Rio de Janeiro
Rio may move to a quicker pulse than the rest of Brazil, but the heart races most not as a result of carnival or cocktails, but because of the city itself. Nowhere is this more so than at sunset atop Pão de Açúcar (SugarLoaf Mountain). The views – of innumerable rainforested hills, sweeping bays and golden beaches – will convince you of what every local adamantly insists is the case: that their city is the most beautiful of all.
Any sane person would want to be in Rio for carnival. If you can’t visit then, make sure you soak up some of the vibe by learning a few samba steps. Rio is home to an endless supply of samba schools. Go along and get to know your volta from your fogos, then head for the Urca neighbourhood, once of Rio’s most pleasant spots, where samba beats start filling the beach air when the sun sets, and keep on thumping long after you’ve headed back home.