Rio de Janeiro things to do: Six of the best adventures

HIKING IN TIJUCA FOREST

Rio's beaches get all the glory but the city is also home to one of the world's largest urban forests. Tijuca Forest National Park is a lush, tropical rainforest full of dramatic peaks, plunging valleys and battery-sapping vistas. Jungle Me offers several guided hikes, from an easy half-day trek to the 696-metre-high summit of Pedra Bonita to full-day excursions that explore the park's hidden caves, waterfalls and former coffee plantations. En route you'll learn about the city's tumultuous history and hopefully see wildlife including monkeys, coatis and toucans. See jungleme.com.br

SUNSET BIKE TOUR

With miles of largely flat, beach-fringed coastline, Rio is ideally suited for two-wheeled exploration. This Urban Adventures cycling tour begins by ticking off the big-ticket beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema before moving onto less heralded attractions such as the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and the impressive orchid collection in the Botanical Garden. Along the way, a knowledgeable guide sheds light on the city's colonial history and fun-loving character. The tour finishes with a quintessential Rio experience – watching the sunset from Arpoador Rock overlooking Ipanema Beach. See urbanadventures.com

EAT RIO FOOD TOUR

Mouth-numbing tacacá soup
tra29-SixBestRio

Tacaca soup. Photo: Tom le Mesurier

Adventurous eaters will love this tour, which takes a deep dive into regional Brazilian cuisine. Starting at a local food market, you'll sample exotic fruits such as the fig-like sapoti and the alien-looking innards of a cocoa pod. Next, try traditional favourites such as crunchy salted cod croquettes and cinnamon-dusted egg custard tarts before tackling Amazonian delicacies including the tongue-numbing tacaca soup. The tour finishes with a hearty lunch of north-eastern Brazilian cuisine – save room for deep-fried pastries, mashed cassava and a delicious coconut shrimp stew. See eatrio.net

HANG GLIDING

G140MA RIO DE JANEIRO - MARCH 22, 2016: A hang glider instructor takes off with passenger from Pedra Bonita, in Tijuca National Forest. tra29-SixBestRio

Photo: Alamy

It's only from an aerial perspective that you can truly appreciate Rio's dramatic topography. The summits of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado mountain both have impressive lookouts but you'll share them with hundreds of selfie-wielding tourists. Instead, take a tandem hang-gliding flight from the summit of Pedra Bonita and soar over the city's beguiling montage of crescent-shaped beaches, soaring granite monoliths and luxuriant rainforest. Rio Adventures has been operating for more than 18 years and is certified by the Brazilian Hang Gliding Association. See rioadventures.com

CLIMB SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN

EBPNX1 Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) at dawn, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America tra29-SixBestRio

Photo: Alamy

There's an easy way and a hard way to reach the top of Rio's iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. The easy way is by cable car; the harder (but more rewarding) option is to ascend using your own bare hands. Rio Natural Ecotourism offers several options, from the beginner-friendly scramble up the east-facing Costao route to more technical climbs, such as Coringa on the south face and Via dos Italianos on the west face. Whichever one you choose, you'll be with a qualified instructor and just think how good that caipirinha will taste after you've managed to reach the top. See rionatural.com.br

SEA KAYAKING

Rio's beaches get so much attention that it's also easy to overlook the fact that the city is blessed with one of the planet's most spectacular natural harbours. Located just around the headland from Copacabana Beach, Guanabara Bay stretches inland for 31 kilometres and is dotted with more than 130 islands. Sea kayaking is the best way to explore this pristine waterway and Rio Extreme offers guided trips that include a stop at Fora Beach under Sugarloaf Mountain. Tours last about three hours and no previous kayaking experience is required. See rioxtreme.com

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Rob McFarland was a guest of the Adventure Travel Trade Association (adventuretravel.biz) and Latin America specialist Chimu Adventures (chimuadventures.com).

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