative to travel to Copacabana which houses one of the most famous beaches in the world. People playing a game of volleyball and vendors selling their drinks and snacks from the kiosks are a common sight. Strolling down the 4 km (2.5 mile) promenade are a great way to spend a relaxing evening.
Ipanema is another incredible beach that is a major tourist magnet in the country. With its long stretch of soft white sand and rolling waves, it is not a surprise Ipanema usually tops the 'Best Beaches in the World' every year. Nature enthusiasts will love trekking over to the extraordinary Sugarloaf Mountain. Piercing as high into the sky at 400 meters (1,300 feet) over the Guanabara Bay, this rugged mountainous terrain can be visited via a glass-walled cable car.
When in Rio, visit the Botanical Garden and wander about the 8,000 species of plants housed there. Constructed in the early 1800s, the garden is home to several specimens, including numerous lines of looming palm trees. Tourists visit the park to catch a glimpse of the stunning 600 species of orchids. Saunter around the monuments, fountains and other features such as a Japanese garden, a pond filled with water lilies and the museum which centers on the environment.
Go back in time and re-visit the bygone era by visiting the Santa Teresa Neighborhood where the cobblestone streets are brimming with 19th-century plantation mansion. The zone used to be a paradise for artists, musicians and writers in the 20th century and still preserves a friendly artist-colony vibe. Once upon a time the Lapa Neighborhood used to be known for being the city's red-light district but today the district is famous for its colorful and vibrant nightlife. Packed with samba and choro bars, the thumping music and the dancing often spills out into the street on weekend nights.
Renowned to be one of the largest urban forest in the globe, the Tijuca National Park spans a huge area of a mostly mountainous terrain. Some of the highlights include the Mayrink Chapel, which has murals painted by accomplished Brazilian neo-realism artist Candido Portinari and the gushing 100-foot Cascatinha Waterfall. Football fanatics can visit the Maracana Stadium for it is one of Rio's significant landmarks. It can hold upto 80,000 fans in one sitting and is one of the biggest stadiums in South America.
When it comes to shopping, Rio de Janeiro caters to all. Be it swanky shopping complexes or small traditional markets, shop-a-holics will have a field day getting their dose of retail therapy. Be sure to sip into the fiery Caiprinha cocktail that is widely available in any of the bars and pubs spruced around.
The stay options in Rio de Janeiro are abundant with the best luxury hotels, swanky private apartments and cheap accommodations being available for tourists to decide which kind to opt for based on their budget and tastes.
Rio de Janeiro experiences tropical monsoon climate. The best time to visit the city would be during the winter months as the temperatures are pleasant.