Rio de Janiero and its Brazilian Brilliance

Greg Snell April 2, 2013 11

Looking at a map of the Americas, it is easy to let your eyes glide from the Northern reaches of the barren Canadian Shield down through the Central plains, Western mountains, and Southern deserts. From there, it’s on to the vast curve of Mexico, filtering out into the beautiful volcano laden strip of Central America and just making contact with that second ominous presence, the continent of South America. Letting your eyes roam once more, it is extremely hard not to notice one country that makes up almost half of the map, not to mention almost the entirety of the Amazon rainforest: Brazil.

There it is: the biggest and most populated country in South America, 190 million people spread out over thousands of kilometers, each vying for a part in its steady growth and emergence. This is a country with stunning landscapes and enormous cities, teeming with gorgeous people and diverse cultures – a country with a tumultuous history and even more exciting future. Brazil is calling.

Christ the Redeemer

Reflection of Christ the Redeemer, photo by Greg S.

Lately it seems that everyone I speak with about Brazil is either super-excited to go there, or wants to go there eventually. I feel that most travellers (young travellers especially) think Brazil is one giant party, with people dancing samba in the streets and free-flowing caipirinhas everywhere. Of course this is not exactly the case, except for maybe Lapa (Rio) on a Friday night. But for real, travellers are increasingly excited to visit Brazil and it has become a major destination in the last decade. Now, I could go into an endless monologue on the coast line, beaches, states, people, jungle, and so on, but really I wanted to write about Rio de Janiero specifically, and this feeling I have had recently – like this city has a pulse and that the people here have a certain undertone of excitement involved in everything they do.

Group of travellers in Rio

Group of travellers in Rio, photo by Greg S.

I am currently in Rio finishing an In Search of Iguazu (JBR) trip and have a couple of days off before beginning another JBR headed back down to Buenos Aires. This is the sixth time I have been in Rio in the last two months. The Cidade Maravillosho is on the world map once again as one of the most vibrant and scenically beautiful cities to visit anywhere. The Cariocas have been selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, only two short years later, the 2016 Olympic Games. Both of these major international sporting events definitely help put the pulse into the daily city life and have proven to the residents that they belong on the world stage, and that it is time to show Rio to the world once again.

The crime rate is down, the vibe is strong and the positivity is palpable. Rio would be a great place to start a small business – you’d be guaranteed work for the next six years, that’s for sure. However, it’s not just Rio reaping all of the benefits of the upcoming hype and being one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. The country is general has had a steadily growing economy and is quickly becoming a major global emerging market. Not that I’m an economist, but I would assume that this is a positive thing for everyone involved in exploiting natural resources for short-term profitable gain at any cost, including habitat destruction, environmental catastrophe, and possibly even human life. But that is a different blog post all together. The emerging market status in Brazil will bring more international investment and (I hope) help to distribute wealth and social services throughout the country.

Counting cash

Counting cash in Rio, photo by Greg S.

Rio is a gem. It is a perfect mix of concrete and nature (if one could ever exist). The city is split into two sections, the Zona Norte and the Zona Sul. Most visitors will spend their entire time exploring the Zona Sul, with such landmarks as Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, Poa do Azucar, Corcovado, and so on. The streets are lined with every shop you could ever think of, and most corners support delicious juice and sandwich cantinas. The beaches stretch for kilometers and are dotted with people selling beer, acai, coconuts, hats, sarongs, everything. There are about 3 million people living in Zona Sul, and sometimes I feel that 1 million of them have unanimously decided to spend a Tuesday afternoon at the beach. It’s incredible – do the people here even work? Yes, but not too often. And why would you, if you had a world class beach and some incredibly good-looking people to look at daily? (That’s every day, all year round.) Sound like somewhere you’d like to visit?

Ipanema covered in people

Ipanema covered in people, photo by Greg S.

The city will only grow and continue to draw international attention with upcoming sports events, and I truly feel that Rio’s energy will suffuse well into the early parts of this century. There is something about this city – an invisible vibe, a pulse that interconnects everything and everyone, yet at the same time it is hard to pin down the exact sentiment. It’s just something which pulls you towards it and doesn’t let you go easily. As the Cariocas put it, this is the Marvelous City, and marvelous it is indeed. Come and see for yourself – Brazil is calling.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls, photo by Greg S.

Panorama of Rio

Panorama of Rio, photo by Greg S.


  1. Ziah April 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Loved the article Im one of the people who would love to visit this seemingly incredible city and country Brazil!

    Cape Town
    South Africa

  2. Greg Snell April 4, 2013 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Thanks Ziah! I was in Cape Town in Oct last year and absolutely loved it. Sometimes the closest thing to us is the thing to cherish most. Enjoy the winter!! Cheers from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

  3. Philippe April 4, 2013 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Very good article Greg

  4. Audrey | That Backpacker April 7, 2013 at 2:33 am - Reply

    There’s something special about that city! I’ve been there 5+ times and I still want to go back for more!

    • Greg Snell April 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Audrey, I completely agree. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Rand May 1, 2013 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Brings back some great memories. Brazil is such a great country, I will always find a way back.

  6. Lucy August 9, 2013 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Great article!
    It’s getting me more and more excited for my in search of Iguazu trip in November! :-)

  7. MonikaB. September 8, 2013 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Hi Greg,
    soon I´ll leave for the “wonders of Brazil” with G and have a few questions about Rio.

    Nice photos btw :-).

    Did you take your photos with a dslr or just a small camera?

    I am a photographer and have some extra days in Rio. I would love to get some great shots but I am very unsure, whether I can take out my big camera while wandering around by myself.
    I would cry if I would loose my camera the first day even before the tour will start.

    Hmmm, what do you think?

  8. MightyTravels March 19, 2014 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Rio is a fantastic city – really fell in love with it when I visited last December!

  9. Ros April 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    I visited Rio in January & saw most of
    the popular sights in the short time we were there . Cococobana Beach was beautiful , with great restaurants ,hotels & of course the beach . Our Taxi guide showed us the sights of Rio with the cable ride above The Favellas , The Christ Redeemer & Lapa being our favourite. From there to Iguassu Falls which was the most amazing experience ever !! I took great photos with my IPhone alone , which saved me carrying a camera .. All which were as good as a small camera would have taken ! Brazil was the end of our holiday … We had just finished a fantastic tour inPeru with G Adventures which we loved ! Would definitely recommend GAdventures & Sth America to anyone wanting an amazing holiday !!

    • Ros April 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      From Australia !

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