The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Travel

What to Do in Rio Besides the World Cup

Bars become stuffier and fútbol fans drunker as the World Cup roars on. Get your head above the soccer slosh and take advantage of the city’s easy access to natural areas with these eight adventures.

Explore Tijuca National Park

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The best way to tour the world’s largest urban rainforest is on a bike, although you should go early to avoid traffic on the park’s winding roads. The 12.4 square-mile, hand-planted forest is perhaps most famous for iconic Christ the Redeemer, the 125-foot statue of Jesus at the top of Corcovado mountain (who, by the way, is specially lit in green and yellow for the World Cup). Ride among the fruit trees, hibiscus, and colorful bromeliad flowers to waterfalls and overlooks. Keep an eye out for macaque monkeys, which seem to fill a squirrel-type niche in the ecosystem.

Not a cyclist? If you have access to a trad rack, climb a 5.11—served with a rack of nuts and cams—up to Christ the Redeemer. Go late in the day to finish with the sun setting behind the statue.

Climb Pão de Açúcar

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The beauty of this rock face is in its vast range of difficulty and length. With grades from 5.4 to 5.13a and lengths ranging from two to 12 pitches, Sugar Loaf, as it’s called in English, leaves all levels of climbers satisfied. For the best view, however, opt for the Classic Line on the wall’s west face, which runs at 5.8 with a 5.10c crux.

Reached by a mix of hikeable and climbable terrain (class 1 to 5), the summit of Pão de Açúcar has views of the Atlantic Ocean, Rio’s city center, and the adjacent port city of Niterói on the Guanabara Bay.

Hang Glide Down to Pepino Beach

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The glide starts atop Pedra Bonita, the highest peak in Tijuca park at 2,280 feet. Cruise above Rio and down to Pepino, one of they city's nearly 30 beautiful white beaches. Outfitters, such as Rio Hang Gliding, drive you to the top of the mountain, set you up with all the necessary equipment, strap you to a guide, and then send you off a ramp. Flying superman-style above the World Cup will be much less claustrophobic celebrating with the masses down below.

Hike to the Top of Pico de Tijuca

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Looking for a workout before your team plays? Summit Pico de Tijuca, a mellow half-day hike that gains 2,290 feet over 3.2 miles. At the top, you’ll see rocky peaks descend sharply into hilly rainforest and eventually to white beaches. You’ll also be able to see the 14 other peaks in Tijuca (all 15 peaks in the park can be summited by trails starting in Praça Afonso Ribeira).

Bring your own water and food, as you’ll have few opportunities to stay hydrated along the way.

Trek from Terésopolis to Petrópolis

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This 22-mile hike crosses through Serra dos Orgaos National Park, dipping into the Antas Valley and ascending over 7,400-foot Pedra do Sino. The trek starts at Terésopolis and finishes in the imperial city of Petrópolis. Once a vacation spot for Brazilian Emperors, Petrópolis boasts many beautiful palaces, one of which is now the impressive Imperial Museum.

Roda de Bola on Copacabana

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Get in the fútbol mood by playing Roda de bola a.k.a foot volley. The pick-up beach sport is similar to volleyball except no hands are allowed. Each feet-only volley includes a spin, twist or jump, and your skills will have to be up to snuff if you want to play the locals, who take this sport seriously and often pester foreigners if their game is sub par.

If you’re thirsty, rehydrate with coconut water straight from the fruit, available at vendors along the beach.

Kite Surf Off Barra de Tijuca

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The heart of Rio has little to offer as far as water sports go, as there is boat traffic in the bay. But for those looking to get kite lift, Barra de Tijuca is the best—and least crowded—option. More than 10 miles of beach and endless open ocean makes roaming the shore on a kite board easy, not to mention, the beach’s location on the southern side of the city make it less exposed to nasty winds, which makes for a smoother surf.

Surf Grumari Beach

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West of Rio, Grumari is a wild and rustic beach that has no high rises or beachside restaurants, just cacti, banana plants, palms, and some kiosks. But although it lacks the crowds of Copacabana, the parking is still and issue on the weekends, so arrive early (you’ll need a rental car to get there).

The waves are easy left and rights that are around 5 feet at this time of year.

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The Front Runner Slimline II

In theory, roof racks should be pretty simple—and most of them are. A couple of bars and a bracket or two designed to hold outdoor equipment. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Enter the world of car camping, where it’s generally accepted that your roof rack needs to carry a bike, a shovel, spare fuel, water, firewood, and your ridiculously heavy rooftop tent. Oh yeah, and it now has to be aerodynamic and efficient.

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That’s when you need the Slimline II, a simple, secure, lightweight system made by South Africa-based Front Runner. Made from high-strength aluminum, the low-profile Slimline II has all the rigidity of steel without the weight. And it's been tested in Africa as an expedition-grade roof rack for safari and overland vehicles.

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You’d expect water, shovel, jack, spare-tire, and fuel-can mounts on a system like this. But Front Runner didn’t stop there. You can buy accessories like the company’s Dutch oven mount, bottle opener (why not?) and table, which slides underneath the rack. Of course, there’s also a full line of mounts for your outdoor gear, including skis, snowboards, kayaks, and bikes (in all, the company offers more than 25 add-ons).

