Thanks to Air Canada, I spent a weekend exploring Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, photographing my #ACHeartsRio Instagram Adventure. I took the inaugural flight from Toronto to Rio on Thursday, and it’s just one of three new routes Air Canada is set to introduce this month:
- Rio de Janeiro beginning December 11, 2014
- Panama City beginning December 17, 2014
- Mont-Tremblant, Quebec beginning December 18, 2014
The best news is Air Canada is giving away three pairs of tickets, one to each of these destinations, to three lucky winners.
In order to enter, follow @AirCanada on Instagram or Twitter, share a picture that inspires you to travel to Rio de Janeiro or Panama City or Mont-Tremblant; include the #ACHeartsRio or #ACHeartsPanama or #ACHeartsTremblant hashtag as well as Air Canada’s handle @AirCanada. Feel free to enter as many times as you’d like!
#ACHeartsRio Instagram Adventure
My experience in Rio was exceptional. Because I only had a few days on the ground, I explored the city as quickly – yet extensively – as possible. I learned lots along the way, too, so I thought I would share my 8 Things to Know about Rio de Janeiro.
8 Things to Know about Rio de Janeiro
1. If you are Canadian, you need a tourist visa.
Before taking flight and landing in the beautiful warmth of Copacabana Beach, Canadian Residents must apply to the Brazilian Consulate for a travel visa prior to departure. Mine took 5 days to process; however, wait times can take up to three weeks. It’s a relatively simple process to apply, but the details are online.
2. Choosing Where to Stay
It’s no secret that Rio de Janeiro is a beach town, so most people are going to want to stay close to the water. It really comes down to two choices: Copacabana or Ipanema.
Option 1: Copacabana
Copacabana is more famous than Ipanema, so it’s also the busiest but the crowd isn’t necessarily what many guess. The neighbourhood surroundings the beach definitely leans towards blue-collar personalities, so for every tourist there is a local stealing a break from their day job. Prices tend to be slightly less than Ipanema, and the water seemed calmer – thus better for swimming – during my entire stay.
Option 2: Ipanema:
Ipanema Beach is definitely the more expensive of the two, as it’s surrounded by a rather exclusive neighbourhood. Beach front properties often run 20% more than Copacabana, and the nearby bars attract a more affluent crowd in the evening.
3. Tourist Attractions Are Worth the Visit
In many cases, I often avoid the major tourist attractions simply to avoid the crowds; however, I visited three major landmarks in Rio and found each worth the visit:
Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf)
The Pao de Acucar cable car is a long-time Rio de Janeiro classic and it’s easy to tell why. It’s just a few minutes from Copacabana and, from its summit, the views are simply spectacular. It’s being renovated soon, too, to include a new cable car from the summit of Pao de Acucar to Forte Leme, pictured here on the left.
It’s known as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and is easily the most identifiable landmarks from Rio de Janeiro. It does get crowded – extremely crowded – so I would recommend finding a tour that starts bright and early to beat the crowds.
Forte do Copacabana
Unlike Pao de Acucar and Cristo Redentor, Forte Copacabana is located within walking distance of both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. In my case, I explored the military museum within Forte de Copacabana to steal a bit of shade on a sunny day; however, because the tour is a mostly indoor attraction, it makes for a great rainy day activity.
4. The Best View of Pao De Acucar is Mirante Dona Marta
5. Sunrise and Sunset are both Beautiful
Sunrise at Copacabana
Copacabana Beach makes for a fantastic sunrise location, but keep in mind that it’s a rather deserted area in the morning. While an empty beach may sound dreamy, it’s worth paying extra attention to your surroundings. No people also means no police, which does increase the danger level slightly.
Sunset at Pedra do Arpoador
Pedra do Aproador is a rare western-facing view across the water, which makes it a beautiful sunset location. It’s not only common for large crowds to gather to watch the sunset but to also applause as the sky lights up in spectacular colours.
6. It Need Not be Expensive
Brazil is undoubtedly the most expensive country in South America; however, traveling can still be enjoyed at a bargain. Rather than dine in restaurants and shop at the endless boutiques that surround the beaches, try the abundant street food and wonderful hippy markets.
Brazilian favelas are well known. These poor but colourful neighbourhoods spread across the hilltops, above much of Rio de Janeiro. I found it interesting to learn that the word Favela is actually the name of a plant. When the first hilltop slum was built, it was given the name Favela because the plant can only grow in the hilltops. It simply won’t bloom if planted at lower elevations. As new favela communities spread across Rio de Janeiro, it became obvious that each one couldn’t simply be called Favela, so the neighbourhoods were given individual names and the word Favela was adopted to describe the type of community rather than a specific place.
8. Maracana Stadium is Really Big
The Maracana Stadium is massive but it used to be even bigger. Recent renovations for the 2014 World Cup saw its capacity reduced to 80 000 seats; however, the imfamous 1950 World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay saw more than 200 000 people inside the stadium.
Stay Tuned for #ACHeartsPanama and #ACHeartsTremblant
I was lucky to kickstart this awesome inaugural flight social media contest for Air Canada; however, two different photographers/bloggers will be heading to Panama City and Mt Tremblant. Stay tuned for updates as they happen!