Living in Rio de Janeiro

Living in Rio de Janeiro

From the streets during February’s Carnival to afternoons on Copacabana Beach, life in this Brazilian city is infused with the sounds of samba and the search for the good life.

Rio de Janeiro is almost impossibly marvellous, with its curving white beaches and city neighbourhoods studded with green-shrouded mountains, all facing the blue depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The city is being transformed, as a booming economy and decreasing crime rates attract those who like to work and play hard. From the city streets during February’s Carnival to afternoons on Copacabana Beach, life here is infused with the sounds of samba and the search for the good life.

What is it known for?

The girl from Ipanema is still walking and the views from Sugarloaf Mountain on the city’s Guanabara Bay are as sweet as ever, but its Rio’s future that is the buzz right now. The city, like the rest of Brazil, is booming, not only due to the recent discovery of off-shore oil fields, but also because two huge global events are coming to Rio over the next few years. The city will host the 2014 World Cup finals and the 2016 Summer Olympics, and Rio is experiencing massive construction projects, including the rehabbing of neighbourhoods, transport and sporting venues.

The famous Maracana football stadium, one of the largest in the world, is undergoing a total renovation expected to be completed in 2013 before it hosts the World Cup kick off in June 2014 and the Olympic opening ceremony in August 2016. The Metro is being expanded and new areas of the city are being constructed. For example, the Porto Maravilha, an eight billion reais project due to be completed by 2016, is stitching the revitalised Guanabara Bay harbourfront to the downtown district. The project will see the demolition of an elevated highway, the planting of 15,000 trees and construction of the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Santiago Calatrava and set to open in 2014.
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Welcome to Patagonia, Chile

Welcome to Patagonia, Chile

The 40th anniversary of Bruce Chatwin’s first visit to Patagonia and Top Gear’s recent controversial trip there have drawn attention to this stunning part of the world.

Towards the end of 2015, a new national park is due to open in the Aysén region’s Chacabuco Valley – promising to protect an ecologically important corridor through the Andes between Chile and Argentina. Founded by conservationists Kris and Doug Tompkins (of North Face and Patagonia clothing company fame), it’s the fruit of a long struggle to turn a huge estancia back to its natural state. Pura Aventura has an 11-day trip to Parque Patagonia and Mallin Colorado from £2,552pp, including internal flights from the Chilean capital Santiago, but not international ones.

Welcome to Patagonia, Chile

Where is the Patagonia

Patagonia is a sparsely populated region located at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes mountains as well as the deserts, steppes and grasslands east of this southern portion of the Andes. Patagonia has two coasts; a western one towards the Pacific Ocean and an eastern one towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The Colorado and Barrancas rivers, which run from the Andes to the Atlantic, are commonly considered the northern limit of Argentine Patagonia.[1] Tierra del Fuego is sometimes included as part of Patagonia. Most geographers and historians locate the northern limit of Chilean Patagonia at Reloncaví Estuary,

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Your insider’s guide to the best food, accommodation, sightseeing and nightlife in Paraguay’s beguiling capital.

Asunción is one of South America’s oldest cities, its poorest, yet also its safest. Having lost roughly 60% of its population in the Triple Alliance War of 1864-70 and suffered several oppressive dictatorships, landlocked Paraguay was left out of the tourist boom that took hold of neighbouring Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia towards the end of the last century. But the past decade has seen a stirring in the capital; world-class restaurants, contemporary bars and fashionable boutiques are popping up all over the city, alongside a vibrant cultural scene. In turn, this has brought new business and tourism, leading to further rejuvenation and a wealth of exciting things to do in Asunción – the ‘mother of cities’, according to its nickname.

The capital remains a city of crumbling colonial buildings and precarious public transport, and its basic infrastructure is still leagues behind that of Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires. English is spoken by few and traces of globalization are scarce (incidentally, Paraguay is one of the only South American countries to have kept a native tongue in current usage: Guarani). But this makes it the perfect place for those wishing to experience the antiquated charm of a little-known South American city. Give Asunción half a chance and it will reveal itself as a hidden gem of the sort that adventurous travellers yearn for. Although for how much longer remains to be seen…

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Sights and attractions in Asunción

The best way to get to grips with Asunción’s historic downtown area, dotted with dilapidated pastel-coloured edifices, is by foot. Start your walk at the aptly named Plaza de la Democracia, a rallying spot for the younger generations in times of celebration and discontent.

