RIO DE JANEIRO

WHY WE LOVE IT

  • Vibrant doesn't begin to describe the beach-bound city of cariocas, Corcovado, caipirinhas, and Carnaval.
  • Show off your toned-up-for-the-wedding selves on two of the most famous beaches in the world: Copacabana and Ipanema (plus 40 more miles of sand).
  • The iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado: one of the new Seven Wonders of the World?
  • Arrive at the only airport with its own song: "Samba do Avião," by (who else?) Antônio Carlos Jobim.
  • Visit the 14 Grupo Especial samba schools in the new Samba City if you can't make it for Carnaval itself.
  • Good buys: beachwear from the bikini store of the real "Girl from Ipanema," Heloisa Pinheiro; CDs—samba and anything by Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil; bateria instruments; trinkets from the Hippie Fair.

WHEN TO GO

High season is summer and October through March, peaking for the feast of Iemanjá on New Year's Eve and Carnaval, when rates can triple. Keep an eye out for spring bargains in August and September.

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