Ultimate 10 Day Rio de Janeiro Itinerary

Advisor - Riker Pasterkiewicz
Curated By

Riker Pasterkiewicz

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  • Rio de Janeiro

  • City Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Active Travel

  • Outdoors

  • Foodie

  • Sightseeing

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Curator’s statement

I visited Rio de Janeiro twice before deciding to move here permanently in 2020. As an avid traveler and local, I’m committed to helping you make the most of the “Marvelous City”! Whether you’re looking for sun-drenched beach days, tranquil nature escapes, dancing until the early hours or active adventures that will literally take you to new heights, Rio has it all!

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Where to stay

Hotel Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Luxurious Copacabana hotel with a stunning rooftop pool and unforgettable gastronomic experiences.

Fora Perks
  • $50 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Emiliano Rio

A luxurious haven where sophistication embraces the vibrant spirit of Rio de Janeiro.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Janeiro Hotel

In the Leblon neighborhood of Rio, this contemporary hotel is complete with a sauna, rooftop pool and terrace — all just steps from the beach.

Advisor - Riker Pasterkiewicz

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Day 1: Sugarloaf View, City Center or Beach Experience with an Evening at Cipriani or Skylab

Boy on a swing on the beach

If you’re coming from North America or Europe, you’re likely to arrive in the morning. Once you get to your accommodation, I recommend checking in early if you can, showering or freshening up, and heading out to explore the city as quickly as possible.

Head to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) for a stunning view of the city, beaches and ports. Be sure to purchase your tickets online or via an agency in advance so you can be put in the priority lane or you will be waiting forever. Grabbing a drink at the Classico Beach Club bar is an excellent way to take in the views of Copacabana.

If you want to pair Sugarloaf with a beach experience, I’d recommend renting a chair and umbrella from a “barraca” (beach stand) for a couple of hours at Red Beach (Praia Vermelha). Red Beach boasts stunning views of Sugarloaf and the surrounding mountains.

If going to the beach isn’t in the forecast or on the agenda for day 1, you could pair Sugarloaf with a trip to the city center. There are many tours I’d recommend, but if you’re looking to see the main attractions after Sugarloaf, I would recommend seeing the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Arcos da Lapa/Aqueduto da Carioca and Escaderia Selaron.

To end your first night, you could book a Michelin star dinner at Cipriani at the Copacabana Palace. It’s an Italian-inspired menu that leaves you feeling incredibly full! Honestly, one of the best Michelin star experiences I’ve ever had. Or if you’re looking for a quick drink with a stunning view of Copacabana, SkyLab is the move.

Day 2: Ipanema Beach, Rua Visconde de Pirajá Shopping, ZaZa Bistro, Tortamania and La Putaria

Paragliding Shot

No trip to Rio is complete without a beach day in Ipanema. In my very biased opinion, Ipa has the best beaches and the best vibe of every beach I’ve been to in the entire country. You’ll likely find me at Barraca da Vaina e Junior but I also recommend OhLaLa and Barraca da Denise. Ponto G in Leme is also fantastic.

Before or after exhausting yourself on the beach, Ipanema's Rua Visconde de Pirajá is one of the best places to go shopping. Some great recommendations for ladies include Farm (Rio), Zinzane, Zsolt and BARBARÄH. Recommendations for men include Draco, Hermes Inocencio, Oficina and Ventura.

End a full day of beach-ing and shopping at ZaZa Bistro. They don’t mind if you come a little sandy, just have a tank top, shorts and flip flops. They bill themselves as Brazilian meets Moroccan, but it’s light food that ranges from the Amazon to the eastern Mediterranean and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Reservations are not required but recommended at peak times, if you can. They’re generally not open on Mondays at all or Tuesdays before dinner.

For a sweet snack in the neighborhood, I can’t recommend Tortamania and La Putaria enough. Reader beware, the shapes of La Putaria’s pastries are definitely NSFW.

Day 3: Helicopter Tour, Classico Beach Club Downwind

Beach and a tree

One of my many controversial opinions about Rio is that you don’t actually need to go to Jesus (Cristo Redentor) if you see him from the sky. This is why I strongly recommend taking a helicopter tour. Nothing compares to seeing Rio’s stunning shoreline and landscape from above while doing two laps around Cristo Redentor, among other incredible points along the way. Plan your trip around this in terms of weather and clarity, as the tours are often flexible on their timing. Reach out to me for help or guidance!

Generally the helicopter tours take off from Barra da Tijuca (the westernmost point in Rio) so if you do a morning or early afternoon tour, it pairs nicely with an afternoon at the Classico Beach Club Downwind.

For longer itineraries to Rio, see my guides on 5-day stays in the city and 10-day trips to the greater Rio region.

