“The state of Rio de Janeiro offers travelers not only the attractions of its capital, the “Marvelous City”, but also a variety of paradisiacal beach towns, tropical islands with lush Atlantic Rainforest, and mountain towns.
Rio de Janeiro is the name for both the State and the City. Within the State of Rio de Janeiro DiscoverBrazil has selected Rio de Janeiro the City, Buzios, Paraty and Itaipava as sub-destinations we sell.
Rio de Janeiro, was discovered on January (Janeiro) 1, 1502 by Portuguese navigators who mistook the entrance of Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river (Rio). Sixty years later because French traders in search of pau-brasil (Brazilwood) were routinely ‘visiting’ the area the Portuguese crown established the city of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro.
After 2 years of bloody conflict the French were expelled and settlers began to cultivate the surrounding fertile lands. In the beginning of the 18th century the city’s importance and population increased immensely as it became the main shipping port for gold and diamonds that came from Minas Gerais. In 1763 the colonial capital of Brazil was transfered from Salvador, Rio de Janeiro to Rio. In 1808, as Napoleon’s armies began the invasion of Portugal, the decision was made to transfer the monarch and his court to Rio de Janeiro, where he would remain until 1821.
During this time Brasil was elevated in status from a colony to United Kingdom with Portugal. With the advent of Independence Rio became the capital of the new empire. The city prospered economically, and by 1891 it had a population of over 500,000 inhabitants ranking it one of the largest cities in the world. As the city grew in prominence mountains were removed, bay water reclaimed, and skyscrapers constructed.
With the inauguration of Brasilia in 1960, Rio de Janeiro ceased to be Brazil’s capital. Even today discussion is rife concerning whether Rio was improved or hurt by the transfer of the government. In any event, this second largest city in Brazil is still a major cultural capital and, to some extent, its ‘emotional’ capital as well. Rio de Janeiro has a majestic beauty, with built-up areas nestled between a magnificent bay and dazzling beaches on one side and an abruptly rising mountain range, covered by a luxuriant tropical forest, on the other. This unique landscape makes Rio one of the most beautiful cities in the world, justifying its title of ‘Marvelous City’ (Cidade Maravilhosa).
Rio’s cultural life is intense and varied. Perhaps at no time is the city’s festive reputation better displayed than during the annual carnaval which enlivens the city for 3 solid days with music, singing, parties, balls, and desfiles (street parades of brilliantly-costumed dancers performing the samba.) Economically it is a service industry center, a key financial center, and the producer of foodstuffs, building materials, electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, beverages, and textiles. But it is in the pursuit of leisure that Rio is outstanding. With its world famous beaches free to all (such as Copacabana and Ipanema), its splendid bay, one of the loveliest in the world, and its wonderful climate, a blend of summer and springtime, Rio de Janeiro is a city that lives in and for the sun.
Its population is around 5,750,000 inhabitants.
“Rio´s cuisine is uniform in one respect only: it is delicious. It is as varied as the multitude of nationalities that pass through the Cidade Maravilhosa. French, Italian, Japanese and Lebanese style restaurants vie with the more traditional Brazilian churrascarias, which serve an unlimited supply of perfectly cooked meats.
Being close to the sea of course means an unsurpassed selection of fine seafood, including fresh lobster, shrimp, shellfish, and numerous fishes. Another defining culinary experience is the juice bar, which is hugely popular in Rio. Fresh juice made with the fruit of your choice is available almost everywhere at any time of day.
Feijoada Brazil’s national dish, and also Rio’s most famous, is feijoada. This mouthwatering meat and bean casserole is served at almost every restaurant and at every family gathering. The diva of Rio´s dishes (and also Brazil’s national dish) was originally made out of leftovers to feed slaves. Feijoada requires lengthy preparation, usually a social activity with several family members milling around the kitchen. It is a delicious casserole consisting of black beans and a variety of dried, salted meats, which benefits from slow cooking and/or reheating. It may be prepared ahead of time and is traditionally eaten on Saturdays.
Feijoada is actually the main ingredient of a meal consisting of 7 dishes. It should be served with farofa, arroz Brasileiro (white Brazilian rice), hot pepper and lime sauce, couve (kale greens) and slices of fresh orange. Farofa de Azeite de Dendê Toasted cassava meal accompanies nearly all Brazilian main courses. The basic flour is available from grocers as farinha de mandioca (manioc flour). Melted butter can be used as an alternative to dendê oil (palm oil). The flour is simply fried lightly in the melted butter until both ingredients are fully combined to form a rich yellow color and a texture, which melts in your mouth.
