A Sunny Winter in Rio de Janeiro

We arrived in Rio after a painless 6 hour bus journey from São Paulo. The bus was extremely spacious and comfortable, especially considering we went for the cheapest option.

It was R$75 for a convençionale ‘Expresso do Sol’ journey. Once arriving in Rio the information desk showed us which bus to take and from where, which was all easy enough to work out. The people on the bus were kind and helpful letting us know when to get off. After a hike up several hills and stairs (I am so unfit!) we made it to the hostel.

Alma de Santa

We stayed at Alma de Santa hostel in an 8 bed dorm but were the only people in it for the first 2 nights, which was fantastic. I was told that the private rooms are always sold out but the dorms and quiet in the low season…I´m glad we didn´t splash out!

The hostel is located in Santa Teresa, the bohemian district in Rio. We decided to stay here rather than Leblon or Ipanema to see more of ‘true’ Rio and visit areas we wouldn’t have done if we stayed I’m the more touristy areas.

Santa Terasa

The neighbourhood felt completely safe to us and was picturesque, with cobbled streets and staircases leading to great views.

We had some food and a caipirinha (of course) at Rustica which is located above a cafe in a sweet courtyard. This is quite extravagant for a backpacker and lots of locals were coming here for their Saturday meal out. Having said this, it was only £35 for two mains, a local craft beer and a cockail…pretty good compaired to what we are used to paying in London!

Things to do

Saturday night would have been traditionally spent in Lapa, the party zone, where people play samba and dance and drink in the street. We decided not to go here as we were tired and also wanted to get up early to head to see Christ the Redeemer, but I have heard this is the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night.

We got up early and managed to get the metro and bus to he entrance to Corcovado (the mountain on which Christ the Redeemer is located). Although we got here in good time (before 9am) and it is low season, we still couldn’t get tickets to board until 11am. This wasn’t too much of a wait so we went on a short hike nearby. If you don’t want to do this book online first to avoid queuing and disappointment. There is also a park next door for waiting in (grab an ice cream :) ).


I thought I was going to be really scared of the tram up the very steep hill but it was actually a really pleasant drive through the national park with some fantastic views. Once at the top there a quiet a few stairs and lots and lots of people.

In the afternoon we went to Ipanema beach and sampled the traditional coconut water with a view of the beautiful ocean. We headed to a rocky peninsular in time for sunset where many gather on the rocks. This had a wonderful atomsphere and a perfect view of the sun setting over Ipenema beach.

sunset - ipenema beach

Monday was spent doing a free walking tour. These are located all over the World and they are an opportunity to see the sights of the city whilst learning about the history of the place. You are the free to give whatever you would like to the tour guide depending on what you think the tour was worth. This was our first free walking tour and, although long and quite tiring, it was great.

Just before sunset we sat on Vermelha beach (next to Sugar Loaf) which was a lot quieter than the main beaches and offers a different view of the surrounding islands. We then strolled the 3k along Claudio Coutinho Path (a nature reserve running around the coastline of Sugar Loaf) which was full of monkeys! It was fantastic and so quiet. I don’t think many people know about it…which made it feel special.

Claudio Coutinho Path

In the evening we went with our friends at the hostel to a samba street party. We were lucky to find out about it from one of the locals who works at the hostel. I’m so glad we went with him as he told us all about it and showed us around so we felt safe and welcome. We would never have found the toilet at the back of a run down shop without him!

samba street party

Monday night is the night to go out for Samba if you haven’t made it out on Friday or Saturday. The place is packed and lively and mainly full of locals, rather than tourists, which made it feel really authentic. There are a number of different bands who play on nearby streets and the crowds follow and gather around them as they play in turn.

Tuesday started with a headache, but we had to get up early for the favela tour (read about that here).

favela tour

We then spent the afternoon at Copacobana strolling down the beach for some great views from the Leme Fortress Rock Mountain.

copacabana from Leme

Our Favourite Things to Do in Rio

  • Watch the sunset at Ipanema beach sipping a coconut water
  • Go on a favela tour to learn about how they live
  • Dance the night away at a samba street party, but watch out for the strong caipirinhas!
  • Visit the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa
  • Take the tram up Corcovado to check out the views and see Christ the Redeemer up close

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Sarah has a thing for maps, so one of her favourite holiday pass-times is exploring a new city. Give her food and beer (and a map) and she'll be happy.

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