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What to do in Andalusia


The most popular visitor sights of this vibrant and sexy city still offer some of the best ways to experience the metropolis
23.03.16 - 13:07 -
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Rio de Janeiro from above
Rio de Janeiro, with the Sugarloaf Mountain guarding the mouth of the bay. :: SUR
It is a metropolis like no other; clusters of towers and close-knit homes are squeezed in between extraordinarily-shaped rainforest mountains and golden beaches that seem to stretch on for ever - yes Rio de Janiero is one of the planet’s most strikingly memorable places.
To gain an exceptional perspective of the city means heading up to those peaks, thick with forest. So if you’re uneasy about heights it’s time to conquer those concerns and see Rio from above.
Cristo Redentor
It is definitely worth purchasing online the ticket for the small, red train, which will take you to the top of the Corcovado Mountain. Pulled up the extremely steep route with the help of what looks like cogs under the carriages, the toy-town style carriages are hauled through the lush, tropical Tijuca National Park, until after a while you reach the modest station near the summit. The last few hundred metres one has to walk, before stepping up to the platform where the iconic Art Deco statue of Christ the Redeemer stands, arms outstretched over the city. Once one reaches this place it becomes obvious why this is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The views totally live up to expectations; it’s really fair to say that they are spectacular. Once you overcome the desire to snap photos and take selfies then there’s that time when you just want to be in the moment and soak up the city.
Visiting ‘Cristo Redentor’ is undeniably touristy and the chances are you will be among crowds, yet it is still so worthwhile. If you book for early in the morning, there will be fewer people and the weather will more likely be favourable with less cloud; but even so we experienced some Atlantic rainforest mist on and off during the visit.
Construction of the immense statue began in the early 1920s to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Brazil’s Independence from Portugal. Now this religious statue has, since its completion later in 1931, become an icon of Rio de Janiero and of Brazil, recognised across the world.
Pão de Açúcar
The mouth of the Guanabara Bay that opens out ahead of you is punctuated by striking monolithic peaks, including the unmistakable Sugarloaf Mountain, the ‘Pão de Açúcar - its domed appearance said to resemble a loaf of refined sugar from the bygone era of Brazil’s sugar cane trade. Of course that’s the other tourist honeypot, especially towards the end of the day, when climbing the mountain via the modern cableway affords a tropical sunset and dazzling urban view of city lights below.
From here, once you find your spot on a viewing terrace, you can truly take in the magnificence of Rio de Janiero. Below the ‘Marvellous City’ of samba, bossa nova and of carnival stretches out before you; including the gentle arc of Copacabana Beach, Rio’s bay and the Atlantic beyond. It’s a fascinating perspective of a metropolis of such diverse communities; from the disadvantaged ‘favelas’ (tight-knit residential neighbourhoods that climb up the hillsides behind the upscale hotels and luxury apartment blocks of downtown); to the sexy, relaxed and vibrant beach scene of Copacabana, Ipanema and Lebron.
Pedra da Gávea
After the intensity of carnival, and with the heat of summer beginning to fade in Rio, it’s approaching the season when one can enjoy the views of the city by hiking the hills and mountains that surround the bay.
It’s a good idea to hike with a group and choose a professional company as some routes will inevitably take you near or through the ‘favela’ neighbourhoods. Following the 2014 World Cup and with Rio 2016 Olympic Games fast approaching, the city police and specialist security units have been focusing on policies within the favelas known as ‘pacifying’. These often controversial techniques combine assertive policing and proactive social services to reclaim communities from organised crime and gang control. However notable security risks remain in Rio, and any sightseeing that takes you away from the main developed areas needs to be planned and ideally accompanied by a professional guide.
That aside, the satisfaction and rewards of climbing the famous Pedra da Gávea Mountain, or even taking less well known routes up into the Tijuca National Park are well worth the exertion. Expect far greater tranquillity than at the two big tourist sites of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, and the city views will be framed by nature rather than selfie sticks.
Of course these perspectives of Rio are just a few ways to experience the magic of the city. One has to be at street level to feel and be part of the unique atmosphere of this beach metropolis; to banter with the street hawkers; to be bewildered by the variety of fresh juices on offer; to be seduced by the charm and eccentricity of the colonial Santa Teresa neighbourhood; or be impressed by the redeveloped port and its new museums.
Hosting the Summer Olympics and Summer Paralympic Games is clearly making 2016 Rio’s year. Although this sprawling, beautiful, often carefree place may not be Brazil’s capital anymore, it most certainly is one the country’s most compelling destinations.