Inside track

Rio

Interview with Alex Robinson. Alex worked on Brazil's national tourism magazine, Viagem e Turismo and has written the Footprint guidebooks on Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as well as the DK Eyewitness to Rio and many others. Here he shares his ultimate insider guide to Rio.

Who?  Alex Robinson, writer and photographer (www.alexrobinsonphotography.co.uk)

Why Brazil?   First I fell in love with a Brazilian. Then I fell in love with Brazil, living and working in São Paulo for four years, writing books on Brazil, Rio and the Amazon. I return at least three times annually and have visited all of Brazil's 27 states.

What makes Rio special for you?   The exuberant nature and the warmth of the people. I don't know any city with a setting is so breath-taking and where there is such an enticing mix of wild and urban. Where else in the world has a stretch of tropical rainforest as big as Brighton in its centre or monkeys and sloths in the trees right in the urban areas?

My Top 3
Beaches
Wildlife
Bars & Nightlife


My Top 3 Beaches:
Where: Ipanema
Ipanema blows Malibu and Bondi beaches right into the water. It's a 6km long, 500 metre wide stretch of silky sand, washed by a bottle-green Atlantic Ocean and backed by the towering forest-clad Dois Irmãos mountains. And that's to say nothing of the beautiful people who pose and play football and beach volleyball along its length.

Where: Charitas
Come here at sunset for a caipirinha cocktail and superb views of the sun sinking crimson behind Christ high on Corcovado mountain and stay to see Rio's city lights twinkling across Guanabara Bay.

Where: Prainha
It's a long and expensive taxi ride to this gorgeous cove on the city's southern limits. But it's well-worth it for the clear glassy water, wonderful surf and the fine powdery sand.

My Top 3 Wildlife Spotting Locations:
Where: Regua www.regua.co.uk
Why: The Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu is a private nature reserve protecting pristine Atlantic Coastal rainforest. This forest has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth, with hundreds of animal species found nowhere else, myriad orchids and fabulous bird-watching.

Where: Floresta da Tijuca
Why: Right in the heart of Rio, mountains rise abruptly from the coast up to almost 1,000 metres. They are swathed in lush rainforest for most of their length and protected as a national park. This is a great place to come for a quiet drive and the chance to see tiny marmoset monkeys, toucans and bright green and red tanagers. And there are fabulous views of Rio through the trees.

Where: Itatiaia National Park
Why: Brazil's oldest national park lies in the rugged Serra da Mantiqueira mountains just a few hours' drive from Rio. There's great hiking here and plenty of wildlife – from troops of cute ring-tailed coatis to Brazilian tapir, puma and even jaguar.

My Top 3 Bars:
What: Rio Scenarium
Why: On weekends, Rio puts on its party dress and dancing shoes to let loose at this boho bar and samba club in the heart of trendy Lapa. It's a great place to let your hair down and practice those dance steps.
Where: Rua do Lavradio 20, Lapa

What: Bar do Semente
Why: Some of Rio's best bossa nova and jazz musicians play in this atmospheric little bar. It's a great location for those looking for something a little more sedate than Rio Scenarium.
Where: Rua Joaquim Silva 138, Lapa

What: Academia da Cachaca
Why: This is the place to come to try Brazil's national cocktail- the Caipirinha – a mix of Brazilian sugar-cane rum and assorted tropical fruits. Try the tangy pitanga or the spicy pimenta rosa. Where: Rua Conde Bernadotte 26, Leblon

Don't Miss This:
Watch the sun fade and the city light-up from Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain, or take a helicopter flight over the city – out over Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ statue. It's one of the urban world's most breath-taking flights.



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