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Is Rio de Janeiro really the sexiest place on Earth?

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Rio de Janeiro was voted as the “Sexiest Place on Earth” in TripOutGayTravel 2010 Awards.

I couldn't help wondering what makes a city “sexy,” and so on my recent visit to Rio I decided to do a little research by talking to some locals and visitors to find out if they could give me an answer.

If you have ever been to Rio, or seen pictures, then you probably know that the beaches at Copocobana and Ipanema are the most scenic and festive to be found anywhere on the planet. The surfers, volleyball players, soccer teams, acrobats, sand sculptors and more are constantly entertaining even after sunset.

But sitting at a cafe along the promenade with a Caipirinha -- Brazil's local specialty cocktail -- observing the ocean's waves and watching the local talent is almost an erotic pleasure unto itself. Is all of that sexy enough for starters?

Well, there's no difficulty finding the gay beach at Ipanema as it proudly flies the rainbow flag from the vendors booths -- no need for hunting around and searching to find large groups of same-sex couples sun-tanning together.

“The sexiest part of Rio is the fact that a same-sex couple can stroll along the beach promenade hand-in-hand without anybody taking offense. It seems that overt sexuality is just an accepted part of everyday life in Rio,” said Steve, who was visiting from Ohio.

I had to agree with Steve as I had witnessed many such occurrences in my very short visit to the city.

Peter from London, England, spent all morning watching the surfers on Ipanema Beach and declared that it was the sexiest thing on Earth as they floated on their boards just waiting for the big one to come close to shore. He professed that when the surfers were erect on their boards and gliding toward the beach, it was the most exciting demonstration of sexual prowess by men and women.

But what if it's a rainy day in Rio? Is it still a sexy city?

My three days in the city were overcast and rainy with just a few sunny breaks. During one rain shower, I asked a New Yorker for his thoughts and he quickly replied that it's still sexy in the rain because all the gays head to a sauna or a spa for some indoor fun. I guessed that he meant this scurrying inside made it momentarily the Sexiest Place on Earth!

Also, on the rainy days it was cool to watch a same-sex couple snuggled under one umbrella protecting themselves from the elements. From my experience, this is a rare sight even in most other cosmopolitan cities around the globe.

A local Brazilian resident is convinced that it was the people that make Rio a sexy city. She felt that the attitudes of the locals towards their bodies -- always at the gym to stay healthy -- their clothes, and sometimes the lack thereof, gives Rio a very sexy ambiance.

Of course people-watching on the beach is a MUST to fully appreciate this feeling of sex in the city.

Then I ran into Greg from Laguna Beach, Calif., and he professed that a few Caipirinhas and then heading to the dance floor for a samba or two was the sexiest way to spend the evening. Plenty of opportunity for that in Rio.

There's definitely something very flirtatious about the street acrobatic entertainers who just seem to appear out of nowhere, with perfect rippling muscles, to perform for whomever will stop and watch them. Each one sporting seductive looks on their faces as long as there are some reals -- Brazilian currency -- dropped in their hat at the appropriate time after their show.

My personal favorite was perhaps the energetic early morning joggers along a mostly deserted beach enjoying their daily workout before the heat of the day cranks up their Latin passion.

So did I find a definitive answer to my probing question? No, but I certainly came away with the impression that Rio de Janeiro deserves its new title of the “Sexiest Place On Earth,” and that it could be a long time before another city steals away this queen's crown.

Resources on Brazilian travel

ABRAT GLS promotes commercial exchanges, tourism and leisure for GLBT travelers in Brazil as a means of deepening social inclusion and fighting prejudice and discrimination.

Rio Gay Guide lists places friendly to GLBT tourists.

Roy Heale, a freelance writer who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is SDGLN's South America contributor. He writes about LGBT issues from the Latin American continent. To read more stories by Roy Heale, visit http://www.royheale.blogspot.com/.