By Carlos Melia
Rio de Janeiro, to me, is one of those destinations in the world, that should be on the MUST priority on your Basic 101 Gay Travel Bucket List. A day lounging at Ipanema Beach over cold Caipirinhas, feeling the pulse and kick of Cachaca boosted by the summer heat and sun, surrounded by the beautiful locals, overlooking the stunning morros… it is an unforgettable, unique, sex appealing experience. But at the same time…. Rio de Janeiro can be for many, a bit overrated, when it comes to safety, distance and value over quality.
Personally I have had my share of the Carioca city for a lifetime, being Argentinean grown in Buenos Aires, Brazil and more specifically Rio de Janeiro, was consider in many ways our second home. Rio de Janeiro, is one of those destinations to which I would never plan a holiday around, but once I am there, I enjoy beyond expectations and I never want to leave….
After my trip to Florianopolis in the south of Brazil, which I will share with you another time, I came to spend 3 nights (aka. 72 hours) in Rio de Janeiro, and this time I chose to do it in style and based alternatively away from Ipanema. I always like to find an edge, and this time I found it in Copacabana and Santa Teresa.
Here is the list of highlights I enjoyed in Rio de Janeiro, over a regular week. If you are looking for a report on a crazy weekend, then this post is not for you, no The Week Disco, no Le Boy, that would be pretty obvious right…. just plain lounging at the pool of the Copacabana Palace by Orient-Express, touring around the Sugar Loaf and the Corcovado Christ Redeemer, and dining at Rua Dias Ferreira. “¨”¨
Rio de Janeiro, sexy, chic, tropical, commonly referred as Rio, is the second largest city of Brazil. Home of a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO, granted on 1 July 2012. Founded on an inlet by the Guanabara Bay, with its entrance marked by a point of land called Sugar Loaf. “¨”¨
Only 72 hours were the limit, and I had to utilize them wisely… and with the help of Blumar Incoming Tour Operator, I managed to succeed.
See below the list of Highlights and Recommendations:
Two nights stay and Sunday Brunch at the Copacabana Palace by Orient-Express
I have defined this hotel and property as the ultimate social hot overnight spot of Rio de Janeiro. The place to SEE and BE SEEN. The pool of the Copacabana Palace, and more so the Sunday Brunch experience rivals any other option in the destination. A classic of sophistication, and refinement in Copacabana. Les Clefs d’Or Concierge, secure the best experience at the destination, if they can get it nobody can. Right a short walk from the beach, where you can use their private wood deck on Copacabana. Since its Art Deco doors swung open in 1923, it has been welcoming the rich and famous: from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to the Rolling Stones and Nelson Mandela. Each of its rooms and suites is unique, featuring fine period furniture and original works of art. Yet each room is also thoroughly modern, including Wi-Fi and iPod docks. + Read More
Of course everyone knows, have heard and wishes to flock to the beaches of Ipanema, and so I did… but there is much more to see and explore of Rio for the avid traveler. “¨”¨
For example visit the district of Santa Teresa, the Montmartre of Rio de Janeiro, is the city’s most well-preserved and artistic district with many mansions dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Architecture in Santa Teresa is predominantly colonial and neo-classical, edging towards Art Deco, enriched with history, art museums, artist ateliers and many cultural activities. Home to ambassadors and the elite, this charming and sophisticated district offers visitors a glimpse of an authentic and unique Rio.
