An international party city synonymous with decadent pleasures, endless stretches of pristine, sun-soaked beach and trendy clubs pulsing with captivating beats, Rio de Janiero is vacation heaven for almost everyone. And if you needed any motivation as an LGBT-inclined vacationer, it has been voted the world’s most popular LGBT destination – apparently one in four tourists to this tropical paradise is gay.
Rio is home to the world’s largest Carnival parade – close to two million participants and spectators throng to the city to see and be seen in a kaleidoscopic explosion of movement, dance and revelry without equal. From the fantastically decorated floats to the equally fantastically bedecked dancers from samba schools across the country to the countless spectators who cannot help but be caught up in the rush, the Rio Carnival will infect you with its heady combination of sensuous moves and heady atmosphere.
The unique draw of Carnival is such that cross-dressing is common, even with straight individuals. Social boundaries and other barriers disappear for at least the five-day long celebration.
If you want to immerse yourself in gay culture, Farme Gay has to be on your itinerary. The self-proclaimed ‘gayest part of Rio’ is a stretch of beach between Rua Teixeira de Melo and Rua Farme de Amoedo. Crammed with cafes, bars, restaurants and bookstores popular with the gay community, it is the perfect spot to immerse yourself in the local gay scene in the idyllic seaside setting. Another gay-friendly stretch of sand is on the famous Copacabana Beach itself where you can be discreet or flock to the rainbow flags planted by transvestites (who welcome everyone, LGBT or straight).
If you forgot to pack beachwear, or if you want an authentic Brazilian bathing suit or bikini to bring home, the stretch of shops opposite the beach in the Ipanema neighborhood is the arguably the best place to pick one out on a budget. Ipanema is famous for having seen the world debuts of tangas and dental floss bikinis; they are abundantly and cheaply available in the area.
Apart from the beach and party scene, Rio also boasts an energetic art scene. Two major galleries, Galeria de Ipanema near Ipanema Beach and Bolsa de Arte near Farme de Amoedo, feature works by prominent Brazilian artists. For lighter fare, visit the General Osorio Square on the weekend for paintings of famous landmarks and wooden art and handicraft made by creative locals.
There are a plethora of historical churches and museums for the culture enthusiast. The former, some centuries old, are visions of architectural innovation and beauty and too many to name. Just as ubiquitous are the museums and the National Museum of History (Museu Historico Nacional) is perhaps the best place to start.
Rio is such an eclectic mix of people and cultures that almost anything goes. For the LGBT holiday maker, that is as good a beginning as any to the perfect getaway.