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Off the Beaten Path: Exploring Outside The City of Rio de Janeiro

Often when people think of Brazil, their first thoughts are of Rio de Janeiro and its beaches. But to those tired of what Rio, or just wishing to skip the hype of the big city, fear not for there are alternatives. The state of Rio de Janeiro offers a variety of outlets depending on what side of Brazil you want to explore or have missed out on.

Petrópolis

Bit of a history buff, German architecture enthusiast or want to hear some trash talking about the Wright brothers? Then this is your place.

Petrópolis was Emperor Pedro II’s summer palace, which has now become a museum displaying Brazil’s short stint with royalty. The best part of the museum is the fuzzy shoe covers you get to wear as you explore Emperor Pedro II’s jewels- crown jewels that is.

Surrounding the city are examples of the German immigrants who were encouraged to build on the surrounding land, located on hillsides with amazing views. Along with the Crystal Palace, whose name gives it more elegance than what it actually presents and the beautiful Cathedral of Saint Peter of Alcântara, you can explore the home of Santos Dumont. Many in Brazil dismiss the Wright brothers’ claim to fame because of their use of a launch pad among other things in order to get off the ground, and prefer to honor their hometown hero as the first to fly. The benefit of this city is that it is only a short distance from Rio, leaving you the option of making it a quick day-trip if desired.

Buzios

The best way to describe Buzios is a cleaner, safer and less touristy mini Rio de Janeiro with a better view. This is where the Cariocas (Rio natives) run off to on the weekends to get away from the city. The main street is lined with shops, bars and restaurants all of which usually stay open till around 2:00 AM (with exception to the clubs which don’t really start till then). In fact, there was a church that seemed to be having an all night festive mass in competition with the clubs last time I was there. I would recommend exploring The Mix Bar, a small place with great music, locals and a fun Jack Daniels caipirinha twist called a maracujack. Often, the neighboring bars would close early so the workers could come over to The Mix Bar for drinks and entertainment.

Buzios provides you with better, or at least equal, beaches than Rio de Janeiro – although less crowded. If Rio de Janeiro hasn’t provided you with that tropical paradise that you’ve been dreaming of, this is where you want to go. The only downside is that since most shops are open late, don’t expect to do early morning shopping – your time would be better off spent at one of their numerous beaches. Additionally, if you do explore Buzios during the tourist season expect to pay a little more but from my experience it’s worth it.

Parati (Paraty*)

Don’t let the name confuse you; it is more of a cross between Petropolis and Buzios, than an all out party town. Parati is a preserved colonial town, some aspects being originally from the 17th century, which offers a fun albeit more laid back host of nighttime activities. As I was told, it could rain everywhere else in Brazil but it always seems to be sunny in Parati – so chances are it’s a good time to go.

The local hostels line the beach just outside of the downtown area. I recommend experiencing their jeep tour which takes you rock surfing**, exploring a cachaça farm and an old plantation filled with some of the best coffee you could ever try with a zip line ride. Islands dot the coast of this area and offer a great outlet for a ride on a kayak, or if you are more of a spectator, the beaches provide a great place to catch some rays. If you are looking for a romantic getaway then this may just be the place you want to visit.

*The letter ‘y’ was removed from the Brazilian Portuguese alphabet but was to be re-added last year so it could really be spelled either way.

**Rock Surfing – A slip-n-slide version of a smooth rock waterfall.

The coolest  traveling monkey around. Cornelius is a monkey on a mission to figure out what makes you humans tick. A newbie to the travel experience, he presents his lessons and stumbles in his personal travel blog with a twist, a tail and some fur.

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8 Responses to Off the Beaten Path: Exploring Outside The City of Rio de Janeiro

  1. Andi March 11, 2010 at 10:40 PM #

    I’m definitely going back to Brasil and I’ll keep this post in mind when I do. I definitely want to go to Buzios!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Brasil: Day 7 (Part 1) =-.

    • Cornelius Aesop March 12, 2010 at 1:14 PM #

      I plan on revisiting Brasil myself, I had such a great time yet only saw places within the state of Rio de Janeiro during my stay. I want to see Bahia, Salvador or visit my friend in Fortaleza, Ceara so much to see and do in this large country. I really recommend Buzios it’s a great experience especially after being in Rio for awhile.
      .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..2012 A New Beginning =-.

  2. Jessica March 12, 2010 at 3:02 PM #

    I was in Rio for a month last year. It was absolutely fabulous, breathtakingly beautiful and some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time! We actually stayed in Petropolis for a few days too with host families and I loved it there. We definitely didn’t prepare for the cold weather in the mountains though. 😛

    As for the other places you mentioned we didn’t get to those areas but we heard a lot about them from the cariocas. We did however get to spend a weekend in Angra.

    I can’t wait to go back, Brazil was so much fun and the people we met there were so nice too!
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..The Young Pro =-.

    • Cornelius Aesop March 14, 2010 at 5:52 PM #

      Glad you liked Petropolis, and maybe next time you go back you can check out the other areas. Although I’m thinking by the time I make it back to Rio it will be a different place once all the FIFA and Olympic preparations set into place.
      .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..2012 A New Beginning =-.

  3. Gray March 13, 2010 at 7:25 PM #

    These places all sound great! It would be hard for me to be sick of Rio since I’ve never actually been there, but it’s nice to know there are some great options outside of Rio that are less crowded, too. (And hopefully, cheaper?)
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Snapshot of San Juan: The Nispero Tree =-.

    • Cornelius Aesop March 14, 2010 at 5:54 PM #

      Parati isn’t bad with pricing but you could rack up some money in Buzios if you weren’t careful. Some of the clubs were pricey to get in but the smaller bars are less expensive and a better way to see how the locals live. Plus next to The Mix Bar is a great cigar shop.

  4. Suzanne March 4, 2011 at 1:18 PM #

    I’m planning a trip to Buzio’s in 3 weeks with friends who live there….however, I was looking for someplace close by that has Zip Line’s….but I’m having trouble finding any, do you know if there are any Zip Lines in the area? We are staying in Buzio’s most of the time, but I have a car and my International driving permit already. Thanks for any info.

  5. Chanel @ La Viajera Morena March 23, 2014 at 12:16 AM #

    Definitely adding some of these places to my list 🙂

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