Overnight at Hotel Santa Teresa by Relais & Chateaux
A historical coffee plantation mansion, located in the most noble area of Santa Teresa – cultural and historical heart of Rio de Janeiro – the boutique hotel was restored with charm and sophistication as an exclusive reference of Brazilian Tropical Design.”¨More than an extraordinary hotel, the Hotel Santa Teresa offers peace-of-mind and safety to all guests with tropical gardens, panoramic pools, complete Natura SPA, a lounge bar classified as the most romantic in Rio de Janeiro and Térèze Restaurant with Franco-Brazilian gastronomy by Chef Damien Montecer. Definitely and alternative location to the classic Ipanema, that will bring you to the mere sould of Rio de Janeiro. Santa Teresa, defined as the Montmartre of the Cariocas. I enjoyed my stay at Hotel Santa Teresa very much, but it was quite unfortunate that I was there right during a management change of hands, therefore the service was not quite what you would have expected from a Relais & Chateaux property. Tropical, design, ethnic and chic, this hotel, the chosen one by Amy Winehouse for her stay while in Rio de Janeiro, boast a fantastic Veuve Clicquot Champagne Pool terrace overlooking the Guanabara Bay, and the Bar dos Descasados, open under the arches of the former slave quarters of the mansion, is an ideal place for romance or to enjoy the Bar’s exclusive cocktails amongst friends. For more information + Read More
Dine over Rua Dias Ferreira in Leblon
If you are looking for the best area for restaurants and gourmet experiences in Rio de Janeiro, then you must come to Rua Dias Ferreira in Leblon. The hot spot for restaurants, only a few minutes away from Copacabana or Ipanema. From sushi to italian and everything in between, there are options for all palates. Our choice for the night was Sushi Leblon, and indeed it was fantastic. But our local friend Bruno also highly recommended an alternative local Brazilian option – ZUKA. Worth trying.
If this is your first visit to Rio, I do not want to take you away too much from the best classics of this charming city. You will have to find the time to explore two of the main attractions, the Sugar Loaf overlooking the Guanabara Bay and the Corcovado Christ Redeemer, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Sugar Loaf and the Guanabara Bay
Sugar Loaf “Pão de Açúcar”. Located at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay, same that the first portuguese settlers the 1st of January 1502. From there the name Rio de Janeiro, Rio (River) and Janeiro (January). When sailing across the Guanabara Bay, they though they were on the mouth of a river, and this happened in the month of January. The name Sugar Loaf, is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined sugar loaf.
To get to Sugar Loaf, you will have to hop on and off the Cable Car, yes the same one which was featured at the Moonraker James Bond film. Well the same system, not the same cars which date from 1912, since they have been modernized over the years, now taking 60 people in each cabin with two stops. An alternative way to experience the Sugar Loaf and the Corcovado is by Helicopter Tours, very popular in Brazil ranging from Reales 180 on.
Corcovado Christ Redeemer
The iconic Corcovado Christ Redeemer at the top of Corcovado Hill (or Morro as locals call them) 700 meters. Corcovado, translates as hunchback. Considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world, made completely of soapstone, overlooking in the back to Tijuca Forest – the largest urban forest in the world, and to the front the Guanabara Bay. Breathtaking panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro, overtaken by the presence of the majestic statue, which welcomes everyone to Rio de Janeiro and Brazil with wide open arms.
Jump on the Corcovado Train and ride for approximately 20 minutes, to the top of Corcovado Hill on comfortable trams. The first train date from 1884. Ride along the Tijuca Forest, while you enjoy lovely panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay.
(video) Carlos Melia at Corcovado Tram
How did I get there ? Well onboard TAM Airlines, on their Business International Class. One of the best options to connect the United States and Brazil. But your experience does not end once you deplane, use the complimentary transfer service to your hotel on one of their luxury cars. At the airport while you wait to board, enjoy the VIP room, offering a buffet and bar. “¨”¨
(video) TAM Airlines Business Class
Unfortunately my 72 hours are gone, and I must move on to my next destination. Pending and things that make me want to return…, well yes indeed. The news of the new exclusive resort opening by Aman Resorts for 2013 somewhere around Angra dos Reis, game-changing” properties that will compete with anything in Europe or Asia. Stay tuned. And maybe one day experience in full the excitement and adrenaline of a Carnival.
Next week’s destination Puerto Rico plus a little surprise. I will be spending the weekend there. !!! Till next adventure in full luxury. Carlos Melia”¨
Carlos Melia is a Travel Expert, Blogger, Niche Marketing Consultant, Jetsetter, and Bon Vivant, who travels around the world discovering what’s new and cool in Luxury Travel and Hospitality. His reviews on hotels, restaurants, destinations, and attractions, based on his own experiences as an OUT Gay Traveler can be found at www.carlosmeliablog.com