You don’t have to be a conservation biologist to appreciate this natural beauty—there’s more than enough trails and sites to keep you occupied.
Nestled away in the heart of the city are two of Rio’s most noteworthy attractions—the Tijuca Forest National Park and Corcovado mountain, home to the 2,300-foot Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, statue. While these sites feel miles away from the bustle of the city center, visiting the park and the statue—both located entirely within city limits—makes for a fantastic trip that could last a day or a week. Here are some tips for navigating your excursion to Rio’s urban oasis.
Tijuca Forest National Park
Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world, is actually the result of a reforestation effort in the mid-nineteenth century. After much of the original forest had been destroyed for farmland, coffee farmers hand-planted native Brazilian trees and plants to cover the original area. You don’t have to be a conservation biologist to appreciate this natural beauty, however—there’s more than enough trails and sites to keep you occupied. If you’re the adventurous type, hang glide off of Pedra Bonita, a 1,650-foot mountain, or hike up Tijuca Peak, the second-highest point in Rio. In addition to the mountain routes, there are countless trails to hike throughout the forest that range in difficulty from easy strolls to strenuous climbs. Looking for some culture? Head to the Mayrink Chapel, a small pink-and-purple structure that features panels by the Brazilian artist Cândido Portinari, or climb up Pedra da Gávea to ponder the supposedly Phonecian inscription on the rockface. Another option is to visit the Museu do Acude, an art museum located in the heart of the forest, to enjoy pieces that reflect Rio’s cultural heritage. Finally, don’t miss natural wonders such as the Emperor’s Table and the Cascatinha de Taunay, a spectacular waterfall.
If you’re not sure what to see, there are a number of local companies that offer guided tours of the forest. You can choose which sites you’d like to see—you can fit in as many as you’d like—and the tours are offered in half- and full-day options. Jeep tours are by far the most popular and are run by a number of companies. Jeep Tour features several different tours and English-speaking guides.
When you’ve seen enough of the forest, hop on the Corcovado Cog Train at the Cosme Velho station. The train runs through the forest up to Corcovado Mountain, the site of the legendary Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, statue. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 130 feet tall, weighs around 1.4 million pounds and remains one of the most enduring symbols of Rio and Brazil. Although you can’t climb up the statue, the sights from the base of the statue are breathtaking. Be sure to visit on a clear day—you’ll be able to see stunning vistas of the city and ocean below the mountain. Guided tours of the statue and surrounding area are available, many of which leave from Rio’s hotels if you want to start your day at the monument. If you’re looking for a truly spectacular view, book a helicopter tour of Corcovado and the surrounding area with a local tourist agency (viator.com offers a great option). The incomparable up-close views of the statue’s face are well worth the hefty price tag.
Whether you tour the sights of the forest in a day, or spend a week browsing every inch of the national park, Tijuca Forest National Park is a breathtaking location. Home to Brazil’s most iconic monument, visiting the forest and the Cristo Redentor statue is a must during your trip to Rio.