Rio de Janeiro isn’t known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) for nothing. With three days in Rio, there’s enough time to cover plenty of territory. While visiting this spectacular harborside city, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this suggested 3-day itinerary will ensure that you don’t miss out on the very best Rio has to offer.
Your first day is perhaps best spent getting oriented. Explore downtown with a guide on foot or bicycle and mingle with the charming locals while learning about the city’s Portuguese colonial history. A holiday in Rio is incomplete without a trip to the famed Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado, home to the art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor); both monoliths overlook beautiful Guanabara Bay. Opt for either a half- or full-day itinerary, and take private or small-group tour for a personalized experience.
Save some time to ride a cog train or Jeep into the lush Tijuca Forest, guarded by giant granite rocks. Alternatively, get a bird’s-eye view of the city by helicopter or hang glider. At night, catch a samba show and feast on a Brazilian steakhouse barbecue dinner called a churrasco —both are cultural icons.
On day two, it’s time to hit Rio’s beaches and bays. Cruise around Guanabara Bay and glimpse spectacular Sugar Loaf, this time from the water. Follow up your sightseeing with a delectable seafood lunch while sailing past the beaches of Niteroi. Or, if you prefer basking in the lazy beach culture of some of the world’s best city beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana place you in the center of the action. You can also partake in a paragliding adventure where you’ll soar above urban areas and land on a beach.
Check schedules to see if you can catch a soccer match at Maracana Stadium; even if you’re not a futebol fan, it’s hard to pass up the excitement of the crowds. For those who miss the spectacular parades of Carnival, it’s possible to see the floats on a guided tour of Cidade do Samba, aka Samba City.
The charming town of Buzios, known for its architectural finesse, is a popular day trip from Rio. Visitors can spend a full day strolling the cobblestone streets and sands of this former fishing village, reached by boat. Alternatively, visit Petropolis, the lap of luxury, home to Brazil’s two former emperors as well as the Crystal Palace and Imperial Museum.
Another excellent option is a tropical islands cruise complete with an island lunch. Set sail for Angra dos Reis and combine the pristine destination with a stop at Ilha Grande (Big Island), the largest of 365 isles in the archipelago. Family-friendly excursions take passengers to swim and snorkel in aquamarine waters and sunbathe on sugar-white sands. Escape the bustling city and relax aboard a schooner or other vessel while you let a guide handle plan transportation details.