Additional ingredients can be added, such as raisins, nuts and dried sausage. Molho de Pimenta e Limão This fiery pepper and lime sauce is an accompaniment to almost every Brazilian dish. It is made using tiny, hot crushed chilies, onion, garlic, lemon juice and salt and is served in a separate bowl to be added as desired.
“The first tourists officially arrived in Rio on January 1, 1502. They were part of a Portuguese exploratory voyage headed by Amerigo Vespucci. He entered what he thought to be the mouth of a river, hence the name Rio de Janeiro or River of January. Vespucci´s river was in reality a 380-sq km (147-sq mile) bay, still known by its indian name, Guanabara or “arm of the sea.” However geological discoveries indicate that people lived along the length of the Rio de Janeiro seaboard thousands of years ago.
Evidence of sambaquis (huge shell mounds left by the coastal inhabitants who lived on shellfish collected from the water’s edge) suggests that settled coastal communities lived here 5,000 years ago. When the Europeans arrived in the region, the indigenous inhabitants belonged to the Tupi or TupiGuarani, Puri, Botocudos and Maxacali linguistic groups. No Indian people in what is now Rio de Janeiro state survived the European incursions.
When the Portuguese settled their colony in the 1500′s they sought to leave the Indians in peace, however it was eventually broken by raids launched by French and Portuguese pirates who prowled the Brazilian coast in search of riches. As in the rest of Brazil, great efforts were put into enslaving the Indians to work plantations and converting them to Christianity. Gradually, routes up and down the coast were made to connect the far-flung outposts.
The history of the state was associated with the development of, and settlement along the roads. In the 16th century, the first established road linked Paraty with the valley of the Rio Paraíba, continuing into southern Minas Gerais. This became a route for exporting gold in the 18th century and it was followed by the Caminho Novo, also from Minas Gerais, which ended on the shores of the Baía de Guanabara.
By the time Brazilian independence had been declared in 1822, the gold mines had been exhausted and had given way to another treasure: coffee. The first coffee plantations were established in the old province of Rio de Janeiro, expanding throughout the nineteenth century as far as the Paraíba Valley in the state of São Paulo and other parts of Brazil. The crop was taken by mule train to new ports on the Baías de Guanabara, Sepetiba and Ilha Grande and these roads were the main means of communication until the coming of the railways after 1855. With the rail terminus, first from Petrópolis, then from São Paulo and Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro acquired a trading dominance, which added to its political importance within Brazil.
Until 1960, the state which is now Rio de Janeiro was called the Estado de Guanabara, with its capital at Niteroi. The city of Rio, as capital of Brazil, was a federal district in its own right. After Brasília had been made the capital of the country in 1960, the states of Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro were amalgamated into the new Estado do Rio de Janeiro with its capital at Rio.
The joining together of the old capital and the state of Rio de Janeiro has created a significant economic force. The new state has become Brazil’s largest producer of petroleum, which is pumped from the Campos platform. This oil-field was discovered in 1974 and using Brazilian-made deep-water exploration technology, production from the Campos basin has reached the level of 52,600 m3 (330,000 barrels) a day, accounting for 70% of Brazil’s total petroleum output. During the early decades of the twentieth century, agriculture in the state of Rio de Janeiro went into decline and was no longer a force in the state’s economy.
The phenomenon of agricultural modernization, bringing about major transformations within the sector throughout Brazil from the 1970′s onwards, scarcely touched mainland Rio de Janeiro. Sugarcane is the state’s main crop, grown in the municipality of Campos dos Goitacazes. The state’s economy basically revolves around its industrial park and tourism. Of particular significance are the industries concerned with metallurgy, steel, chemicals, foodstuffs, mechanics, publishing and graphics, paper and cellulose, mineral extraction and petroleum derivatives. The state’s GDP accounts for 12.5% of the national GDP.
For many decades Rio de Janeiro was the second busiest and most important seaport in Brazil, a position it is set to recover with the construction of a modern port complex located in Sepetiba Bay. The state was the cradle of Brazil’s national steel industry with the founding in the 1940s of the state-owned Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional, now privatized. The first car production plant, the Fábrica Nacional de Motores (FNM) was set up in the state of Rio but is now closed. Ninety five per cent of the Brazilian shipbuilding industry is based in the state with the presence of the major national shipyards; this sector has been through a long period of stagnation and nowadays depends on major investment in order to make a recovery.
After going through a period of economic stagnation, the setting up of a Volkswagen plant in Resende has clearly signaled the rebirth of the state’s economy. The commercial vehicles factory has become the most visible symbol that Rio is again one of the most promising states on track for the international investment that is once again heading for Brazil.
