Experience the spirit of Brazil in the year of the World Cup. This seductive and extravagantly beautiful country ticks all the boxes for a holiday in paradise - white sandy beaches, lush green forests and pulsating nightlife. But there’s more to Brazil than just the icons, you’ll also find historic towns, modernist architecture and one of the fastest moving cultures of the Americas. And the Brazilians themselves are naturally part of the appeal – here it doesn’t matter one jot whether you’re ‘tall and tan and young and lovely’ or not. In Brazil, everyone is welcome.
Flights to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
Rio has moderate to warm average temperatures throughout the year. The warmest months, December through March, have high humidity and highs around 40°C. The coolest months, May through August, has clear weather and average temperatures of 22–32°C with lows around 12 degrees. The warmest months are also the wettest months – a typical January has 240mm of precipitation.
Second Saturday of October to second Saturday of February
Rio gradually formed itself around the base of the Tijuca Range Mountains on the southern shore of Guanabara Bay. Officially the city is divided into four districts: Zona Centro (Central Zone), Zona Sul (South Zone), Zona Norte (North Zone) and Zone Oeste (West Zone).
For travellers it can be divided even more simply into the Zona Sul and the Zona Norte – basically the poorer bairros (Portuguese for barrio) to the north and the richer barrios to the south. Most travellers will stay in the south where the majority of attractions are, but will travel through the north from the airport.
Centro is the financial and business centre and includes Lapa and Santa Teresa. Many of the historical buildings are located here – they include the Municipal Theatre, National Library, National Museum of Fine Arts, Tiradentes Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and Pedro Ernesto Palace. The Zona Sul includes Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema as well as the exclusive districts that flank Flamengo Beach. Major attractions here include Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, and Sugar Loaf and Corcovado mountains.
While Zona Norte is of less interest to travellers it does have the refurbished Maracanã Stadium, Quinta da Boa Vista Park with the National Museum, the zoo and the National Observatory.
The Zona Oeste is a suburban area that’s rapidly expanding – in part because it will be the main area to host the Olympics in 2016. It includes the districts of Jacarepaguá and Barra da Tijuca, popular for surfing, beaches and shopping.
Rio’s Montmartre – this barrio of artists, musicians, writers and crumbling 19th century mansions has spectacular views down to the city below. It’s the place to be to listen to Sunday afternoon chorinho (Brazilian music style) and for impromptu street blocos (street parties) during the two weeks of Carnival. There are 93 stone staircases to help you navigate the winding cobblestone streets. Access to the Tijuca Forest is from here.
Located at the bottom of the hill beneath Santa Teresa, Rio’s Pigalle was once a seedy red light district, but now is a huge Friday night party place. In particular it’s famous for its street party beneath the magnificent 16th century aqueduct which once carried water to the city. Go here for samba, nightclubs and bars
Location of the hottest hotels, most fashionable bars and the most photographed piece of beach in South America. The spectacular sweeping beach lies beneath the volcanic cliffs of Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) upon which the favela of Vidigal clings like shale. Posto 9 is a popular beach for travellers in the middle of Ipanema. Go to the northern end with the rest of the locals to watch the sun set off Arpoador Beach.
Recently pacified and now hosting one of the city’s hottest Saturday night funk parties on its peaks. Hipsters are pouring into the suburb for the cheap rent. Rumours are swirling about five star hotels to open there, too. Edgy but unmissable, this is the place to experience a little carioca funk.
Gávea and Jardim do Botanico
This comfortably middle class district features excellent bars and restaurants.
Runners, cyclers, pram pushers take the track around this spectacular lake that sits just inland behind Ipanema – studded with outdoor bars and play centres this is a wonderful place to hang out with young kids.
Celebrity studded, with slick apartment buildings set on the southern end of Ipanema Beach, this barrio is the place for high end Brazilian cuisine and swish party bars.
Like an old dame, Copa features fabulous examples of Art Deco buildings along her fading waterfront with the standout being the ultra-glamorous Copacabana Palace Hotel. Connected to Botafogo by a tunnel since 1982, it’s hard to believe that until that point in time Copacabana was a sleepy backwater.
Not at all touristy but features some of the Rio’s best museums and cultural centres as well as super cool bars and restaurants. Recently this barrio has become a magnet for the hipster design set.
This gated suburb features a fabulous beach and some of the city’s best botecos (little bars). It’s also the point where you embark on the tramcar to Sugarloaf (there’s even a New Year’s Eve party on the top of the mountain).
The old port district
The former location of the slave port and in the process of a massive refurbishment, you’ll find Rio’s outstanding MAR Museum as well as the samba of Pedra do Sal.
Barra de Tijuca
Long sweeping beaches of Brazil’s new middle class – go there to surf, cycle along the beach on Sundays, eat fish in little beachside restaurants or go to the gigantic shopping malls which line Avenida das Américas. Keep going to Rio’s favourite Sunday beach getaway – Prainha (you’ll need a car to get there though).
