Friday, May 14, 2010

Hottest Spot South of Havana: Copacabana, Ipanema & Corcovado

Aside from Carnival, Rio is probably best-known for its beautiful beaches and the Christ statue towering over the city on top of Corcovado mountain. It doesn't take long to recognize the importance of the beaches in city life. In the Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods, residents and visitors can be seen walking along the sidewalks in swimsuits and flip-flops while carrying surfboards or bodyboards. Despite the hustle and bustle of traffic and people, the city exudes a laid back vibe that seems to be all about living the good life on the beach or at the clubs. We found a spot on Copacabana beach and sat back and people watched for hours. People swam, played volleyball, or just sunbathed in their barely there swimwear. Some attire was so skimpy that we wondered what the point was of wearing anything at all! After Copa, we decided to walk over to Ipanema to see what it was all about. The beaches are within walking distance but each have a distinct atmosphere. The water at Ipanema was beautiful and the beach was packed with people swimming and soaking up the sun.

If the beaches get too hot, you can take a trip up to see the Christ the Redeemer statue at the top of Corcovado mountain. The views from the top are amazing. Unfortunately the statue is currently being restored and it is completely covered in scaffolding, but it is still worth the trek up the mountain. Getting there is half the fun. Our journey involved a taxi, two mini-buses, and a ton of stairs. Most of the time we weren't really sure what was going on (what's's Rio!). After a long exchange in Portuguese between our taxi driver and a group of guys, we were directed to a sketchy-looking van at the base of the mountain. For a while we just sat there alone not knowing what was happening. We were relieved when two Japanese tourists joined us and they seemed at least as clueless. In the end, we got to the top and had a chance to take some pictures as the sun set on the city. It was quite a memorable experience!

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