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Trendsetting Ipanema, the place made famous by the '60s song to bear its name, has a long tradition of dictating beach chic to the rest of the world. The beach was, after all, a launching pad for the skimpy tanga bikini, the once-popular crocheted G-string for men, and the unforgettable (if only we could forget) dental-floss bikini.
As expected, the two kilometers of white sand -- and the bodies strewn along them -- are the star attractions here. Yet the name Ipanema also refers to the surrounding neighborhood -- a compact, easily navigated mixture of upscale shops, frenetic nighttime hot spots and hip restaurants. First-time visitors will want to stroll down Rua Vincius de Morais -- a strip lined with bars, shops and restaurants, including the famous Garota de Ipanema Bar (originally called the Velloso Bar). It was here that Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Morais penned the lyrics to "The Girl from Ipanema." On Sundays the Hippie Fair offers wares from area craftsmen and artists. And at night, the young and young-at-heart head to Rio's Baixo Farme and Baixo Quiteria, southside streets jammed with bars and cafes.
Getting There Nearest domestic airport: The International Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport is about 19 miles (30 kilometers) from Ipanema, about a 30-minute drive.
Nearest major international airport: Santos Dumont Domestic Airport, located in the heart of the city, is about 10 minutes by car from Ipanema.
Airport transportation Several taxi services are available to shuttle visitors from both airports. An executive airport bus links the International Airport with the Santos Dumont Airport, or visitors can take a similar bus that serves the main oceanfront hotels in Ipanema.
Timing Rio de Janeiro's climate is tropical. The summer season (December to March) is the warmest, with temperatures ranging from 77 to 95 F (25 to 35 C) and higher. In the winter (June through August), temperatures range from 55 to 64 F (13 to 18 C). New Year's Eve and Carnival (held four days before Ash Wednesday, usually mid- to late-February) are the two busiest times, so book well in advance.
Lodging Rio has more than 250 hotels and motels, including 13 five-star, 41 four-star and 60 three-star hotels. The areas best known for budget accommodations are Gloria, Catete and Flamengo. The Rio Visitors and Convention Bureau has a limited list of hotels. For more accommodations, try Ipanema.
Cuisine The city offers a wide selection of cuisine, but it would be a shame to miss out on Rio's distinct regional cooking and signature dishes. One especially worth trying is Feijoada, a spicy bean-and-pork stew usually served with sides including sliced oranges, stir-fried eggs and manioc flour, thinly sliced kale and white rice. On the sidewalks near the beach, kiosks offer coconut water, corn on the cob, grilled shrimp, baked cheese rolls and other snacks. To wash it down, try "caipirinha" -- a traditional cocktail made with Brazilian sugarcane rum, lemon and sugar.
Travel Tips Unlike the rest of South America, Brazil's language is Portuguese. However, most people in highly trafficked tourist areas understand English. In addition, Rio has established a Tourist Police branch where officers usually speak English and are trained to provide help to visitors.
While you are there Take the cable car 887 feet up Pao de Acucar, Sugar Loaf, for a spectacular panoramic view of the city.
To fake that you've been there Talk about hanging out at lifeguard post No. 9 with the neo-hippies.
Linking for a better vacation The Rio Visitors and Convention Bureau has general and practical information about visiting the city. For hordes of information in a fun and relaxed package, try Ipanema.
About the Author: Nick Kontis - Travel Expert and Founder of the World Travel List
Nick Kontis started out as a world traveler at an early age traveling back and forth between California and Greece every summer. But it was a backpacking trip around the world at age 24 that proved to be a life changing experience. After traveling by car, train, plane, bike and, boat around the world, it would be this trip of a lifetime that would lead to a life as a travel entrepreneur and world traveler. Nick has been on both radio and television. Featured on Arthur Frommer’s television show, and referred by Lonely Planet writers. Frequently mentioned as the “father of around the world airfares.” Arthur Frommer once said, “If Jules Verne were alive today he would use Nick to go around the world in 80 days.” Nick and his various travel companies have sent over 10,000 people taking their dream trip through airfare discounts of as much as 50% off the airlines published fares. Now Nick promotes travel through his World Travel List and ‘Trip Rambler’ by World Travel List. Having traveled to over 80 countries Nick hopes to inspire others to travel the world. Follow Nick's "passion for travel" on the World Travel List.
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