Taking things at a leisurely pace is a way of life in Rio de Janeiro and, given the heat of the tropical sun, visitors to the city would be wise to follow locals' examples. Taking a walking tour around the beautiful Zona Sul (South Zone) of Rio de Janeiro is an opportunity to see the famous beaches (and those equally famous bronzed, barely clad beach bodies...) and to relax with a cooling coconut water or ice cold beer whenever the mood takes you. Once the beaches and streets begin to get hot and crowded, it's time to seek shade beneath the towering trees of two of Rio´s most impressive parks.
Begin your Zona Sul walking tour with a stroll along Copacabana Beach — Photo courtesy of ExFordy
Start your walking tour with an early breakfast at one of the Zona Sul´s countless beach bars. An espresso coffee (´cafezinho´) and a bowl of energy-packed Acai (pronounced a-sigh-ee, an Amazonian 'power berry,' served crushed with ice and sugar) will put you in good stead for some serious sightseeing. And, where else to start a day in Rio than at the most famous of all its beaches: Copacabana?
Starting at the quieter end known as Leme, walk the full four kilometers (either along the promenade or on the beach itself - come in your swimwear to work on that tan as you walk), and take advantage of the many beach kiosks to enjoy an agua de coco (coconut water, served straight from the coconut on the beach) or a beer served ´bem gelada´(very cold) to refresh.
Once you hit the other end of the beach, you're at Arpoador, a scenic neighborhood whose beach marks the beginning of Ipanema. Take a few minutes' rest and enjoy the view of Arpoador Rock - a giant rock jutting right into the ocean. While ambling along Ipanema, also admire the view of Dois Irmaos Mountains, if you can tear your eyes away from the parade of beautiful beach bodies to be seen here.
Continue your walk with some people-watching at Ipanema — Photo courtesy of Over_Kind_Man
From Ipanema, it's around 15 minutes' walk to the lovely Lagoa - a vast city lake fringed by mountains - where there are ample opportunities to relax with a drink and a bite to eat. With the sun now likely to be at its most powerful, head along to Jardim Botanico, a leafy middle-class neighborhood named after its impressive botanical gardens. These shady gardens offer welcome respite from the heat and the crush of Rio's beachfront, and there are trails of various lengths to be followed, depending on your energy levels.
Almost next door, the little-visited Parque Lage is well worth half an hour of your time, if only to see the stunning mansion home with a backdrop of jungle-clad Corcovado Mountain and the Christ statue. The building is now an art college and coffeehouse/restaurant, and an energy-boosting coffee and sandwich is sure to be welcome here, before taking a bus or cab back to your base.