“When one thinks of Rio de Janeiro, the images that instantly spring to mind are of beautiful beaches with gorgeous suntanned bodies, carnival and football, to list but a few. These are all an integral part of Rio´s exuberant culture and help to make this state one of the most exciting and interesting places to visit in Brazil. Carnival Brazilians are some of the world’s most musical, fun-loving people and the world-famous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro has attracted tourists for decades to the cidade maravilhosa.
Carnival in Rio is spectacular. On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, the mayor of Rio symbolically hands the “keys of the city” to Rei Momo, signifying the start of a 5-day party. Momo, a sequined roly-poly king, is the symbol of polygamy and indulgence, who presides over Rio until Ash Wednesday. Imagination runs riot, social barriers are broken, the colorfully lit main avenues are full of people and children wearing costumes.
Special bandstands throughout the city are manned for public street-dancing and organized carnival groups; the blocos carnavalescos are everywhere, dancing drumming and singing. Carnival’s roots are European. The fancy-dress ball was part of European Carnival as early as the 18th century. Paris and Venice had the best masked Carnival balls.
The first modern Carnival ball was the High Life, at a Copacabana hotel in 1908, where guests danced the polka and Viennese waltzes. A Portuguese immigrant, José Nogueira Paredes (nicknamed Zé Pereira) is credited with originating the first Carnival club. One of the ideas was to get everybody in the club to play the same kind of drum, creating a powerful, unified sound. This technique became the basis for the modern samba school bateria or percussion section. Today’s celebration of Carnival in Rio has three main features: frenzied street events, traditional club balls and the samba parade. Carnival nights belong to the club balls, which range from the sophisticated to the wild. The majority of clubs and hotels host at least one ball.
The Copacabana Palace hotel and The Scala are amongst the more famous ones. The contest for best costume is held at several balls and features outrageous get-ups which depict everything from medieval troubadours to Roman Catholic archbishops. The undisputed centerpiece of any Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the main Samba School Parade. There are numerous samba schools in Rio, divided into two leagues.
A school’s position in the league determines whether it parades in the Sambódromo (the top schools), or on Avenida Rio Branco (less spectacular, but free). Every school presents 3,000-5,000 participants, divided into 40 alas (wings) and as many as 30 floats. Each school chooses a theme, then composes a samba and designs costumes and floats to fit it. Popular parade themes are generally bible stories, mythology and literature. The float depicts an open book and is, in effect, the title page of the school’s theme.
The Carnival parade is the culmination of months of intense activity by community groups, mostly in the city’s poorest districts. The announcement of the winning schools is made on the Thursday after Carnival, and this is one of the biggest events of the year in Rio. Participation in the Samba School Parade is open to foreigners as well as Brazilians. Participants must start to attend rehearsals and costume fittings at least 2 weeks in advance of Carnival. For those with the energy and dedication it is an unforgettable experience. Samba For the Afro-Brazilian, music is both social and religious. It is thought that the word “samba” comes from the Angolan semba, a synonym for umbigada – literally a belly button thrust. Africans formed a circle, clapping, singing and beating percussion instruments while one dancer at a time twirled and gyrated in the middle.
When he wanted someone else to take over he would stop in front of someone in the circle and, with an umbigada, they would swap places. Samba de roda survives virtually unchanged today in Afro-Brazilian communities all over Brazil. Samba’s official history began in 1916, when the composition ‘Pelo Telefone’ was registered in a Rio notary’s office by a lower-middle class carioca composer, Donga. The following year, Pelo Telefone was the success of the Carnival, becoming the first samba to be recorded. Soon after, it was Carmen Miranda who took the Samba to Hollywood and the rest of the world. Samba has many genres: samba do breque, bebop samba, samba-rock, samba-funk, samba-reggae, to name but a few. Bossa Nova This white, middle-class and silky smooth musical genre hit the world on November 22, 1962, when the classically trained pianist and composer Tom Jobim held New York’s Carnegie Hall audience captive to The Girl from Ipanema and Samba de uma nota só. Poet and former diplomat, Vinicius de Moraes, an inveterate bohemian, became the movement’s leader, writing lyrics such as the exquisite Eu sei que vou te amar. Bossa Nova, which roughly translated means “new thing” spanned from 1958 to 1964 and Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon were the scene. Nara Leão, Baden Powell, Toquinho, João Gilberto, Luis Bonfã and Astrud Gilberto were the main performers and Stan Getz, the American jazz saxophonist, helped export it to the world.
