Rio de Janeiro – Copacabana & Ipanema

We dedicated our second day in Rio to walking along the massive beaches of the city. Copacabana is probably the most famous beach in the world. Ipanema, on the other hand, became widely known by the song “The Girl from Ipanema” (“Garota de Ipanema”) written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes.

Over the years, it has become an icon of Rio, representing the magnificence and splendor of the metropolis. A Brazilian friend told us that Copacabana was a place where the human drive for perfection of the body reached its highest standards, and there we should expect to see the sexiest people in Brazil. With anticipation and… a small dose of insecurity… we put on our bathing suits, and headed off to confront the elite of the elite.

What we encountered was not at all what we’ve imagined. First of all, people seemed pretty average, not a trace of ladies sunbathing topless (such a common view nowadays at European beaches) no muscular lifeguards, no extraordinary beauty whatsoever… just some tourists, parents with kids, fisherman… Frankly, the only place where someone seemed to care a bit more about their “beach image” was the gay section of Ipanema.

Instead we saw a lot of things that we did not expect at all. At Copacabana, large areas of the ocean were so contaminated with floating rubbish, that it was impossible to bath there. Still some determined swimmers were brave enough to literally paddle through the dirty water with their arms. In the middle of Ipanema, we also saw a large digger distributing some fresh sand over an old layer of the beach.

Despite of that, Ipanema and Copacabana are beautiful and quite unique. Thanks to their location, it is not just the usual plain horizon that you see from the shore. There are several islands and mountains that decorate the vast blue ocean, and it is an incredible view.

I have to admit, that I liked Ipanema more than Copacabana. I don’t know why exactly, but the water was amazing, extremely clean. It had a lovely deep color and strong waves, that would drug you in and spin you over if you were not careful enough. We walked along the beach, up to the point where the Lagoa Rodrigo de Feiras flows into the ocean. I saw several sardines left on the sand by the strong current. They were jumping hopelessly. I picked them up and threw them back into the sea!

When the sun went down, Copacabana changed completely. It felt like everyone was there. The bars filled up with people and music. The beach was illuminated, and the sand turned into a perfect ground to practice all kinds of sports. I cannot tell how many people were playing football, volleyball or just working out in open-air gyms that night. On the promenade, people would ride bikes, skateboards, rollerblades, or simply run or walk.

That is when we were proved that Cariocas (the Portuguese name for native inhabitants of Rio) are indeed concerned about their body shape and fitness. I was also impressed, how they managed to make the best of the beach, and I felt a bit jealous, that we don’t do it back home in Barcelona.


Rio de Janeiro – Cristo Redentor

We arrived to Rio de Janeiro after 24 hours spent on a bus. It was the longest bus ride of my life! I was very exited to finally visit the city that is considered the most popular in South America. A Portuguese navigator – Gaspar de Lemos – discovered Guanabara Bay in January 1502. He mistook the bay for a river and named it Rio de Janeiro. Rio was the capital of independent Brazil until Brasilia took over in 1960.

We dropped our backpacks in the hostel and went straight to see the Cristo Redentor. The famous statue is located on top of Corcovado mountain (700 meters high) in the middle of Tijuca National Park. Cristo Redentor, with his welcoming outstretched arms, is 30 meters high and was rised in 1922 to commemorate the 100 years of independence of Brazil. It is considered the largest Art Deco statue and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world

There are different ways to get to the top of Corcovado. The most common one is by cute, old train that takes you straight to the feet of the statue. We got there in the afternoon though, and unfortunately all the tickets were sold out for that day, so we had no choice but taking a van ride. The good thing about it was that it stopped half way up and we could take a while to admire the views of the city and the statue itself. The good thing about getting there late was that we could see the sunset. The play of light was unforgettable and within an hour we could see the statue and the city change completely. The way up to the mountain is spectacular. I admit that I did not know much about Rio. I read a bit right before getting there but the truth is I did not know what to expect.

On the way up, looking threw the window of the van, I started creating my own image of the city. There is nature, a beautiful landscape of a green, tropical country: unlimited waters of the ocean and its beaches, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Pão de Açúcar (two mountains connected by cable cars above Bahia de Guanavara), and there is this massive concrete jungle that grew there over the years. Those two worlds are crashing together in a unique way, creating a place that is beautiful and ugly at the same time. From the top of Corcovado we admired undisturbed 360 degree view of the city and the coast. The statue of  Cristo is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it is impressive, but frankly I was expecting something else, something better.

We wondered where the real source of magnificence lies. Is it the enormous concrete monument itself or the divine greatness it refers to, that makes people from all over the world climb the hill, open their arms, and look towards the city of Rio? We did not manage to answer that, but surely it is worth going all the way up there just to observe this amazing scenario and keep a picture of it in your head for the rest of your life!