1. Carnival is pretty high up on many bucket lists, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be on yours too. February's festival lasts for weeks, turning the city upside down with unquenchable joie de vivre.The Carnival overwhelms the 75,000-seat Sambadrome and takes to the streets, delivering an electric atmosphere and liberation wherever it goes. It is the largest carnival in the world, attracting some two million revellers to the streets of Rio daily throughout its duration. Dating back to 1723, the celebration has origins in religion, but contemporary participants mainly worship the God of dance. Samba schools and floats compete for attention with musicians and salsa dancers.
2. Who doesn't want to watch the sun set over Copacabana Beach and party until it rises again? The four kilometre stretch of sand is the best place in Rio for the city's famous caipirinhas. Favela children run riot and bronzed bodies soak up those life-giving rays wherever you look.
3. Undeniably, the iconic Cristo Redentor that overlooks the city is also one of its top sights. Looking protectively over the city from its 710-metre-high perch, the 1145 ton statue is almost continually visible, no matter where you are in Rio. Its art deco features are the work of foreign sculptors Gheorghe Leonida and Paul Landowski, but a Brazilian engineer, Heitor da Silva Costa made the vast monument possible. You can take buses to Parque da Tijuca to visit this famous figure from the three main terminals.
4. Explore the stunning Parque Nacional da Tijuca, a 39 square kilometre swathe of lush, waterfall-ribboned wilderness. Look out for the offerings of the candomblistas along the mountain roads as you ascend to around a thousand feet atop Pico da Tijuca. The park is inhabited by a plethora of exotic species, including monkeys and brightly coloured birds, which flutter through the trees. Keep your eyes peeled for tropical flowers including amarilis, freesias and camellias as you hike through the trees.
5. Another heavenly alternative to the bustle of Rio's centre is Lago Rodrigo de Freitas. Ringed by an 8 kilometre walking and cycle path, its one of the most picturesque hangouts in the capital. Rent a paddle boat, and glide out on the glimmering water, or sit in the shade with a caipirinha. Come night time, live music transforms this idyll into a popular entertainment venue. Enjoy dinner and drinks before dancing the night away to your new favourite salsa songs.
6. Don't miss out on the treasures housed at the Museu Historico Nacional. Housed in a building which dates from 1764. It tells the history of Brazil through its collection of thrones, vast oil paintings and regal coaches. There's no better window onto the events that made Rio de Janeiro what it is today.
7. For a dose of culture, visit the celebrated Instituto Moreira Salles. The work of Brazil's favourite artists is displayed at mercurial exhibitions at this spectacular cultural centre. Dramatic architecture is sequestered in impressive gardens, which come complete with an artificial lake and river. The gardens are the work of Roberto Burle Marx, and make an idyllic location for afternoon snacks and light lunches.
8. Another spectacular way to see the mountains of Rio is via the funicular that takes you to the summit of the Pao de Acucar. Zooming 400 metres above the city in this cable car is the best way to see Cristo Redentor and Copacabana Beach simultaneously. Catch your ride at sunset for optimum impact.
9. Don't forget to meet the Capuchin monkeys at the city's Botanical Gardens. Marmosets also laze in nests of leaves of more than 6,500 species of plant. You could spend days just exploring avenues of whispering palms and greenhouses gloating with exotic plants attended by bright butterflies.
10. Finally, don't forget to visit the Pedro do Pontal. Surreal views greet you when you ascend to the pinnacle of this rocky outcrop, which lies at the end of an isthmus of land. Look back at the city, past the two sparkling beaches of Praia do Recreio and Praia da Macumba, and you have one of the most special sights in Rio before you.