Football or Soccer Football is the national sport and the Brazilians are world famous for being the undisputed best players in the world. They were winners of the last world cup held in Korea. Although they did not invent the sport (the British did) they just perfected it. The game arrived in Brazil just before the turn of the 20th century, brought to São Paulo by a young Brazilian-born Englishman named Charles Miller. Known as futebol, soccer in Brazil is so popular that some of the world’s largest stadiums have been erected here. The Maracanã stadium in the city of Rio is Brazil’s temple of soccer. It’s a giant among coliseums, able to seat 120,000 people.
If sports interest you even the littlest bit, or if you just want a new insight into Brazil, then by all means check out a game of futebol here – preferably a championship game or one between local rivals Flamengo, Vasco, Fluminense or Botafogo. It can be an intense and fun experience. The sports museum inside the stadium has photos, posters, cups and uniforms of the greats. Beach It is true that one of Brazil´s national passions is the beach and everything that occurs there on. This includes sunbathing, beautiful bodies in tiny bikinis, volleyball and working out, among many other activities. Fitness is an important part of Rio lifestyle.
Whether it is working out on the beach or in a gym the cariocas are very body and image conscious. Jiu-jitsu and Vale-tudo are big sports here and the Brazilians have won many championships wordwide. In front of the downtown beaches there are separate paths between the pavement and the road for runners, walkers, cyclists and roller-bladers. Every Sunday the road in front of Copacabana beach is closed to cars, to allow the public to exercise however they choose. This is also a family day when lots of parents take their kids out for a walk or on bikes.
Modern Architecture Rio is at the forefront of Brazilian architecture and design. In the 1930s, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier influenced a generation of Brazilian architects, who developed a singular style combining international modernism with a Brazilian vernacular that was particularly responsive to the natural environment. In the 1950′s a current was generated throughout the art world, which looked to the future for its inspiration for Brazilian-ness. Pioneering architects such as Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, the landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx and many others started to design functional and spacious buildings, with large open areas and pilotis (pillars carrying a building, leaving the ground floor open. This was the start of the era of Modernism. The use of glass and concrete was intense and examples in Rio are the Ministério da Educação e Saúde (the first significant modernist building in Latin America), the Museu de Arte Moderna, the Catedral Metropolitana and the Petrobrás building.
The most recent trend is the Post-modern. Many shopping malls, residential buildings and business centers are being designed in a style which uses colored mirror glass, granite and stylized structures reminiscent of classical temples. Brazilian architects are also famous worldwide for their techniques in designing houses to be constructed on steeply inclined hills. In the neighborhoods of Barra da Tijuca and São Conrado, along the coastal road, you can see many of these astonishing projects, which are homes of the very wealthy. Art The groundbreaking Semana da Arte Moderna (Modern Art Week) in São Paulo in 1922 brought together a group of artists and intellectuals whose influence on Brazilian culture can still be felt today.
They sought to challenge established bourgeois attitudes, to shake off the traditional cultural subservience to Europe, and to draw attention to the cultural diversity and social inequality of contemporary Brazil. Museums of Modern Art were founded in both Rio and São Paulo and rivalry between the artistic communities of both cities helped to produce some outstanding avant-garde art. In the 1960s the Neo-Concrete movement in Rio argued for the integration of art into daily life, and experimented with art which makes sensory and emotional demands on the ‘spectator’ whose participation leads in turn to creation. Artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica were developing a unique form of Brazilian modernism that emphasized simplicity of form and spatial construction.
The artist Hélio Oiticica worked with poor, black people from the samba schools in the Rio favelas to create artistic ‘happenings’ involving dance, music and flamboyant costumes called Parangolés (Capes). His spatial constructions are assemblages of brightly painted wood, which hang from the gallery ceiling. A museum of his work has recently opened in Rio. ‘We are Blacks, Indians, Whites – everything at the same time – our culture has nothing to do with the European’, Hélio Oiticica.
“Being in a tropical zone, temperatures in Rio de Janeiro should be high, but the influence of the Serra do Mar affects all aspects of climate, giving the state a wider variation in temperature and rainfall than would otherwise be expected. The coastal temperatures can be up to 40°C (104°F) with high rains and humidity, and as low as 18°C (64°F) in a cold spell. Whereas in areas close to the mountains, such as Paraty and Itaipava the temperatures are much cooler and there is less of a dry season. As in Bahia, cold fronts sometimes occur.
Argentina Travel Tips
- Consular Travel Visas – Most tourists do not need a visa to enter the country (The tourist visa maximum is 90 days).
- The national currency of Argentina is the peso. The American dollar is easily accepted in all cities in the country. The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and Mastercard.
