If you have been looking at active holidays in Brazil as part of your gap year itinerary, you won't be disappointed should you book flights to the country. The Latin American nation is colourful, intriguing and boasts spectacular cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, home to the famous carnival.
Brazil is fantastic to explore and basing yourself in Rio de Janeiro for a few days offers a great introduction to the country. It is also the ideal place to end your adventure in this corner of the globe. While it is not the capital of Brazil, which is Brasilia, many backpackers fly in and out of the city so it has become a popular hub to meet up and go on onward travels.
What exactly is there to see and do in Rio de Janeiro? Below is a guide to some of the must-visit attractions.
Christ the Redeemer
This might be an obvious one, but no gap year to Brazil would be complete without seeing the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. Recognisable the world over, this New Seven Wonder sits on top of the Corcovado Mountain. Rising majestically for 38 m and 28 m wide, this statue has to be taken in up close for you to appreciate its size.
You can make the journey on the Corcovado Railway to reach the statue, or if you prefer to get a little bit active on your trips, you should tackle the 222 steps that lead up to the monument from the road. Your efforts will be rewarded, not only by the chance of getting some stunning photographs of Christ the Redeemer, but also across the whole of Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro Carnival
While hostels and hotels fill up fast ahead of this event, if you know you are going to be in the city around this time, make sure you book tickets for the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. It is held in February of every year, so you might want to get arranging your trip for 2013 as soon as possible. The carnival will kick off on the 8th of the month and run all the way through to the 12th. The atmosphere in the city during this period is electric, with scantily-dressed samba dancers, steel drum players and floats parading through the streets.
There is so much to see and do it can be difficult to pick out the highlights, but the procession of the samba schools on February 10th and 11th is a must. You might want to get there when the doors open at 17:00 local time to secure the best spot, with the opening ceremony starting at 20:00 and the parade an hour later.
While not a tourist attraction as such, Rio's restaurants serve delicious local delicacies that sum up the Brazilian culture perfectly - creative, spicy and varied. One cheap and filling dish that you will no doubt tuck into a few times during your stay in the city is feijoada, a black bean and pork cassoulet that usually comes with kale and rice.
With its stretches of beautiful beaches, it will be of no surprise that Rio de Janeiro's eateries have a wealth of fresh seafood on the menu. All of your meals will likely be washed down by a caipirinha or two. Be warned though, this potent concoction includes cane sugar rum, sugar and lime juice.