Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

With its superabundance of natural beauty – mile-long tropical beaches, dramatic mountainscapes, lush jungle backdrop – Rio is one of the most attractive destinations on the planet. Add to that a population whose blazing spirit and passion are envied the world over: its glamorous citizens eschew conformity and dull days, and their energy enlivens every corner of this sprawling megacity-on-sea. From fashionable Ipanema to the arty, leafy community of Santa Teresa, the streets buzz with music, humour and the indefatigable Carioca spirit. Whether you’re a VIP in Joa (Brazil’s Beverly Hills), or a beach bum on Copacabana, life is lived at a hectic pace – dancing, flirting and posing are national pastimes. Caipirinhas, baile funk and bar hopping are all part of this electric ‘carpe diem’ culture, and never in more Technicolor glory than during Carnival, the tail-feathered, heart-racing, soul-uplifting celebration of life’s pleasures.

When to go

December to February is summer (high season), when the city buzzes with excitement during the Carnival build-up, and long days on the beach give way to party nights. Winter is cooler and calmer – but only just.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    The international hub is Antonio Carlos Jobim airport | aka Galeão | 20km north of the city centre. The 40-minute taxi ride to the Zona Sul area should cost R$80.
  • Boats

    Ferries from Rio to Niterói leave from the quays near Praca XV; the hydrofoil is a bit faster.
  • Trains

    The metro system serves a limited area, north through the centre from Copacabana.The metro system serves a limited area: Linha 1 runs through the centre down to Copacabana; Linha 2 goes to Zona Norte. Santa Teresa has trams (bondinhos) to hop on.
  • Automobiles

    Driving can be slow and/or scary: have a go if you think you’re tough enough (the main thoroughfare isn’t called Avenida Ayrton Senna for nothing). Traffic lights are often ignored. Buses are cheap | and fine for daytime trips.
  • Taxis

    Affordable and plentiful. Unless you speak Portuguese, write down the address, and don’t worry if the driver asks a fellow cabbie for directions. Make sure the meter is on.