It’s also home to the city’s most iconic building, the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes, whichhouses the remains of several former presidents and is dedicated to the war heroes of the country’s chequered past. The neighbouring Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) attests to the city’s equally resilient Catholic foundation (you’ll notice many religious street and place names – not least the city’s itself).

A short walk away is the Palacio de los López (Presidential Palace), an arrestingly beautiful construction that serves as a reminder of the strong governmental presence in the country, while managing to look like an illustration from the pages of a fairy tale. For those interested in Paraguay’s political history, the nearby Casa de la Independencia Museum charts the country’s journey from colony to freedom and is a monument in its own right.

Things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Around the corner, the rosy-hued El Cabildo (Cultural Center of the Republic) hosts exhibits on the country’s turbulent past; like the palace, it looks spectacular when lit up at night. Another must-visit is the Museo del Barro: founded to showcase Paraguay’s cultural diversity, it displays a huge array of art and artefacts, from indigenous craftware to contemporary paintings and political caricatures.

Asunción boasts jewels beyond conventional sightseeing. At the beating heart of the city is the Mercado 4, a market selling everything from homeware and clothes to animal hearts and medicinal herbs. Recently rejuvenated Loma San Jerónimo is the city’s oldest district, its brightly painted houses and artisan stalls reminiscent of La Boca in Buenos Aires. This quaint barrio comes alive on Sundays when street performers, market stalls and food stands conjure up a festival vibe.

It’s not all buildings and bustling squares. Asunción is well known for its green spaces: those after some respite from the midday heat should head to the Parque de la Salud or the Jardín Botánico y Zoológico, and settle in the shade of the mango trees and pink-blossomed lapachos (the national tree). Elsewhere, the Costanera has undergone huge redevelopment of late. This strip of beach by the Paraguay River was once heavily polluted and pretty seedy, but it’s now the perfect place for an early evening stroll. In the day, catch a short boat ride across the river to picturesque Chaco-í, a traditional Paraguayan village.

Argentina: A huge country like a continent

Argentina: A huge country like a continent

A country as huge as this is more like a continent. It is as varied and as different region to region as the whole of North America. Any land made up of tropical jungle with waterfalls, vast ‘prairie’ plains, the Pampa, wild mountains that once were Inca country, though a little ‘Switzerland’ to the ice of the Artarctic, cannot fail to show you something new.

The essence of Argentina is the richness of the land and the people. This si really is cattle country – there are over 100,000,000. In Buenos Aires, the capital, the people are as sophisticated and a cosmopolitan as those in Paris, London or Rome. Life in Buenos Aires is lived in high style.

The Argentines are a very united people, a mixture of European immigrants and Indian stock. They all speak Spanish. Whether they are from the jungle or the mountain ice and snow, they have one common interest – a love of sport. In Argentina, you can hunt, fish, sail, ski, climb mountains, see a glacier that is still growing, explore the jungle, just sit in the sun, swim from sandy beaches or ride.

Brasil: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Brasil: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana is a bairro (neighbourhood) located in the South Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is known for its 4 km balneario beach or 2.5 miles , which is one of the most famous in the world.

The district was originally called Sacopenapã (translated from the Tupi language, it means “the way of the socós (a kind of bird)”) until the mid-18th century. It was renamed after the construction of a chapel holding a replica of the Virgen de Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia.


Copacabana begins at Princesa Isabel Avenue and ends at Posto Seis (lifeguard watchtower Six). Beyond Copacabana, there are two small beaches: one, inside Fort Copacabana and the other, right after it: Diabo (“Devil”) Beach. Arpoador beach, where surfers go after its perfect waves, comes next, followed by the famous borough of Ipanema. The area will be one of the four “Olympic Zones” during the 2016 Summer Olympics. According to Riotur, the Tourism Secretariat of Rio de Janeiro, there are 63 hotels and 10 hostels in Copacabana.

Brasil: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana beach, located at the Atlantic shore, stretches from Posto Dois (lifeguard watchtower Two) to Posto Seis (lifeguard watchtower Six). Leme is at Posto Um (lifeguard watchtower One). There are historic forts at both ends of Copacabana beach; Fort Copacabana, built in 1914, is at the south end by Posto Seis and Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, at the north end. One curiosity is that the lifeguard watchtower of Posto Seis never existed.[4] Hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs and residential buildings dot the promenade facing Avenida Atlantica.

