By Bryan Herb
It’s weird to get homesick for a place that isn’t technically your home, but that’s how I feel about Rio de Janeiro. And I never know when it’s going to hit me. The other day I was walking in Chicago’s Boy’s Town, and I started getting melancholy for the sultry, sexy, summers in Rio de Janeiro. There is truly no place like it.
The problem is, Rio de Janeiro SPOILS its visitors, and it can be really hard to adjust to life back home. What do you mean I have to put my shirt on to enter your café? What happened to the constant parade of hot gay men I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the streets? Where’s my $20 steak extravaganza? Where’s my acai juice? Even as I write this, I start to get crabby with longings of Rio and wonder when I can plan another gay travel excursion there.
Here are my top 10 favorite things about Rio de Janeiro:
10. The weather. When it’s cold and gross in the northern hemisphere, it’s sunny and hot in Rio. This makes it the perfect winter gay travel destination.
9. Churrascarias. I am a big eater, and for people like me, Rio does not disappoint. Since I’m also impatient by nature, and Rio’s churrascarias are the perfect option because I can step off the beach and into the restaurant and be eating as soon as I sit down. There is no menu, and perfectly prepared meats come to me until I say stop. I’m in heaven.
8. Hotels that offer something for everyone. My favorite Rio de Janeiro hotels include the Golden Tulip Ipanema Plaza, due to its location and casual elegance, and the Caesar Park for a room with a view.
7. Acai. Brazilians are notoriously beautiful, and I have a theory that it is because of all the acai that they consume. Acai is an Amazonian berry that has more antioxidants than any food on the planet, and in Rio they make it into a delicious juice. One of the first things I do when I get off the plane in Rio is grab an acai.
6. Sugarloaf Mountain. I come here every time I visit Rio because I think it gives you the best view of Rio, and as I have mentioned, I’m in love with the city. Topographically, I think it is the most beautiful city in the world.
5. The Christo Redento, or Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. Christ the Redeemer is visible from almost every point in Rio, and it truly feels as thought he is standing guard over the city. I love leaving the gay clubs at night, and coming back to my hotel with the statue lit up in the distance. It may sound cheesy, but there is always something comforting about that.
4. New Year’s Eve in Rio. There is no place I would rather be for New Year’s Eve than in Rio de Janeiro. It was in Rio for New Year’s where we held our first Zoom Vacation, and we have been bringing our gay travelers there for years. On New Year’s Eve, everyone from the tourists to the locals wear white and visit Copacabana Beach to offer flowers to the sea goddess, Yemanja, who promises to cleanse your sins for the last year in return.
3. Carnival. Some people say that everyone is a little gay during Carnival, and I kind of believe it. It is such a celebration of life, love, culture, and humanity, the likes of which exist no place else on earth. Carnival is truly something that I think everyone should experience in their lifetime.
2. Cariocas. I LOVE the local people of Rio de Janeiro, known as Cariocas, and several have become good friends of mine. They share a love of life, and a passion and appreciation for their culture, which is completely contagious.
1. Ipanema Beach. I think I have had some of the best times of my life, simply laughing with my friends on gay-friendly Ipanema Beach with a Caipirinha in hand. There are few places I’d rather be than on Ipanema Beach at sunset with good buddies.
My list is done and there are still so many things I couldn’t include, such as the historic neighborhood of Santa Teresa, the general sexiness of Rio, great shopping, and so much more!
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Bryan Herb is co-founder of Zoom Vacations, a award-winning gay travel company specializing in over-the-top gay group vacations all over the world. Bryan has toured the ancient catacombs of Rome, swam with horses in Australia, climbed Guatemala’s Mayan ruins, haggled with Hong Kong merchants, danced the Samba in Brazil (though not very well), yoga’d his way through India, and has even studied ecology in a Scottish commune. Bryan is also the Chairman of board of the IGLTA. He was a travel expert for the Travel Channel’s hit show, “Vacation Challenge” and the South America travel expert for Logo’s gay travel show, “Bump.”