Take a nature break at Carnival

Weekend getaways and nature adventures in and around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Urban wildlife in Rio de Janeiro, seen near the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. Please don’t feed the monkeys!

This weekend most of the Western world celebrates Carnaval, or Mardi Gras, and no place celebrates the holiday as enthusiastically as Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.

But even in the heartland of Carnaval, there are dissenters looking to get away from the city for a quiet and relaxing holiday break. Here are some ideas for a little nature time during the big weekend.

Take a stroll in the Jardim Botânico in the heart of Rio’s Zona Sul. This amazing place was founded by the Portuguese emperors in 1808 to develop useful plants discovered by the explorers funded by the crown. Today it is an outstanding biodiversity and study resource, and a quiet oasis in the bustling city. If you can’t get out of town this weekend, the Jardim Botânico will soothe your nerves. (Warning: there will be a lot of traffic this weekend with the various neighborhood Carnaval blocos on parade. Check the paper for schedules.)

Another awesome garden in metropolitan Rio is the home and garden of Roberto Burle Marx, the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. Now a historical park on the far west side of Rio, the renowned landscape architect’s estate was his creative laboratory for gardening and architecture. (The park is temporarily closed due to heavy rains interfering with infrastructural projects. Be sure to check back with the park for re-opening!)

This might be the weekend to explore some of the hiking trails in Rio de Janeiro. You can hike to the top of Corcovado, Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf), Pedra da Gávea and the Dois Irmãos, to name the most famous mountains in the city.

Just outside of Rio is Petropolis, the historic imperial city in the Serra Orgão mountains. Long a favorite weekend getaway, Petropolis offers some great mountain hikes, including a challenging 35-km trek between the two cities of Petropolis and Teresopolis.

If you’re more of a water baby than a mountain goat, the Costa Verde, or Green Coast near Paraty makes for a refreshing escape from the big city. Try sea kayaking or paddle boarding for a fresh twist on this popular resort area.

Buzios, once a quiet fishing village, was “discovered” by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s and today is a buzzing resort town. It’s also one of the top windsurfing locations in Brazil. If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the crowds, Buzios is probably not the best place to go during holiday weekends–half of Rio has had the same idea, and they’re driving slowly around the town square, looking for that lost parking spot.

As always, do your research before booking, and if you’re traveling to Brazil from abroad, be sure to apply for your visa in plenty of time for the trip.

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