I have been to Rio De Janeiro twice with work. I remember requesting Rio like mad as it was moving to another contract, and I was desperate to get one before it moved over. The last month Rio was on our contract I was lucky enough to get 2 in a row! With my work we get a 48 hour lay over in Rio, so its plenty of time to get out and see the city.
On my first trip to Rio, I took my friend Sarah (also known as Wacko, it feels weird calling her Sarah as her nickname is Wacko) with me, Rio was somewhere she had always fancied travelling to, so when I got my roster I messaged her to see if she was up for coming along, this was also the first trip I had bought anyone onto aswell. Wacko decided to come along on the first trip with me. We were both so excited and before we went on the trip I dropped a guy that all the crew use for tours out there a message. His name is Breno and he runs Xplora Rio, he always does special tours and discounts for airline crew, and understands we have limited time and takes us to all the top places. If your ever in Rio I can’t recommend Xplora Rio enough, Breno is so knowledgeable and puts together great tours and packages that are reasonably priced and packs plenty of sights in. As I knew this was one of the last trips out to Rio on our contract, I also posted on our crew Facebook group page to see if any of the other crew that were on my flight wanted to join. Most of the crew responded and wanted to come on the tour, and a few of them were also bringing friends and family too.
I messaged Breno and booked us onto one of his city tours, and arranged for him to pick us all up on our first day in Rio. After a long flight out to Rio, it was clear to see that I had been rostered with a really good crew, we all worked really well together and everyone was lovely and up for a laugh, and the pilots were also really nice. When we landed into Rio it was night time so we all decided to get freshened up, and head across the road from our hotel and go to a little beach bar shack that everyone called “The Shack”, I’m not sure if this is its actual name but all crew seem to go there and this is what it’s referred to. The whole crew came down for a few drinks, the shack offered Caipirinha cocktails which is Brazil’s national cocktail. The cocktails were really strong so Wacko and I did order some sprite to try and weaken them down. After a few cocktails we decided to head back to the room for bed, as we had an early start in the morning for the tour.
The next morning when we woke up we admired the beach view from our balcony, and got ready and headed down to breakfast. After breakfast Breno and 2 of his friends come to pick us up and had arrived in large jeeps, as there was so many of us they needed several jeeps to take us all around. Some of the crew, Wacko and myself all jumped in with Breno, and as soon as we started driving around it was clear to see how green and lush Rio was, it is such a vibrant city.
The first place we were all taken to was an amazing view point of Joatinga Beach, its small cove with a beautiful beach. We stopped there briefly to admire the view and take some pictures.
After seeing Joatinga Beach, we then headed to a paragliding station, which had amazing views all over the city, the weather wasn’t the right conditions for paragliders, so we didn’t have chance to watch any of them take off, but we did get to sit out on the paraglider runway and take in the views of the city.
I really liked that Breno knew all these little hidden gems for amazing views. Next we were taken to Tijuca National Park which is a large replanted forest in the city. It is one of the largest urban forests in the world. The forest was replanted as many years ago most of it was destroyed to produce more coffee and coal. It was replanted and is now a National park with many of Rios main attractions located within it, such as Christ the Redeemer. While we were here we visited one of Tijucas best known attractions which was the Cascatinha Taunay Cascade, it’s the largest and best known cascade and waterfall within the forest. Next to the cascade is the Capella Mayrink which is a small pink chapel built in the 1800s, there is also a small fountain which adds to the charm of this area. I really enjoyed seeing the waterfall and it’s great to see that within the city amazing rainforests and waterfalls can coincide with the hustle and bustle of Rio.
We managed to fit in so much in the morning, Breno then advised as it was still early that he was going to take us to Christ the Redeemer statue before the queues started, and to beat the crowds. On the way to the statue we stopped off along the road to take some photos of it in the distance as well as some other beautiful views along the way.
