If you like your cities with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and verdant mountains—with a few skyscrapers and wild festivals mixed in—Rio de Janeiro is the place for you. Fittingly nicknamed the Marvelous City, Rio is the #1 hotspot in Brazil, winning the right to host the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Lapped by the Atlantic Ocean and sheltered by the island-speckled Guanabara Bay, Rio is famous for its vibrant mixing-pot culture and suntanned, beach-lounging inhabitants. The city has so many pristine beaches (45 miles of them!) that even the most dedicated traveler won’t be able to visit them all—but if you’re set on trying, we recommend starting in Ipanema, the city’s hippest district.
Located in the city’s South Zone (Zona Sul), Ipanema wears its “Sexiest Beach in the World” title with pride; it usually leaves the rest of its clothes in closet. Locals and tourists alike mingle in barely-there bikinis, often with a drink in hand, admiring the stunning scenery and each other. Off the sand you’ll find upscale boutiques alongside chic cafes and restaurants.
Then head to the neighboring district of Copacabana, perhaps the most famous 3-mile stretch of sand in the world. Once the hangout for the rich and famous, Copacabana today is a chaotic but charming slice of Rio’s diversity. Expect to spot favela children in animated soccer matches, hipsters dancing in open-air clubs, and aging artisans.
Beyond the beaches, the South Zone is home to 2 of Rio’s most recognized postcard backgrounds: Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Hill topped by Christ the Redeemer. For the best views and smallest crowds consider visiting Christ the Redeemer (one of the 7 New Wonders of the World) in the morning and swing by Sugarloaf for sunset.
Turn inland to see Rio’s City Center. This is where you’ll find imposing baroque churches and the majority of the city’s museums and theaters. Bohemian and samba lovers will enjoy the districts of Santa Teresa and Lapa, 2 areas experiencing a cultural resonance. The hilltop Santa Teresa offers stunning city views, while Lapa is best known for its popular music and dance clubs. Travelers looking to dive deeper into Rio’s character will want to head up the hill into the favelas. The houses might not look like much, but they come with a million dollar view.
Rio’s North Zone is the city’s industrial region. This is where you’ll land if you’re arriving by air to Rio’s international airport. The other noteworthy attraction in this area is the Maracana, one of the world’s largest soccer stadiums, currently under renovation in preparation for the next World Cup.
Text originally posted by SA Luxury Expeditions