Day 4: Santa Teresa Exploration, Cafe do Alto, Parque das Ruinas, Escaderia Selaron

View from Fairmont Rio

A 6-day tour will allow you time to truly get to know the city. Santa Teresa is a Bohemian paradise that blends colonial architecture and cobblestone streets with a hipster-chic attitude. Take the Bondinho de Santa Teresa to the top to see the entire neighborhood. Get off at Largo dos Guimarães on the return after seeing Cristo Redentor. Many things are closed before noon in Santa Teresa, especially during the week, so check opening times of shops before going.

From Largo dos Guimarães you can check out hippie-chic shops around the neighborhood and have lunch at Cafe do Alto which serves traditional northeastern Brazilian cuisine. If you’re feeling like taking a stroll after lunch, you can check out Parque das Ruinas and Escaderia Selaron on your steep walk down the mountain to catch a cab back to your hotel.

Day 5: Samba Night in Lapa

aerial view of buildings in the jungle

Tuesday night is Samba night in Lapa! One of the best neighborhoods for nightlife in the entire city. Whether you’re looking for a casual caipirinha while people watching, sip of ​​cachaça before a big night out or are ready to dance the night away, Lapa is where the party is. For traditional Samba I recommend Carioca da Gema and Sacreligio. Pedra do Sal is also very popular with tourists on Monday nights.

Day 6: Maracanã Stadium Experience, Ceiche at La Carioca

Sunset showing from the buildings

If you’re a futbol/soccer fan you cannot miss a game at Maracanã. The four biggest teams in Rio are Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo. The two former call Maracanã their home stadium and FLAxFLU is well known as one of the fiercest rivalries in all of Brazilian futbol. I’m personally a devout Flamengo fan and recommend sitting in the north zone if you want the full experience (east or west zones if you want something a little more tame). Tickets often require local assistance to get a hold of, so be sure to contact your Fora Travel advisor to find the best way to get them!

Before heading to the stadium, have a ceviche dinner or lunch at La Carioca. Their ceviche is some of the best I’ve ever had (and raw fish is my favorite food group). They have one location on the beach that is extremely casual and one more traditional restaurant in Ipanema (that is still very unassuming).

Day 7: Hike to Morro Dois Irmãos, Sushi Leblon or Spicy Fish

Sugarloaf Mountain is a prominent peak in Rio de Janeiro at the mouth of Guanabara Bay.

If you feel like you’ve done it all, brace yourself! Hiking the iconic Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Mountain) is one of the most death-defying hikes you can attempt. Before you even get there you must take an Uber or taxi to Praça do Vidigal and then ask for a moto-taxi to the “trilha” or trail which is an adventure in and of itself. This should cost you no more than R$10 (USD $2) and upon arrival you should expect to pay another R$10 for entrance to the trail (absolutely cash only). 

The hike should take you approximately 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to hike up (30-40 minutes down) and is very steep. There is one water/drink stop about a quarter of the way up where you can purchase additional supplies but come prepared with ample water and snacks as necessary. 

The stunning view at the top is worth it. There’s nothing quite like the outlook over Leblon, Ipanema, Lagoa, Vidigal, Rochina, Copacabana and the natural beauty of Floresta da Tijuca. 

If you have energy after a successful hike, I recommend doing dinner at Sushi Leblon or Spicy Fish. Brazil (São Paulo and Rio in particular) are home to some of the largest populations of Japanese immigrants in the world and have gifted us with some of the best sushi on earth. Reservations are recommended as far in advance as possible for Sushi Leblon and recommended for peak times for Spicy Fish. 

Day 8: Bike Ride around Lagoa, Katz-Su, Paragliding or Hang Gliding from Pedra Bonita

Copacabana Palace Pool

Rio has an excellent public bike share program via Itau. You can download the app (Apple/Android create your account in advance) or visit a street kiosk and ask for an Itau card. There are also hotels and stores that rent bikes.

Once you’re unlocked and ready to go, plan a bike ride around Lagoa. You’ll find incredible views of Christ the Redeemer, the landscape and the city. There are many restaurants, kiosks and bars around the lake where you can drop in and enjoy the views. If you have additional time, I recommend Katz-Su for lunch or dinner.

If you’re looking for an activity with equally stunning views but a lot more adrenaline, I recommend you try paragliding or hang-gliding from Pedra Bonita. Paragliding is for everyone and is available in most wind conditions, whereas hang-gliding has specific weight restrictions and is more dependent on wind conditions. My personal preference is paragliding!

Day 9-10: Travel to Ilha Grande or Buzios for Beach Destinations

Rio Ariel View

If you want to pair areas outside Rio proper with your trip, Ilha Grande or Buzios are the best ways to go. Ilha Grande is two hours west of Rio and Buzios is about 2 hours east. Both are incredible beach destinations but offer very different vibes. Ilha Grande caters more to those who are looking for pristine nature and outdoor activities, whereas Buzios offers a more upscale resort-y vibe. There are many excellent hotels, restaurants and experiences to be had in both locations.

Need to Know

Advisor - Riker Pasterkiewicz

Travel Advisor

Riker Pasterkiewicz

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Brazil.