Brazil: Arriving in Rio & Tiradentes
My initial arrival to Rio de Janeiro
Most Meaningful: Experiencing my friend’s wedding and seeing old friends
Travel Tips: Minimize your time alone at night in Rio de Janeiro
In August 2016, I took my first trip to South America. Within hours of setting foot on the continent, I was kicking myself for not embarking on this adventure sooner. It only made its way onto my agenda when it did so that I could be there for my friend Charles’ wedding – thank you Charles!
I landed in Rio de Janeiro, and it welcomed me with breathtaking long beaches in the middle of a metropolitan city, packed with locals and tourists even in wintery August (of course, winter is relative). I would start with only 48 hours in Rio, before heading north for the wedding.
Arriving in Rio
I chose a hotel in Copacabana, as I wanted to be in the thick of Rio’s famous nightlife. Walking the streets at night alone in Rio is dangerous, and barely a week passes when you don’t hear about a tourist being robbed, injured or worse. So I strategically chose the minimum walking distance between Rio’s best clubs and my bed! The Caipirinhas (dangerous and delicious things that they are) and local food did not disappoint.
During the day I met up with other friends who had flown in for the wedding to see more of the city. We made quick tours of Rio’s Jardim Botanico, full not only of spectacular plants but also playful monkeys, and the Museum of Modern Art. As expected, the visual art on display here was impressive, but I was most intrigued by the collection of cinema, music and animation. It was also great to see the space full of enthusiastic school students, who were invited to laugh and play in the space, rather than simply observe quietly.
Sadly, I didn’t make it up to the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city to take the obligatory photo. I wasn’t worried as I thought there would be time for it when I returned to Rio, but this never worked out. However, I did make it to a Botafogo soccer game. I think there may be few better ways to encounter the Brazilian heart and spirit than cheering on the local team alongside 40,000 fans. Thankfully they won!
This initial introduction to Rio was brief as I needed to head north to the city of Tiradentes, in the state of Minas Gerais, for Charles’ wedding. I spent three days there, but it was apparent from the get-go that it was very different from Rio.
Tiradentes is inland, and feels like a charming historical town, and is characterized by baroque, colonial-era architecture. Located at the foot of Serra de São José, it was established as a Portuguese mining camp at the start of the 18th century. When the gold dried up less than 100 years later, it was abandoned, so the historic city has largely been preserved intact. It only really started functioning again in the 1970s, and the state government has gone out of its way to preserve its unique historic characters. So exploring Tiradentes was like exploring an open-air museum dedicated to colonial mining in Brazil.
Charles timed his wedding to coincide with the famous Tiradentes food festival, which brings together chefs from across South America for a variety of activities, but most importantly for me, results in some of the best street food I have ever had. Naturally, the festival also thrummed with live music, as everywhere you go in Brazil you will find people singing, dancing, clapping, stomping, and just having a good time.
Being so close to the old minefields, there were also some pretty amazing hiking trails close to the town, most of which lead to waterfalls and swimming holes. I managed to spend a day on the trail and, aside from Charles’ wedding of course, it was probably the highlight of my three days in Tiradentes.
Traveling with Friends
This part of my Brazil trip was quite different to what I am accustomed to, as I was surrounded by old friends, who also made their way to South America to be part of Charles’ wedding. It was amazing to have familiar faces with which to share my wonder at these new experiences, but I am a solo traveler at heart. I was also looking forward to discovering more of Brazil, its people, and culture, on my own in the coming weeks.
Here is a photo reel of Charles Wedding.