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Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laid back beach culture and its annual carnival.
The harbour of Rio de Janeiro is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear to be the mouth of a river. Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features.
Centro including Lapa and Santa Teresa. The city's financial and business centre also has many historic buildings from its early days, such as the Municipal Theatre, National Library, National Museum of Fine Arts, Tiradentes Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and Pedro Ernesto Palace.
Zona Sul (South Zone) including Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema, as well as the districts along Flamengo Beach. Contains some of the more upscale neighborhoods and many of the major tourist sites, such as the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, and Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains.
Zona Norte (North Zone). The Maracanã stadium, Quinta da Boa Vista Park with the National Museum the city's Zoo, the National Observatory and more.
Zona Oeste (West Zone), a rapidly growing suburban area including primarily the districts of Jacarepaguá and Barra da Tijuca, popular for its beaches. Most of the Olympics in 2016 will be hosted there.
Rio is one of the country's major transportation hubs, second only to São Paulo.
Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG) is still better known by its old name Galeão International Airport and is situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the city centre. International connections to and from GIG include flights to Europe.
While you can sometimes zoom through Immigration and Customs, be prepared for a long wait. Brazilians travel with lots of baggage and long queues can form at Customs, which are usually understaffed.
What to see
Even the most seasoned tourist will find the beaches here quite amazing. They are wide and clean, with soft white sand. The main beaches from Leme to Barra have plenty of services for the beach goers, including free showers at the beach, wet trails to walk on cool sand, clean pay toilets, life-savers and police, tents and chairs for rent, soft drinks and alcoholic bars, food.
The beaches are from East to West (Downtown outwards):
Ramos (in-bay) - inappropriate for bathing
Flamengo (in-bay) - usually inappropriate for bathing
Botafogo (in-bay) - inappropriate for bathing
Urca (in-bay) - usually inappropriate for bathing
Vermelha (oceanic) - Mostly appropriate for bathing
São Conrado (oceanic) - sometimes inappropriate for bathing
Barra da Tijuca (oceanic)
Recreio dos Bandeirantes (oceanic)
Abricó (oceanic, nudist beach)
Still the greatest reason for visiting Rio seems to be the Carnaval. This highly-advertised party lasts for almost two weeks and it is well known for the escolas de samba that parade in Centro, on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo. During Carnaval, Rio has much more to offer though, with the blocos de rua, that parade on the streets. There are now hundreds of these street "samba blocks", that parade almost in every neighborhood, especially in Centro and the South Zone, gathering thousands of people.
Rio was the cradle of three of Brazil's most important musical genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. In recent years, there has been a boom of traditional samba and choro venues. A lot of them are in the downtown district of Lapa. There are good and cheap nightlife options, where you will see some of the best musicians of the country. Any of the city newspapers provide pointers to the best shows.
New Year's Eve celebrations
Rio hosts the country's largest and most popular New Year’s Eve celebrations. The huge fireworks display and music shows attract 2 million people to the sands of Copacabana beach every year. People dress in white for luck and toast the arrival of the new year.
Rio de Janeiro is the main destination for lesbian and gay travellers from all over Brazil and the rest of the world. The city has been chosen as the best lesbian and gay international destination in 2009, and the sexiest gay place in the world in 2010 and 2011.
Brazilians value family above all else. Large extended families are very common, and thus, social functions such as weddings and reunnions tend to be large. It is not uncommon for children and young adults to live with their immediate family until marriage.
Hang gliding and paragliding
The Hangliding and Paragliding flights have found in Rio de Janeiro, the ideal land for its high hills and favorable wind. Different from other places in the world, in Rio, the sport could be done in urban areas and landing on the beach! These conditions naturally attract many tourists who get the courage to enjoy a flight. And even the most inexperienced person can flight since there´s no training or special gear needed.
Hiking and Trekking
Not surprisingly, a huge city that has an actual forest within its limits has lots to offer for hikers. It's always advisable to have a local with you when trekking in Rio, as some treks are not very well-marked.
Parque Lage - Corcovado
The trek is fairly demanding and steep, and takes about 1h30/2h to complete, but yet very popular among locals - it's normal to see groups of friends doing it and of course foreigners. Ask the park's staff or look for signs that say "Trilha" to get to the start of the trail, just behind the ruins of an old house.
Sugar Loaf/Pão de Açúcar
This is a short and fairly easy hike, taking about 30 to 45 minutes to complete, also very popular among locals, especially because you can go up for free then hitch a ride back on the cable car. The hike begins at Pista Cláudio Coutinho in Urca. If you ask the guards they'll point you to the start. It's uphill, but just the first twenty minutes are rather steep, though the trail is very good.