It is estimated that around 500,000 foreign visitors will descend on Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics starting in a week's time. Destination specialist Laura Rendell-Dunn reveals her eight alternative spots to escape the crowds, soak up the best views and take in some of the city’s lesser-known attractions.
Instead of heading to jam-packed Copacabana or Ipanema beaches try Joatinga beach known locally as ‘Joa’. Its location, a 45-minute drive west of Copacabana, followed by a short hike down to the beach, makes it a hidden paradise. The small stretch of golden sand is protected by a cliff and the sea is crystal clear. You can only visit the beach at low tide.
Alternatively, Grumari beach is accessible at any time of day. It takes a bit more of an effort to reach; the car drive (no public transport) takes around 1.5 hours from Copacabana along the coastal road. A backdrop of mountains covered in lush rainforest and silky white sand make Grumari beach picture-perfect.
For one of the best seafood lunches, head to Tia Penha restaurant. Don’t be put off by its remote location and simple appearance - the quality of the food is excellent. A favourite is bobó de camarão – originating from the northeast of Brazil, this delicious thick prawn stew is made with puréed manioc and traditionally cooked and served in a clay bowl. For a lighter option try the hot and spicy dressed crab called casquinha de siri.
(Estrada Roberto Burle Marx, 10815 - Barra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 23020-265, Brazil. Open from from 11am-5:30pm)
Across the bay of Guanabara, the city of Niterói is positioned directly in front of Rio’s top sites: Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains. Justifiably, residents like to boast they have the best view in the world. Apart from dazzling vistas, Niterói has some superb beaches such as Itacoatiara beach and the Museum of Contemporary Art designed by Oscar Niemeyer is a must-see.
Os Dois Irmãos
Gliding gently by cable car to reach the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain and posing with arms stretched out wide underneath the gaze of Christ the Redeemer statue are probably two of the most iconic experiences to have in Rio. For a crowd-free and utterly jaw-dropping view of the ‘Marvellous City’, take a two-hour hike to the top of Os Dois Irmãos Mountain.
Rio by air
For a less arduous option, hop into a helicopter for a relaxing flight that showcases the best of Rio from every angle. Flight duration varies from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
Located a short drive from Ipanema and Copacabana, the serene Jardim Botânico is the ideal place to escape the heat. It is best visited during the week when there are fewer people. Highlights include the towering row of palms, the massive Vitória Régia water lilies and over 600 species of orchids.
Ipanema’s Hippie market takes place every Sunday and is always buzzing with tourists looking to bag a bargain on anything from an amethyst rock to a caipirinha-making kit. For a more authentic market experience, head to CADEG in Benfica. This huge indoor market is brimming with plants, flowers, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. There’s a huge choice of restaurants located on the upper floors making it also a great spot for lunch.
Take a look at our range of holidays to Brazil.
Last updated: 16 Jun 2017