Rio de Janeiro will surely steal your heart if you aren’t careful. This dynamic city is packed to the brim with beauty, culture, and vivacity. Rio is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a wide and impressive variety of flora and fauna, stunning mountainous views, scrumptious food, and of course the iconic and magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue.
Christ the Redeemer
It is really no wonder that Christ the Redeemer made it onto the list of the Seven Wonders of the New World. This monumental statue of Jesus Christ is what Rio de Janeiro has come to be known by, and for good reason. Believe me, this monument is not one to be missed in your lifetime.
Christ the Redeemer is so large, he can be seen from a plane and the ground. Like the Eiffel tower in Paris, the moment you see him, it all becomes real. This may sound weird, but seeing such a monument allows you to completely believe you are truly in a certain place. This may not happen to others, but for me, I am often so elated to be in a foreign place that it feels very surreal. Visiting and seeing great art, monuments, and architecture is what fully allows me to arrive at my destination. It allows me to believe that this is reality, and it is the most exciting thing in the world for me.
Seeing Christ the Redeemer from the ground or an airplane is great, but in order to get the full experience you have to travel up Corcovado Mountain to visit him. This is great news, because the trip up Corcovado Mountain to see him is one seriously electrifying experience.
You must take a train up the mountain to get to Christ the Redeemer. A train that travels up angles that no horizontal man-made machine should, and offers up views that are literally the definition of breathtaking. The train speeds through the jungle up the mountain. It breezes through tropical trees and clearings of lush rainforest ravines, peering down hundreds of feet. Terrifying, definitely. Incredible, yes! Absolutely worth the terror. You can hear parrots and monkeys, but they are difficult to spot with the train speeding through the jungle.
At one point, the train stopped… for a while. It turns out that it stopped for an enormous snake that was crossing the train tracks, and was moving very slowly because it had just ingested a very large animal. This totally made my day. Not the ingestion of the large animal obviously, but that’s the circle of life right?
I absolutely adore the fact that they cherish and respect their wildlife so much that they would stop a train just to allow a slow snake to cross!
Following the insane and wondrous train ride up the mountain, we walked up the stairs to Christ the Redeemer himself, and to some of the most awe-inspiring views I have ever seen. Even though it had been a cloudy day, the clouds seemed to part for us. This made for an absolutely spectacular view of Rio de Janeiro.
Christ the Redeemer is unbelievably huge. His physical and spiritual presence is confounding.
And while there are a ton of tourists clamoring to take selfies and be as close to him as possible, there is a sort of peacefulness in standing under his great, outstretched arms. A stillness in looking out at the world beneath you, and taking it all in. It is a rather enlightening experience.
This is only the second Wonder of the New World that I have seen, but I was beyond amazed by him. Rio is a beautiful place, and there are many reasons to visit, but Christ the Redeemer is really reason enough by himself.
The remainder of the Seven Wonders of the World are on my bucket list. And if they are anything like Christ the Redeemer, I am ecstatic and ready to venture to the next one!
Pao de Queijo
And now let’s talk about cheese! Brazil is known to have some fabulous cheese. I know this because cheese is an addiction of mine. Some popular Brazilian cheeses include: Minas Cheese, Queijo do Serro, and Canastra cheese. BUT, when discussing Brazilian cheese, there is a clear standout that rises above all other cheese contenders. (In my opinion.) Pao de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese balls.
Pao de Queijo are small balls of bread with the most perfect balance of texture between their light, crispy crust and their chewy, flavorful cheesy center.
These wonderful, gooey cheese balls haunt my dreams. They are magical and delightful, and one of my favorite things in the world.
We actually recently discovered a frozen version of these being sold at Whole Foods. We tried them and they are really good! Not quite the same as the ones in Brazil, but they will certainly do the job until I can get back to Rio de Janeiro! If you would like to try them, you can get them here online, or at Whole Foods.
Ipanema and Copacobana Beach
And then there are the beaches. Ahhh beaches in Rio de Janeiro. There is nothing like them in the world. (That I have seen yet at least!) Any and all of the beaches there are amazing! Ipanema and Copacobana are two of the most iconic. The beaches in Rio are not only some of the most beautiful and famous beaches in the world, they are teeming with life and excitement. The waves are the largest I have ever seen, and the beach views of the mountains are unlike any other.