Copacabana Beach plays host to millions of revellers during the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations and, in most years, has been the official venue of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

Uruguay is well worth discovering

Uruguay is well worth discovering

As South America’s smallest Spanish-speaking country, Uruguay is often overlooked by tourists visiting the region. However, with its vibrant nightlife and stunning coastline Uruguay is well worth discovering. Due to its strategic position on the north shore of the Río de la Plata, Uruguay’s territory was hotly contested from the first European settlements, initially by Spain and Portugal, then by the emerging regional powers of Argentina and Brazil.

A delightfully low-key, hospitable place, modern Uruguay enjoys a high standard of living but draws fewer tourists than neighbouring Brazil and Argentina. Visitors here can melt into the background and experience the everyday life of a different culture – whether riding horses under the big sky of Uruguay’s sparsely populated interior or strolling with throngs of mate-drinking locals along Montevideo’s 15km-long (9 miles) beachfront.

The three most popular destinations are the culturally vibrant capital Montevideo, the picturesque 17th-century port of Colonia, and the trendy coastal resort Punta del Este, which lures jetsetters from around the globe to its sandy beaches, fine restaurants and party-till-you-drop nightclubs. Visitors with more time should explore the dunes and lagoons of Uruguay’s long Atlantic coastline, soak in the hot springs near Salto, or spend the night at a tourist estancia amidst the wide-open grandeur of gaucho country.

Uruguay is well worth discovering

All About Uruguay

Uruguay, officially the Eastern Republic of Uruguay (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay), is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the “Río de la Plata” (River of Silver) to the south and with the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo. With an area of approximately 176,000 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.

Uruguay was inhabited by the Charrúa people for approximately 4000 years before the Portuguese established Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by the Spanish in the early 18th century, signifying the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It remained subject to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics until the late 20th century. Modern Uruguay is a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government.

Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, e-government, and is first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class and prosperity. On a per-capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peace-keeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per-capita income and inflows of FDI.

Uruguay is the third-best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It is regarded as a high-income country (top group) by the UN. Uruguay is also the third-best ranked in the world in e-Participation. Uruguay is an important global exporter of combed wool, rice, soybeans, frozen beef, malt and milk.

The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013 acknowledging the innovative policy of legalizing the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed, outstanding regionally and ranking highly on global measures of personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues.

Punta del Este Resort and Beach in Uruguay

Punta del Este Resort and Beach in Uruguay

Punta del Este is a city and resort on the Atlantic Coast in the Maldonado Department of southeastern Uruguay. Although the city has a year-round population of about 9,280, the summer tourist boom adds to this a very large number of non-residents. Punta del Este is also the name of the municipality to which the city belongs. It includes Punta del Este proper and Península areas.

The city is located on the intersection of Route 10 with Route 39, southeast of the department capital Maldonado and about 140 kilometres (87 mi) east of Montevideo.

In 2011 Punta del Este had a population of 9,277 and 23,954 households and apartments. According to the Intendencia Departamental de Maldonado, the municipality of Punta del Este has an area of 48 km2 (19 sq mi) and a population of 15,000.

A Brief History of Punta del Este

The first Europeans to set foot in what is now Punta del Este were the Spanish at the beginning of the 16th century. However, the colonization of the area actually began around Maldonado at the end of the 18th century due to Portuguese expansionism.

Punta del Este and its surroundings (Maldonado and Punta Ballena) at the end of the 19th century were kilometers of sand and dunes, but in 1896 Antonio Lussich bought 4,447 acres (1,800 ha) of uninhabited land and there he started a botanical garden, Arboretum Lussich, and planted trees and plants from all over the world. Later the trees started to spread on their own, and now the area is full of mostly Pines, Eucalyptus, Acacias and various species of bushes.

On 5 July 1907, it was declared a “Pueblo” (village) by Act of Ley 3.186.[2] Its status was elevated to “Ciudad” (city) on 2 July 1957 by the Act of Ley Nº 12.397.

Punta del Este hosted an American Summit in 1967 attended by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. In September 1986, Punta del Este played host to the start of the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations. These negotiations ultimately led to the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994.

Buenos Aires: Tango and soccer everywhere

Buenos Aires: Tango and soccer everywhere

The best day to visit San Telmo, the oldest district of Buenos Aires, Sunday, when the antique street festival takes place. Besides antiques, clothing, porcelain and handicrafts, one can find a wide choice of restaurants and cafes around the plaza Dorrego, the heart of the fair. The street is busy with several street musicians and artists.

Synonym of Tango and soccer, the district of La Boca attracts attention with houses painted in different colors. La Boca is located in the stadium of Boca Juniors football team celebrated player Diego Maradona. Go to the stadium is crucial to get in touch with the passions of soccer Portenhos that the inhabitants of Buenos are called (the meaning of the port).

