Taking up more than half of the Rio de Janeiro area, the Zona Oeste (the west zone of the city) is a sprawling region made up of about 17 neighbourhoods. The majority of the area is residential, yet some areas have witnessed recent accelerated growth that has caught the attention of the curious tourist. Barra da Tijuca was once a former swamp land yet has been transformed into a bustling neighbourhood of high-rise apartment blocks, shopping malls, buzzing nightlife spots and beautiful beaches.
WHY WE LOVE ZONA OESTE?
Many parts of the west zone have landmarks and activities that make them itinerary-worthy but have yet to enter the spotlight. This allows travellers to enjoy a dynamic area now before it becomes too mainstream. Whilst the extensive malls cater to every whim and need and the nightlife options set the scene for unforgettable nights, it’s the beaches that are truly worth the visit for their white sands that stretch for miles and a distinct lack of crowds.
Setting records as the largest urban state park in the world, Pedra Branca State Park is an extraordinary ecosystem that extends across and beyond the west zone. Visitors can enjoy the biological diversity, the many waterfalls, and historical sites scattered throughout the park.
Going topless in Brazil is strictly off-limits, yet for those who want to bare all, head to Praia do Abrico in Grumari, Rio’s only nudist beach.
Rio is replete with fantastic hiking opportunities and one of the most rewarding yet challenging ones is Pedra da Gavea. Standing at 844 metres, it is one of the highest peaks at the edge of the ocean in the world, and grants outstanding views across Rio.
Barra da Tijuca is the mecca for shopping in Rio with plenty of shopping malls that have something for everyone and include a strong mix of national and international brands. Head to Shopping New York Center for a wide range of shops at affordable prices, or for a guilty splurge, go to the exclusive, upscale Village Mall.
Undoubtedly, one of my favourite things about Rio is that when city life becomes too much, a quick retreat into a stunning natural environment is just minutes away. Hiking in Rio de Janeiro provides that getaway. Growing up in a small village in South Wales with a...