There are Brazilian men playing soccer, topless Brazilian women, tropical drinks, and tightrope walkers… Pretty much everything that matters in life.
And beach lounging is the perfect opportunity to show off your newest battle wound… that is if you happen to have recently fallen down a muddy mountain in the dark. Just me? Okay. Well I took advantage of the opportunity. I know those Brazilian women were super jealous. Yes that is my leg. No that is not a hot dog.
I feel that I need not describe these warm and glorious beaches much more, because you must visit them to completely understand. Just make sure you try a caipirinha while you lounge on the beach and let your troubles float away with the waves. See my post: Stand aside Mojito and Moscow Mule; the Caipirinha is the Drink of the Gods.
But eventually, your skin may beg you to put some clothing on and find somewhere else to hang out for a bit. In this case, head to one of the many other fantastic options Rio has to offer!
The Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro were definitely one of the highlights of the city for me. The flora in Rio is actually amazing everywhere throughout the city. There are large orchids growing on trees lining the streets, beautiful tropical vines covering walls, and lush shrubbery everywhere you look. Being interested in this sort of thing, I was fascinated by all of the exotic vegetation throughout our entire stay. But the Jardim Botanico, or Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro, showcased an amazing variety of Brazil’s plant life. And it was a gorgeous getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Botanical Gardens are located in the South District (Zona Sul) of Rio de Janeiro at the foot of Corcovado Mountain. We walked there from where we were staying near Ipanema beach. It was a beautiful walk. It was not too far, a great way to see more of the city, and the areas we walked through and nearby the gardens are fairly secure. There are buses that stop at the Gardens as well if walking is not your cup of tea.
The Gardens provide a wonderful feeling of serenity amidst the excitement of the city. They showcase the diversity of Brazilian vegetation, and are kept in pristine condition.
They are also rich in history and culture. They date back to 1808, and supposedly the iconic row of Royal Palms at the entrance of the garden dates all the way back to that time. The palms are also thought to have descended from one single tree! The row of Royal Palms is sensational. It is an awesome place to take pics, and a fabulous grand entrance!
Jardim Botanico is home to more than 6,000 plant species, including over 900 varieties of palm tress. There are also many monkey, lizard, and bird species that live on the grounds. There are even many monuments of historical significance, such as the Central Fountain. The fountain has four figures representing poetry, music, science, and art. So many amazing things in these gardens!
But my favorite part? The enormous Victoria lily pads! I have never seen anything like them.
These ginormous lily pads often reach 6 feet in diameter, and have been known to reach up to 10 feet! They are also strong enough for a child or small adult to sit on them. They have spikes on the bottom where the pad touches the water…which makes for one badass lily pad. They grow in the Brazilian Amazon, which is of course on the extensive list of places I must visit. (We did not see them in the Amazon as we were in Peru.)
I would highly recommend the Botanical Gardens for anyone who wants a quick getaway from the city, and to explore and observe the incredible variety of flora Rio de Janeiro has to offer! Bring lots of water and bugspray!
Feira Hippie de Ipanema
If you have a chance, definitely check out a Brazilian market. There are so many and they are all wonderful! I adore markets and always try to find at least one in every city I visit. Markets provide a special insight into local life, and there are so many unique and beautiful items to purchase!
We went to Feira Hippie de Ipanema. This open air market is only open on Sundays and has a fantastic mix of all the great things you want in a market. I was mesmerzied by the beautiful gemstone collections and paintings, and the food was authentic and delicious. It was a wonderful place to spend our Sunday!
We ended up purchasing a painting of Ipanema beach made by a local Brazilian artist. Actually, we found a painting we really liked and walked away to think about it for a few minutes. When we returned to purchase it 15 minutes later, another couple was in the process of purchasing it! The artist was so wonderful and offered to paint a new one just for us; similar to the one we fell in love with. Since we had a couple of days left in Rio, we agreed and crossed our fingers that it would work out. And it did! The artist delivered our painting the day we were leaving Rio, and it was perfect!
A perfect end to a wonderful adventure! And an impressive feat on the artists end!
There are so many other amazing things to do in Rio de Janeiro that we did not get to do on this trip, but I feel great about it because I know there will be another! Rio is a place unlike any other, in an absolutely extraordinary way. I can’t wait to go back; maybe during Carnival?! That would be fantastical.
Don’t sell yourself short in this lifetime. Get to where you want to go, and do it now. There is no time like the present!