Speaking of Tango, the sensual rhythm of Argentina can be enjoyed in various ways. The tanguerias are totally designed for tourists and to present a “jaw dropping” show with orchestras and dancers on stage, with dinner included. Milongas are balls casual frequented by people of all ages, where you can try to learn first steps of tango.

In Caminito, a pedestrian street of 100 meters, tourists tango shows on the streets or bars. The street was founded by famous local artist, Benito Quinquela Martín, who urged residents to paint their houses with colorful studio in the neighborhood has been transformed into a museum (Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca), with some of his works and other exhibitions. In La Boca is also worth a visit Proa Foundation, one of the newest and best galleries in town.

Recoleta is one of the most aristocratic of the city, although the only thing that most attracts the attention of the Argentines and foreigners is the local cemetery, where Evita Peron’s remains are. Even today, Argentines gathered at his mausoleum to mourn the death of political leader and “standard-bearer of the humble.” North of the cemetery entrance, you can see the colonial baroque church Nuestra Señora del Pilar, built by the Jesuits in the early 17th century.

Buenos Aires Design is an enclosed shopping center dedicated to furniture and decoration. Walk a little more, you will find the main museum in Argentina, Museo de Arte Moderno, with its collection mainly European cuisine. Palermo, divided by area, is the largest district of the city. Palermo Soho is an elegant, bohemian and avant-garde area full of fancy shops. Plaza Cortázar, in honor of the Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, is the epicenter of bohemian Soho. The place is surrounded by fancy trattorias, cafes and bars.

The bosques (forests) Palermo host many natural areas. The Green Zone includes Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden), Planetarium (Planetarium) Galileo, Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden), the zoo and other areas of artificial lakes surrounded by trees. In these places, portenhos gather to sunbathe and walk. Also in the neighborhood is the Malba (Museum of Latin American Art). Malba has a large collection of Latin American artists of the 20th century.

The newest neighborhood in Buenos Aires Puerto Madero, reborn in 1991 with the resumption of the Old Harbour area. The area became a tourist attraction upscale with sophisticated restaurants and nightclubs, where you can stay until dawn. The Puente de la Mujer, abstract intended to illustrate a couple dancing the tango is a beautiful bridge that connects the two sides of the old dock.

No matter where you go into this “Paris of Latin America”, you’re sure to find a vibrant and exciting. The big question is where to begin.

Rio Carnival is Like a Fairytale

Rio Carnival is Like a Fairytale

The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous festival held before Lent every year and considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets. The first festivals of Rio date back to 1723.

The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into 5 leagues/ divisions). A samba school is composed of a collaboration of local neighbours that want to attend carnival together, with some kind of regional, geographical common background.

There is a special order that every school has to follow with their parade entries. Each school begins with the “comissão de frente” (“Front Commission” in English), that is the group of people from the school that appear first. Made of ten to fifteen people, the “comissão de frente” introduces the school and sets the mood and style of their presentation. These people have choreographed dances in fancy costumes that usually tell a short story.

Following the “comissão de frente” is the first float of the samba school, called “abre-alas” ( “Opening Wing” in English ). These are followed by the Mestre-sala and Porta-Bandeira (Room Master and Flag Carrier), with one to 4 pairs, one active and 3 reserve, to lead the dancers, which include the old guard veterans and the “ala das baianas”, with the bateria at the rear and sometimes a brass section and guitars.

Rio Carnival is Like a FairytaleRio Carnival is Like a Fairytale

Street Carnival

As the parade is taking place in the Sambadrome and the balls are being held in the Copacabana Palace and beach, many carnival participants are at other locations. Street festivals are very common during carnival and are highly populated by the locals. Elegance and extravagance are usually left behind, but music and dancing are still extremely common.

Anyone is allowed to participate in the street festivals. Bandas and blocos are very familiar with the street carnival especially because it takes nothing to join in on the fun except to jump in. One of the most well known bandas of Rio is Banda de Ipanema. Banda de Ipanema was first created in 1965 and is known as Rio’s most irreverent street band.

Incorporated into every aspect of the Rio carnival are dancing and music. The most famous dance is carnival samba, a Brazilian dance with African influences. The samba remains a popular dance not only in carnival but in the ghettos outside of the main cities. These villages keep alive the historical aspect of the dance without the influence of the western cultures.