When we got to Christ the Redeemer there was no queues to get in so we managed to get our tickets really quickly. We were all really excited to see Christ the Redeemer as its so iconic to Brazil, and it’s one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Christ the Redeemer is a symbol of Peace and built on a peak of Corcovado Mountain, it was built between 1922 – 1931 but it does have traces back to the 1800s when plans were first proposed, but were dismissed. We walked up many steps to get up to the statue, I’m not a religious person by any means but the statue is amazing and well worth a visit as it’s so well known to Brazil and the rest of the world, and there are tons of great views at the top. Once we had finished looking around we went and got a small bite to eat at one of the little cafes.
Next up on the tour we started heading towards Lapa to see the famous Lapa Steps, officially called Selaron Staircase. On the way we passed the Santa Teresa tram that is now considered a heritage tram and runs through the favelas. Just by the tram there was also a small stall that had all handmade toys from old gadgets and bric a brac, Breno said a gentleman runs it and makes the toys from old objects and children from around the favelas can have them for free. After driving through some of the neighbourhoods we reached the Lapa steps. We had a ton of group photos, and I loved how bright and colourful the steps were and all the different tiles. We wandered up and down the steps for a little while looking at all the small details within the steps.
After the Lapa steps Breno took us to a Favela Da Rocinha which is the largest favela in Brazil. We met some locals that Breno was friends with and to have a look around, the locals were also selling some arts and crafts that we could purchase. I couldn’t resist a metal sign with the favela name on, and Wacko bought a lovely painting of the favela. Once we had finished at the favela we all started to head back to the hotel to get freshened up for dinner and head out.
The pilots suggested a Brazilian meat restaurant near to the hotel for dinner, it was a buffet style restaurant but the waiters and waitresses bought out the meat to your table, there was a wide variety of meats, although Wacko couldn’t eat much as she is vegetarian so stuck to the salad bar. I’m now also vegetarian but at the time I was in Rio I was still eating meat. The meat was really good and the Brazilians definitely know how to cook a piece of meat. After dinner we headed back to the shack bar and had some drinks there. One of the pilots suggested going to a nightclub, I was really tired but a few of us decided to head there as he said it was meant to be one of the best in Brazil. We went to the club and I wouldn’t exactly say it was the best in Brazil, the floors were so sticky I could barely lift my feet up, and just by the dance floor was a seating area that resembled a run down working men’s club! We had a few cocktails in the club and decided to call it a night and headed back.
The next day Wacko felt a little worse for wear so she had a bit of a lay in, and I headed to the Havaiana shop with some of the other crew, if your ever in Brazil stock up on them as they are like a quarter of the price compared to back home. I roughly paid about £6/£7 a pair. The crew and myself come out with bags and bags of flip flops as a few people back home wanted me to bring some back for them. After the Havaiana shop we headed back to the hotel and all decided to chill on the beach just in front of the hotel, and had a few coconuts to drink. We then decided to go for a swim in the pool at the hotel. After all this it was time to head back up to the room to have a nap before the flight home, this as definitely one of the best trips I have had with work as the crew were such a laugh and having Wacko there made it one of my favourite trips and have so many great memories from it.
A few days later I was back in Rio with work, and decided to book onto another tour with Breno to see some more of the city, some of the crew had bought friends and family with them and wanted to do the same tour that I had just done a few days before, some of the crew had also done the same tour so we decided to choose a different one. We spoke to Breno and he said his 2 friends would take the others on a separate tour and he would take us to do all the bits of the city we hadn’t done, and we would meet up with the others at the end to see a waterfall before heading back to the hotel.
When we arrived in Rio I was pretty tired so decided to get an early night before the big tour the next day. I got up early in the morning and went for breakfast before Breno picked us up. The first stop on the tour was Vidigal favela, we had a wonder around and met a local kid that Breno knew. They showed us around and showed us some great views of the city, the favelas below and Ipanema Beach. Vidigal was so colourful with a ton of street art brightening up all the walls around the cobbled streets. The locals were so friendly and welcoming, the neighbourhood had a good vibe to it. It wasn’t what I expected as you hear so many stories of how dangerous favelas are but I didn’t once feel threatened once. However I wouldn’t recommend going to favelas on your own or with valuables as you just never know, in Rio it’s good to have your wits about you still.
