In the very end of 2018 and beginning of 2019, I fulfilled a long-time dream of mine and visited Rio de Janeiro, welcomed the new year on Copacabana beach, and spent two weeks there afterwards.
I had very mixed expectations of Rio. On one hand it looked like the perfect city for me! Tropical weather, full of nature (the jungle is basically a part of the city), beaches, music, art, people from all over the world, very relaxed culture, and a little bit crazy. Well, more than a little.
On the other hand, I kept hearing stories about how dangerous it is, how you can only walk on certain streets, how you have to carry cash so you can easily hand it over if you get robbed... that I'll see children in alleyways doing crack, and a lot of horrible things like that.
Well, the latter turned out to be very exaggerated. I did not get robbed. I did not feel very threatened in any way. However, I did stay in the "safe" areas (the south zone mostly) and I didn't got out at night much. I like to think I didn't stand out as a tourist. Being my usual beach bum, I always walked around in old gym shorts and a bikini top. I never wore fancy clothes and didn't have anything expensive looking on me.
With that out of the way, here's a little recap of my time in Rio. I could already write a book on this city, and guess what - I'm definitely coming back here for more this or next year!
The perfect start to 2019
My first day in Rio was also the last day of 2018. I welcomed 2019 on Copacabana beach along with 2 million people. The next day I woke up late (11am, the latest I've woken up during my 3 months here) and met up with my new friends on the beach again.
It was a perfect day - lying on the beach with a group of fellow solo travelers (somehow new people kept joining), slightly hungover, buying all the food from the beach vendors walking around. You can get anything on the beaches of Rio... I got shrimp, gilled cheese, and a vegan burger!
When the sun started going down, we got up and walked to Arpoador. This is a famous rocky spot between Ipanema and Copacabana, where everyone goes to watch the sunset.
It was the perfect moment - the sky and the water turned all orange pink, with the famous silhouette of Dois Iramos in the background. The Arpoador rock was full of people watching the sunset. Once it was finished, everyone started clapping and whistling! Apparantely this happens often here, because the sunset is so beautiful. They applaud the Sun for its performance.
While the sky and the ocean were still red, I jumped in for a swim. One of my favourite moments in Rio, and the perfect start to 2019!
My two airbnb's
The next day I moved out of my hostel. I had rented a private room in a hostel for the nights of 31st Dec and 1st Jan, since everything else was booked out or ridiculously expensive. The room was nice but I was happy to have my own airbnb again.
I actually booked 2 airbnbs, each one for a week, both in the Santa Teresa area.
My first apartment was on the famous Selaron stairs, which was really nice! I got to climb to the middle of the stairs, then turn into a private street with a couple of houses. The street was very relaxed and overgrown with plants and trees. There were also 8 cats living there!!
The apartment was nice. Unfortunately the AC broke and they couldn't fix it the whole week that I was there... So I had to spend a few days working in 40 degree heat!
For my second week in Rio, I moved my next airbnb, which was just a few streets away. This one was really nice and I could spend a lot longer there. Bohemian apartment with an eclectic, Balinese-like interior; a nice balcony with a view to the city center; big windows surrounded by plants and nature. I loved everything about this place.
There was also a neighborhood cat that regularly came to visit, and even let me pet him! Best airbnb ever.
Living in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is an old neighborhood that has been overtaken by the jungle. It has a very relaxed, bohemian feel. I loved staying here.
The area had a small "center" with several cute restaurants and cafés. I always went to Café Alto - they served great northeastern food like Bobo de Camarao, Moquecas and Tapiocas.
The narrow streets looked a but sketchy to me, especially after dark - but I had no problems the whole time I stayed here, and in the end I felt quite safe.
On my last night in Rio, went to a little bar that had live samba music. We sat on the street on small plastic chairs and listened to the music. Some of the locals were getting up, singing along and dancing. One of my favourite memories from Rio :)
The area below Santa Teresa - called Lapa - turns into a party zone at night. The streets fill up with caipirinha vendors, there's music coming from all the clubs, people are dancing in the street. I went out only once and didn't stay late, since I had to wake up at 6am every morning. I'll try to go out more the next time I'm in Rio!
On top of the Sugarloaf (Pao de Acucar)
The Sugarloaf is that famous egg-shaped rock on the beach in Rio, almost 400m tall.
I came here with a friend. First we hiked up the smaller hill and enjoyed the view from there. Once again I was amazed by the jungle that exists right in the middle of the city.
When we were on top of the smaller hill, we decided to take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf. There was a huge line and we had to wait about 30 min, but we managed to make it just in time for sunset!
The space with the best view was very small and very crowded. Nevertheless we stayed here and watched the sunset, then kept looking over the sparkling lights of Rio as darkness came.
Visiting Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer is one of those super-touristy places that I would usually avoid. However, this one is so iconic that I decided to visit it. Plus, it has amazing 360 views of the entire city.
I came with a friend. We met in Corcovado station and too the train up. It was a very nice sunny day, so we had the perfect views!
The place was super crowded, as I expected. We had a lot of fun trying to take pictures with the towering statue of Cristo... It was more difficult than I thought! My friend had to lie on the ground to get all of the statue and my head in the same shot :)
This is one of my favourite places in Rio. It's a park that has a cave, abandoned castles, and an aquarium. It's surrounded by jungle.
The trail to hike up to Christ the Redeemer also starts here. It's a 3-hour advanced hike - I would do it but apparently it's dangerous, especially for solo girls.
I spend all day exploring Parque Lage, and I'm hoping to spend a lot more time here next year when I come back to Rio.
The Botanical gardens
The Botanical gardens are just next to Parque Lage. They are huge - I could've stayed for hours. They have a sensory garden with many plants that you can smell and touch. There's also monkeys!
If you know me in real life, you probably know I'm crazy about plants... Of course I took hundreds of photos :)
Also here's a jackfruit and two bamboo-eating monkeys.
The entire area is very nice. There's a big lagoon nearby, which is perfect for cycling or walking. I walked around it twice. People are having picnics on the grass and watching the sunset. Often there are concerts and live music.
Ipanema and Copacabana
I loved going to these beaches. I usually dislike city beaches, especially overcrowded ones. But Copacabana and Ipanema just have this unique energy. Especially during sunsets!
When the sun sets on Ipanema, everyone claps. This is one of my favourite things about Rio. I immediately felt at home the first time I saw it.
I can keep writing about Rio de Janeiro, but I'll stop here for now. Can't wait to come back here next year!