- Water: in general, the water is safe; however it would be wise to drink only bottled mineral water. When you leave the large cities and go to smaller towns, be careful. For your own safety, we recommend that you only drink bottled water. As in all countries, the hygiene and cleaning of food depends on the establishment you are in. In general, serious problems do not exist.
- The buses are very comfortable and some offer food service as well. However, the tickets are expensive and the prices vary.
- In Argentina, the tip varies from 10 to 15% of the total consumed.
- The official language is Spanish.
- Your clothes and shoes should be comfortable. We recommend that you take jackets especially if you are traveling to Patagonia.
Electricity is 220 volts, 50 Hz.
- Regulations may be changed without prior notice, thus, it is a wise idea to visit a doctor before your trip. It is prudent, while in the Andes region, to periodically check your blood pressure.
- Check with the Argentinean consulate closest to your area for visa and vaccination requirements.
It is not necessary to take any vaccinations or medical certificates to get into the country. However, if you plan on staying in the tropical forest or you will be staying for an extended period of time, it is recommended that you take medication to protect yourself against Malaria.
- The great variety of climate allows you to visit Argentina at any time of the year. If you are interested in skiing, you should go during the winter season (June-August); if you would like to visit Patagonia, the best time of year would be in the summer (October – March).
- Unfortunately, just as every modern city, Buenos Aires also has thieves looking out for unwary tourists. Be always on the alert, especially in the area of La Recoleta. In general, the city is safe however you should not take unnecessary risks.
- Argentina has excellent flight connections from its international airport in Buenos Aires to many destinations around the world.
“One of the main attractions of state of Rio de Janeiro is its varied geography. Better known for its stunning granite mountains in the city of Rio plunging into clear blue seas lined with white sand beaches, the state of Rio is resplendent with not only a magnificent coastline but also superb mountainous scenery inland filled with rivers and numerous valleys.
The coast has three large bays, intricately carved with inlets and dotted with islands. Where erosion has deposited soils at the foot of the coastal mountains, lowlands (baixadas) have formed a wide belt between the mountains and the sea. In these lowlands there are sand banks, salt marshes (restingas) and lakes.
Another feature of the coast is the number of beautiful beaches, some on the open sea and others, which are calmer, in the bays or on the lakes behind the sand bars. Búzios, located 190 km (115 miles) east of Rio along the Costa do Sol, has 27 sandy coves around a jagged peninsula and is known for its calm unpolluted waters and beautiful scenery. South of the city of Rio, situated on the edge of Rio de Janeiro state, lies Paraty, an exquisite colonial gem lined with 18th century buildings along the waterfront.
The hills that surround the town are covered in tropical forest and the coastline has hundreds of beaches within easy reach. There are lots of waterfalls and tons of wonderful bromelia plantations. Just inland from the Atlantic litoral is the Serra do Mar, a range of mountains which includes, among other features, the striking shapes of the Serra dos Órgãos. The 11,000 hectares of the Serra is so called because their strange shapes are said to recall organ pipes. The vast area is a national park, created in 1939, the second oldest in the country.
The main attraction is the Dedo de Deus peak at 1,692m high. The highest point is the 2,263m Pedra do Sino (Bell Rock), which has a steep, winding 14km path; the west face of this mountain is known as one of the hardest climbs in Brazil. The park belongs to the Mata Atlântica ecosystem and has 20-30m high trees, such as paineiras (floss-silk tree), ipês and cedros, rising above palms, bamboos and other smaller trees.
Flowers include begonias, bromeliads, orchids and quaresmeiras (glory bushes). The park is also home to the vary rare and endemic grey-winged caatinga. Many other species of bird can be found, as well as monkeys, wild cats, deer and armadillo. There are also a number of frogs and toads, including the sapo-pulga, which some sources say is the smallest amphibian in the world. In the Serra da Estrela range of mountains in the Serra do Mar nestles the charming and civilized Cidade Imperial of Petrópolis. It is known for its beautiful flowers and hill scenery.
Further inland again is the Serra da Mantiqueira, where the highest mountain in the state is found, Pico das Agulhas Negras (2,787m). The surrounding scenery is beautiful with valleys, cold rivers and lots of flowers. The Itatiaia National Park is located within the Mantiqueira range of mountains and is a top bird-watching destination. There are many of opportunities for good walking and other outdoor activities in the region. Between the two mountain ranges of Serra do Mar and Serra da Mantiqueira runs the Rio Paraíba do Sul, creating the main valley of many in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Before the Portuguese conquest, the entire region was covered in tropical forest, hardly any of which now remains.
TALK TO A RIO TRAVEL AGENT
N. America: +1 302 466-3020
Brazil: +55 71 3500-1446
Monday to Friday 8 am – 6 pm
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil