While Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to let your inner party animal roam free, there are times when even the most hardcore of hedonists may begin to crave a little respite from the relentless heat and driving samba beats.
March sees the city slip into post-carnival recovery mode, but while the spangly headdressses and sequinned bikinis are put back into storage for another year, the intense summer heat continues to beat down, and the beaches are crammed with locals and tourists jostling for a little elbow room.
If you really want to relax and revitalise at this time of year, the best thing to do is to take a trip out of the city and breathe some pure air, take a dip in a freshwater pool, and shower under natural waterfalls.
If time is of the essence, take a day trip out to Vargem Grande, which lies less than an hour’s bus or cab ride (more in times of heavy traffic) from central Rio. Just west of the built up, wealthy suburb of Barra da Tijuca, Vargem Grande is famous for its nature trails through lush jungles, which can be traversed on foot, bicycle or horseback. The neighborhood is also famous for its excellent restaurants, with Quinta the best of an impressive bunch.
Should you have a little more time to spare, it is possible to immerse yourself totally in the cleansing power of nature at a revitalising retreat. st over two hours’comfortable coach ride, followed by a half-hour ferry ride, and you can be in beautiful Ilha Grande, the vast nature reserve island famed for its pristine beaches.
From March to December each year, The Island Experience holds ‘active retreat’ programmes from a wonderfully off-the-beaten-track destination on the island, far from the crowds of tourists that pack the hotels and hostels in Vila de Abraao – the one and only town on the island. Guests can combine active pursuits such as trekking and kayaking with spa treatments and twice daily yoga classes, as well as trying their hand at capoieira, the elegant combination of dance and martial arts.
Meals are planned to fuel and re-energise the body, and are largely vegetarian, although dedicated meat eaters will not go hungry. With a location close to white sands, blue sea and dense jungle, this is the perfect place to escape the madding crowd and appreciate nature at its most spectacular.
A taxi to Vargem Grande will cost R$60-70 each way, independent of the number of passengers, so it is worth getting a group together for a trip out west. Coaches leave hourly from Rio de Janeiro’s main bus station, Novo Rio, for Angra dos Reis – the departure point for ferries and fishing boats to Ilha Grande. For more information on The Island Experience, emal firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos courtesy of The Island Experience