Music is another major aspect of all parts of carnival. As stated by Samba City, “Samba Carnival Instruments are an important part of Brazil and the Rio de Janeiro carnival, sending out the irresistible beats and rhythms making the crowd explode in a colourful dance revolution fantasy fest!”[5] The samba that is found in Rio is batucada, referring to the dance and music being based on percussion instruments. It “is born of a rhythmic necessity that it allows you to sing, to dance, and to parade at the same time.”[6] This is why the batucada style is found in most all of Rio’s street carnivals.

Street parades, blocos and bandas take place throughout the city of Rio during Carnival, the most famous and largest carnival celebration of the world. There can be more than 300 bandas taking place at any given point in time. While the biggest street party takes place right outside the Sambadrome, the largest organized street dance is typically found on Cinelândia Square in Rio’s Centro.

In 2012, more than 2 million revelers took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to participate in the Cordão da Bola Preta bloco. According to police estimates, more than 5 million people attended a bloco during Rio Carnival 2012 and there was not one reported incident of crime. When the Sambadrome was built in 1984, it had the side-effect of taking street parades from the downtown area to a specific, ticketed performance area. Some samba schools have since been motivated by an agenda that focuses on regaining public space, and using the carnival tradition to occupy the streets with parades or blocos. Many of these represent a local community of the area but are open to all.

Carnival Dates

The Carnival begins on Friday and ends on Ash Wednesday, but the Winners’ Parade happens on the Saturday after the carnival ends.

February 28 to March 4, 2014
February 13 to February 17, 2015
February 6 to February 10, 2016
February 24 to March 1, 2017
February 9 to February 14, 2018
March 1 to March 6, 2019
February 21 to February 26, 2020
February 12 to February 17, 2021

Rio de Janeiro Hightlights and Copacabana

Rio de Janeiro Hightlights and Copacabana

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laidback beach culture and its annual carnival. The harbour of Rio de Janeiro is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear to be the mouth of a river.

Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including Sugar Loaf mountain at 395 meters (1,296 feet), Corcovado Peak at 704 meters (2,310 feet), and the hills of Tijuca at 1,021 meters (3,350 feet). These features work together to collectively make the harbor one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

It is a common mistake to think of Rio as Brazil’s capital, a distinction it lost on 21 April 1960 when newly built Brasilia became the capital. Beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, the Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, the stadium of Maracanã and Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) are all well-known sights of what the inhabitants call the “marvelous city” (cidade maravilhosa), and are also among the first images to pop up in travelers´ minds, along with the Carnaval celebration.

Sadly, most people also know Rio for its violence and crime. The drug lords and the slums, or favelas, are the tip of very old social problems. The favelas are areas of poor-quality housing, slums usually located on the city’s many mountain slopes, juxtaposed with middle-class neighborhoods. But now, with the UPP’s (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora = Pacifying Police Unit) almost all the favelas are safe to go, because the police took the area from the drug dealers, so you can go there for some cultural gathering. A pretty calm and safe favela is “Morro do Pinto”. It is so calm that it doesn’t look like part of this urban Rio and it is in the center of the city.

Rio de Janeiro Hightlights and Copacabana

The South Zone holds most of Rio’s landmarks and world-famous beaches, in an area of only 43.87 square km (17 mi²). Many of them are within walking distance of each other (for instance, the Sugar Loaf lies about 8 km/5 mi from Copacabana beach). Most hotels and hostels are located in this part of the city, which is compressed between the Tijuca Range (Maciço da Tijuca) and the sea. There are important places in other regions as well, such as Maracanã stadium in the North Zone and the many fascinating buildings in the Centre.

If you plan on staying in Rio for more than a couple of days it would be good to invest in a copy of “How to be a Carioca` (Priscilla Ann Goslin, Livros TwoCan Ltda, R$32). This is an amusing look at the people of Rio and will help you enjoy the city as well as appear less of a `gringo` when you hit the streets.


Probably the most famous strip of sand anywere in the world, Copacabana Beach encapsulated the flamboyant ’80s with its trunk-wearing, bronzed playboys and cocktail umbrella image. It hasn’t been a non-stop glamour ride since, however, and the gloss wore off to reveal a gritty and congested strip of faded glories and seedy late-night tales.

Today, Copa is back and once again means business. Some of the best restaurants in the city contrast with some of the oldest, most idiosyncratic bars around, while café culture threatens to overtake the cheese pie-and-açaí juice stops in the locals’ affections. The neighbourhood turned 120 years old on 6 June, 2012, and to commemorate, we have run down the best that one of the most famous neighbourhoods in the world has to offer.