Thursday, 4 April 2019

An amazing few days in Rio de Janeiro

Last week my husband and I were lucky enough to spend a few days in Rio de Janeiro without the children. He won a prestigious award at work and this was his reward - luckily my parents were able to look after the children for us, as it was an opportunity that was far too good to miss! The organisers covered three full days of events and activities, and because of the way the flights worked we had a day before and a day after to ourselves. It was an amazing trip, and I'm so glad that I was able to go.

On our first day we booked a tour of one of the favelas, or slums, using this company - Favela Walking Tour. Ram was very keen to do this tour but I wasn't so sure, there are many warnings for tourists to stay out of the favela areas, and I didn't want to be gawping at the people that live there. But in the end the tour wasn't what I expected at all, and I'm really glad that we did it. Our guide for the tour was Carlos, who has featured in several documentaries, and is a resident of the Rocinha favela where the tour takes place. He very much wants people to see the other side of Rio de Janeiro, and it's a very immersive tour. We were taken in a bus to the top and then we walked down through the favela, stopping along the way for him to explain the history of the favela, how they run, and the politics behind them.

Rio de Janeiro favela walking tour

Walking through the favela felt completely safe, and very different to how it is described in the tourist literature. There are wide roads running through it with buses and taxis, and there are many businesses, both for residents and tourists. There are shops, banks and bars, everywhere seemed to have electricity, water and was fairly sanitary. We would definitely have felt safe there without the tour, although we wouldn't have strayed far from the main streets as it's very easy to get lost with all the narrow streets!

Rio de Janeiro favela walking tour

There was a great sense of community, and although you obviously do stand out as a tourist we were greeted by lots of people and we never felt unsafe.

The next day we went on a trip to the Christ the Redeemer statue which stands on the peak of the Corcovado mountain and overlooks the city. As you can see from the grey sky in the background it wasn't the best day to visit - seconds after this photo was taken the statue disappeared behind the clouds! So we weren't able to enjoy many views of the scenery as we were mainly looking down through the clouds, but it was still amazing to be so close to the statue which you can see from all around the city.

Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro

In the evening we went to an organised carnival party. This took place at Samba City, which is an area set aside for building and preparing floats for the Rio carnival. We had our faces painted with glitter, a buffet dinner, and then a full on carnival party with music and dancing - it was amazing!

Carnival party in Rio de Janeiro

The following day we took a cruise around Guanabara Bay before a ride on the cable cars up Sugarloaf Mountain. Fortunately the weather was much better and so we were able to enjoy the amazing views from the cable car and the top of the mountain.

Sugarloaf Mountain cable car

Finally, on our last day we booked our own jeep tour to the Tijuca Forest through our hotel. We chose a shorter driving tour, but you can also take a longer tour which includes more of a hike. The jeep picked us up from our hotel with a guide and drove us into the Tijuca Forest - a tropical rainforest right in the city. Our tour took us to the Chinese View, where you can see both the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain at the same time, then we went deeper into the forest. After stopping at a waterfall we went for a short walk along a forest trail. We were lucky enough to see a little marmoset monkey and lots of coatis - little racoon like animals with a pointy nose and sharp teeth!

Tijuca Forest jeep tour

It was a really fantastic few days and I'd definitely recommend Rio de Janeiro as a place to visit either with or without children. In fact the whole time we were there we were thinking about how much the children would enjoy it, with a good mix of beach and pools as well as lots of interesting sights to see. It would be amazing to visit during the carnival as well!

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