We started to head to Copacabana Beach after Vidigal. I was really excited about seeing it as it’s one of the most associated places with Rio, it’s so well known all around the world. We sat on the beach and had a drink, and although it’s not the best beach I’ve seen in the world, the atmosphere around it is incredible, and it had the beautiful back drop of the green forests that surround Rio along with mountains and peaks and the buzz of the city and favelas. Copacabana is a must when in Brazil as it’s so famous.
When we finished our drinks at Copacabana we then were taken to sugar loaf Mountain, and we all got the cable car up to the first peak which is called Morro Da Urca. The views are stunning up there you can see all of Rio and the beautiful coastline. We spent quite a bit of time on Morro Da Urca looking around all the views and we could see there was even a helicopter pad. We then took the next cable car up to Sugar Loaf mountain, the views got even better up there, and as your going up in the cable car you can see all the lush greenery below. When we got to the top of sugar loaf there was a wall you could sign and put messages on, so we all wrote some messages for loved ones which was really lovely. While we were up there we decided to get a small bite to eat, and I decided to get Coxcina which is a small tear drop pastry filled with chicken, cheese etc. It’s a type of street food, and is really delicious they are sold all over Rio. We headed back down in the cable car and met back up with Breno.
It was then time to go and meet the rest of the crew, so Breno took us to Horto Waterfall. It was quite hard to get to as we had to climb through the forest and hold on to tree roots to get us up some of the steep bits, we also had to climb across a large rock luckily there was a chain attached to it to hold on to but it was not the easiest. However the difficult hike was well worth it when we reached the waterfall, it was only us there, and we all wore our swimwear so we could cool down and take a dunk in the water. We went under the waterfall which was very refreshing it really woke me up, it was freezing the water. We took some really great group snaps and had a laugh messing around in the water for a bit.
We headed back after the waterfall but Breno said he wanted to show us one last thing before heading back, and took us to the Chinese pagoda. The pagoda was built in the 20th century and history records show there was Chinese immigrants came to Brazil to work in the tea plantations. Its quite a large pagoda and the views up there are some of the best in Rio! So I could see why Breno loved it up there so much, we chilled out there for abit and admired the scenery. We then asked if we could be dropped off at the Havaiana shop as we all wanted some more, and I had some more friends and family that wanted some bringing back so thought it saved me going back the next day. Breno dropped us off at the shop and we did some more shopping and had casual stroll back to the hotel along the beachfront.
That night most of the crew were heading to Lapa for a big night out, the few of us that did the same tour that day together were all pretty tired so we decided to stay local in Barra and have a few cocktails and dinner. I tried a local dish of black beans, rice and chicken, it was really nice and so filling.
I had quite an early night that night, so the next day I had a bit of a chilled one and went to the gym and sat round the pool sunbathing, then one of the girls I was working with fancied a walk along the beach so we went for a stroll along the beach and sat on the beach for a bit too. When we got back to the hotel I decided to treat myself to a leg and foot massage in the spa. The spa in the hotel was stunning it was set outside in beautiful gardens and had little cabanas, it was so relaxing I fell asleep and after that I decided to go and have a nap in my room before pick up and the night flight home.
I would love to go back to Rio, and I really want to go there sometime soon for Carnival as that’s on my bucket list. I also hope that the route comes back to my contract soon, as it’s such an amazing city with a great buzz to it. I would recommend Rio to anyone and everyone as there is something to suit all, from world famous beaches, to beautiful forests and waterfalls and the culture of Rio and the favelas is a must see, along with Christ the Redeemer.
Need to Knows;
Currency: Brazilian Real
Visa Requirement: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/brazil/entry-requirements
Safety & Security: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/brazil/safety-and-security