While Carnaval may be the highlight of your Brazilian travels, other must-see sights await in and around Rio, away from the prime party scene.
With its wonderful climate, Rio de Janeiro is a city that lives in, and for, the sun. The Copacabana, memorialized in Barry Manilow's song of the same name, is the most popular beach in the area. The famous curved sand strip is also the center of the city's tourism industry; most of Rio's hotels, restaurants, shops and bars are around the luscious beach.
Nearby, Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) is one of Rio's most valued natural attractions. This 500 million year-old rock helps form the city's majestic landscape, and the view from its peak is breathtaking.
Adventurous travelers have the option of climbing Sugar Loaf on one of 32 established routes, but most tourists simply choose to ride. Two cable cars depart every 30 minutes from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and cost $8 (U.S.). The most advantageous time to make the trek is right before sunset on a clear day.
The spectacular Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue on top of Corcovado (Hunchback Mountain) beckons tourists and religious pilgrims alike. At more than 2,400 feet above sea level, the statue and its welcoming, outstretched arms can be seen from any point in the city. The best option for reaching the summit is the Corcovado train, which runs from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and costs $11 (U.S.) round trip.
"It is the image of the Savior embracing Rio de Janeiro," said Luciano da Rochar, the director of Corcovado train. "With open arms, he embraces the tourists who arrive in Rio."
It's the city officials and locals alike who actually embrace the Carnaval season, for the lavish festival helps pump needed money into a starving economy.