It goes without saying that travellers to Rio will promenade the Oscar Neimeyer designed mosaic sidewalks of Copacabana and spread a towel on the white sands of Ipanema or Leblon. And by all means everyone should take the cog train to the top of Corcovado and the cable car to the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). But with the essential boxes ticked, there’s so much more:
- An exhibition at the 19th-century neoclassical Casa Daros in Botafogo
- MAR, the Museu de Arte de Rio, for works stretching from the colonial to the contemporary
- The dreamy modernist buildings of Pritzker prize-winning architect Oscar Neimeyer
- The sequined extravaganza of Carnaval in the Sambadrome if you’re there in February
- Latin American art in the gallery of neoclassical Centro Banco Cultural do Brasil
- São João Fortress under Corcovado (Sugarloaf Mountain)
- All of the sumptuous staircases and gilded ceilings of the belle époque era Theatro Municipal
- The lush gardens of the elegant early 20th century stone mansion Parque Lage
- See the elegant neo-gothic façade of the Real Gabinete Portugues da Leitura and step into the magnificent wood-panelled library of over 350,000 books
EAT and DRINK
- Cold chopp beer after visiting a gallery in Botafogo on the sea wall at waterfront Bar Urca
- Tangerina ao limão juice and famous Bauru sandwich from the chain Bibi's
- Sunset beers from the terrace of Arpoador Inn to watch the sun set over Dois Irmãos
- Caipirinha, made from cachaça (a Brazilian alcohol made from sugarcane juice), lime juice, sugar syrup and ice
- National dish feijoada (a black bean and pork stew) with traditional sides of cassava, collard greens, fried pork rinds and orange slices
- Agua de coco (coconut water) or caldo de cana (sugarcane juice) from a beach vendor for the most delicious cool-down
- Acai smoothie, made from the Amazonian fruit at a juice bar
- Lunch by the kilo at one of Rio's famous churrascarias
- Rent a car on a Sunday and drive to Prainha, Rio’s favourite Sunday beach getaway
- Rollerblade along sweeping Flamengo Park with high-culture stops at its three museums
- Follow the trails that snake their way through 3200 hectare Tijuca Forest, the largest urban park in the world
- Take a side-trip to Brazil’s St Tropez, the beautiful, chi-chi resort town of Búzios
- Pegar jacaré (‘grab an alligator’ or catch a wave) at Arpoador Beach, famous for its sunset and exceptional point breaks
- Beach-hop on Sundays from the seat of an orange rental bike, when the sweeping boardwalks are closed to traffic
- Take the cog train to the top of Corcovado for the 38m Art deco Statue Christo Redentor and spectacular views of the city
- Walk through the famous favela Rocinha on a guided tour
- Stroll the Avenida das Palmas Imperiais in the Jardim Botânico to see the 200 Imperial palms grown from a single palm in the 19th century
- Overnight in Angra, the magnificent island Ilha Grande or colonial Paraty
- Join the samba jam at Pedra do Sal at Largo São Francisco da Prainha
- Listen to the malandros serenading their loves under the arches of the moonstone aqueduct in Lapa
- Attend an all-night practice session at the Salgueiro or Mangueira samba schools in the lead-up up to Carnaval
- Funk with the best of them on top of the newly peaceful Vidigal Favela in Rio de Janeiro
- Imperial rosewood furniture, 19th-century French furniture or modernist and art deco design objects in the antique market of Rua do Lavradio in Lapa
- Souvenirs at the "hippie fair" Praça General Osório every Sunday
- All the big names of Brazilian fashion at Shopping São Conraldo near Ipanema
Bestselling in tours in Rio at qantas.com right now…
- Corcovado Mountain, Christ Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain Day Tour
- Sugar Loaf Mountain Half-Day Tour
- Tijuca Rain Forest Jeep Tour from Rio de Janeiro
- Rio de Janeiro Helicopter Tour
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Flights to Rio usually arrive at Galeão International Airport, but might touch down at the more central Santos Dumont if you’re lucky. From there, you’ll need to take an official taxi or an organised private transfer. Make sure the meter is on or negotiate your fare in advance. Buses are not an option.
Rio’s mostly inadequate public transport network is undergoing a massive transformation for the World Cup and Olympics. It includes bus, subway and train networks but check in advance which stations are open because so many are being upgraded and added at this time.
Road traffic is furious and almost at a standstill during peak hours – so subways and trains are recommended whenever possible, to avoid the jams. You will need an hour to get from one side of town to another.
Taxis are readily available and the recommended form of transport for night travel. They can be hailed from the street or caught at designated stands – the two types are the yellow-blue stripe public taxis and the blue, green and white radio taxis.
3 flights to Santiago from Sydney per week with onward flights to Rio on our codeshare partner LAN.
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Awarded Best First, Business and Overall Wine Cellar at Business Traveller 'Cellars in the Sky Awards' 2013
Upgraded B747 aircraft
Enjoy a state of the art cabin experience on upgraded B747-400 aircraft on flights to Santiago.
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Let us look after you on your way to Brazil in our Associated Lounge in Santiago
Note that all flights are subject to aircraft changes. Seating configurations and product features may vary between aircraft, including aircraft of the same type.
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