The Front Runner Slimline II is available in more than 55 sizes with plenty of mounting options for most vehicles. Prices start at $729 for smaller racks, with most popular SUV models starting around $1,100, with free shipping.

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Running in the City of Light

Paris is a city known for many things—its architecture, its fromage, its lovers—but exercise is decidedly not one of them. Exerting oneself publicly in sweaty, non-chic clothing is considered tres vulgaire and violates one of the underlying maxims of Parisian life: don’t, under any circumstance, look ridiculous or unsophisticated. Instead, Parisians offset their indulgent meals with long walks to the next bar or walking up the Metro stairs. 

That may work for the locals, but if you’re a visitor to Paris, exercise serves an important dual purpose: burning off the ridiculous amounts of calories you should be consuming during your visit and helping you see a version of the City of Light beyond the tourist clichés. If you go to Paris and don’t run, you’re missing out. 

However, be warned: you’re more likely to get a cigarette put out on your thigh than you are to see a Parisian move out of your way on one of the city’s busy streets. For that reason, it’s wise to stick to more defined parks and socially acceptable running routes, rather than attempting to run on sidewalks. The good news is that even during the week, rush hour doesn’t start until about 9 a.m. (Parisians are still sleeping off the vin rouge from the night before), so you get an extra hour to work out before the crowds hit the streets.

Embark on one of the routes below, but first slip a few Euros in your running shorts—you’ll want to treat yourself to a croissant and a café au lait when you’re done.

Jardin Du Luxembourg

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A visit to the Luxembourg Gardens is a mainstay of most tourist itineraries, so why not cross this one off the list in the form of a run? Though it’s the second largest public park in Paris, the perimeter is quite short (1.3 miles), so it’s best for a quick 5k or if you want to get in an interval workout. Attached to the centuries-old Luxembourg Palace (where the French Senate meets), the park is heavy on runners and on history, including statuary, a boating pond, and the original version of the Statue of Liberty. The only obstacles you’ll have to dodge are picnickers and gentlemen playing chess. Nestled in the Latin Quarter, the park is accessible from a variety of Metro stops including Odeon, Mabillon, Saint-Michel, and Cluny. 

The Seine

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There are few better ways to see the sights of Paris than a run along the banks of its river, which bisects the city’s premier attractions. Take the metro to Pont Neuf, which is right on the river, and begin running east. Follow the water and when you reach Pont d’Austerlitz, cross the bridge and loop back so you’re running on the other side of the water (known as the Left Bank). Keep running until you reach the Musee d’Orsay and you’ll have passed some of the city’s greatest sights including the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Ile de la Cité, and the Grand Palais, all in about five miles. Although there is a path by the water, the cobblestones are uneven, so you might prefer to run at street level on the paved pedestrian path (the only drawback will be stopping at traffic lights).

Canal Saint-Martin

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It doesn’t get more idyllic than running on the cobbled banks of the Canal Du Saint-Martin, nestled in the uber-hip tenth Arrondissement in northeast Paris. The canal is 4.5 kilometers (just under 3 miles) long and connects the northern Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine River to the south. On Sundays, the two streets parallel to the canal—Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes—are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. (There are quite a few runners, too). Take the Metro to Republique and walk less than a quarter mile northeast until you reach the canal. Follow the waterway to the north, which will eventually lead you to Parc de la Villette, right on the edge of the Boulevard Périphérique. Then, do what any Parisian would do, turn around and pick out one of the hip cafés and bars on the canal for a post-workout l’apero (apertif).

Bois De Boulogne

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Bois de Boulogne is one of those urban running gems that doesn’t feel urban at all. Located in the western edge of the 16th Arrondissement, it’s more than twice the size of Central Park and is home to two lakes, several ponds, the horse-racing grounds of Hippodrome de Longchamp, as well as the Stade Roland Garros stadium, where the French Open is played. Though it’s on the edge of the city and thus requires a special trip to get to it, you’ll be in good company getting a long run in while exploring its 2,000 acres and numerous trails. For a shorter run, try doing laps around the 1.5-mile path surrounding Lac Inférieur. The closest Metro stations are Porte Dauphine and Ranelagh.

Parc de Saint-Cloud

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This domaine national (national park) is actually located outside what’s officially considered Paris—which is everything encircled by the ring road known as Boulevard Périphérique—but it’s worth the trip. Covering more than 1,000 acres, the park dates back to the 16th century when it served as the preferred residence of Napolean Bonaparte. Since then, it’s been distinguished one of the most remarkable green spaces in Europe. Running through the centuries-old fountains, monuments, and perfectly straight tree-lined paths is an other-worldly experience and will keep you entertained for miles. It also offers two things that are hard to find within the Périphérique: a panoramic view of the city (which can be found at the park’s highest elevation, La Lanterne viewpoint) and comparatively fewer crowds compared to inner Paris’ parks. 

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