Sharing some photos from beautiful Rio de Janeiro today! We've been back for three weeks and yet I still can't stop dreaming about the tropical fruits, gorgeous views, caipirinhas and pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread, and yes it's as insanely delicious as it sounds). Rio is such a unique city and home to two world wonders—Christ the Redeemer (New 7 Wonders) and the harbor (7 Natural Wonders). It was my first time in South America and I was so excited to experience such a different culture. I'll be honest, I didn't quite realize just how very far away from home Brazil is (it's even further east than the east coast!). Door to door, it took us 24 hours to get to Rio. But it was definitely worth it and we had so much fun exploring. Here are some of our favorite snaps, and I've also included some helpful Rio travel tips at the bottom of this post in case you're planning a trip there too and want more deets!
[above] The view from our airbnb was stunning! [below] There was a lot of cool wall/building art and graffiti around Rio.
Fun finds at the Feira Hippie de Ipanema (Hippy Fair).
[above] Rode the gondola up to Pão de Acucar to catch more amazing views. [below] We spent a day strolling around the Botanical Gardens in Rio and saw monkeys!! About twenty of them were hopping and running around and swinging from the trees and Omied and I could barely handle the cuteness. They are tufted capuchins and I love them. :D
[above] There were so many beautiful and different orchids at the gardens. [below] Do you see the baby monkey peeking over its momma's shoulder?? Again. The cuteness. I can't.
Spent a day in Santa Teresa and visited these amazing mosaic stairs, Escadaria Selarón.
[above] Those harbor views!
[above] While we were hiking in the Tijuca Rainforest we came across a rest stop with dozens of Coati (Brazilian raccoons). They were cute but they got a bit aggressive when some tourists brought their picnic out and (stupidly) threw them bread.
A few helpful travel tips for Rio...
Lonely Planet Rio: We bought the Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro book, which was really helpful. We found lots of good tips in there for local cafes, markets, and top things to do in Rio.
Safe areas to stay in Rio: When I was doing research on where to stay in Rio, I found that Leblon and Ipanema kept being mentioned as safe places to stay. We ended up staying in Leblon, and we felt very safe walking around at night (the two of us, by the way; I probably wouldn't walk around by myself). There are tons of yummy restaurants and bars in Leblon so it was pretty lively.
Getting around in Rio: For the first few days we took cabs if we were going somewhere that wasn't convenient to walk to, because there was a taxi pick up/drop off stop right in front of our airbnb. But after a couple of days my coworkers told us how cheap Uber was in Rio, and we started Ubering everywhere. And yeah, it was dirt cheap. We took a 30 minute ride to the Tijuca Rainforest to go hiking and it ended up costing $9 Brazilian Real, or $3 U.S. Dollars. Crazy.
A day in St. Teresa: We had read in our Lonely Planet book that Santa Teresa was an artsy neighborhood of Rio that was known for being a bit gritty and had interesting culture. We spent a day there exploring the mosaic stairs that you saw above, a cathedral famous for its design (because I'm married to an architect), the Museum of Modern Art, and a couple cute cafes. An absolute must if you visit this area is to have dinner at Restaurante Aprazivel. To get to the restaurant you have to drive up these windy, steep, cobblestone roads up a small mountain. We took an Uber and had to help him out with our GPS for directions. But once you arrive, you'll see why this restaurant is so special and worth it. The views are spectacular, and the restaurant basically looks like a giant treehouse in the jungle. I would suggest calling a few days ahead to make a reservation for a table with a view. I would also suggest calling an Uber to take you back home, as when we were finished with dinner it was pretty deserted and I wouldn't have felt comfortable trying to figure out the bus situation.
Sushi in Rio: One thing I learned in Brazil that I found super interesting is that there is a large Japanese population there. Which means there are also a ton of amazing Japanese restaurants. By the way, if you are also visiting São Paulo, you should absolutely go to Kinoshita and do their omakase. It was the best Japanese food I've ever had. In Rio, Sushi Leblon is delicious but a bit pricey. We didn't try any other sushi restaurants in Rio, but I've heard they're all great. Trip Advisor is your friend here.
Zika in Rio: One last thing to cover—and sorry in advance to end on a sour note. As you're probably already aware, Zika virus has had an outbreak in Brazil, and doctors and the CDC are still learning more about it and the possibility of a vaccine. We decided to make the trip to Brazil because at the time, it was being reported that Zika mostly affects babies if you contract it during pregnancy, and only in rare cases can be linked to Guillian-Barre. I'm not planning on being pregnant any time soon, so I wasn't as concerned about Zika. However, since we've gotten back from Brazil, new reports have stated that Zika may be tied to another brain disease. There may still be a lot we don't know about Zika, so if you are thinking of planning a trip to Brazil it might be best to wait until the virus is under control. We had an amazing time in this beautiful city though and it's definitely worth a trip—just want you, dear reader, to be aware of the current health climate so you can make smart decisions!