Where to go in Rio is probably the most difficult to write about. There are endless choices for food, sightseeing, shopping, having a good time. Rio is Rio. Rio is beautiful. Rio is diverse. Rio is eclectic. Rio is more than what you read in newspapers, more than what you see in documentaries, books, magazines. Rio…Rio
We can start with the clichés, the places everyone talks about. It’s worth it. Some can be pricey, nonetheless still worth it. No matter how many pics you see, how many ads you see, you are never prepared for what they are.
1. Corcovado/Cristo – Christ the Redeemer
One of the most stunning views of Rio de Janeiro. Its tricky, you might have to go there more than once to get THE perfect day. It is often clouded, the weather changes from one moment to another, but from up there you will totally understand why Rio is the Cidade Maravilhosa – the Wonderful City. The mix of green and cement, the graciousness, grandiosity, the sea, the lagoon, the rock outcrops characteristic of Rio, the contrasts between the Favelas and the chic places such as Ipanema and Leblon, all seen from a distance, coming together in a picture of immense beauty
It was elected as one of the 7th wonders of the world and an UNESCO Heritage Site. The Christ welcoming everyone with open arms, a serene face, it’s something that has to be seen at least once in your life.
Since 2016 Corcovado or Cristo, was revamped (Olympics) and new attractions added. There is the Visitors Centre (Centro de Visitantes), located in a old hotel (hotel das Paineiras). It provides tourist support, is home of the new ticket office, has a souvenir shop (I would not buy anything there as it is extremely overpriced), toilets, restaurants and a free exhibition.
How to get there:
You can get there by bus, subway, Uber, taxi and van. And of course, you can rent a car and drive there. If you choose the train (Trenzinho) you will not pass through the Visitor Centre as it will take you straight to the Christ, from where you take the stairs (be fit) or the lift. Car is the least preferred option due to the lack of parking close by. The place is usually crowded, everyday at anytime. To avoid getting there and have to wait for a long time, buy your ticket online:
The train is the most charming way to climb to the Christ. It passes through Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the World and takes you to the foot of the statue. Make sure you seat on the right side of the train to enjoy the best view. Trains start at 8h30 and end at 18h30, leaving every half hour, 7 days of the week. When you get there, well take a deep breath and enjoy. Enjoy the view, enjoy the city at your feet, stay till sunset, you will never forget, you will come for more.
2. Pão de Açucar – Sugar Loaf Mountain
Another one of my favorites, another cliché, another place where breathtaking scenery makes you realize its worth going there, and nothing you read will prepare you for what you will see.
The ascent is made in two steps: The first, from Praia Vermelha in Urca neighborhood up to the top of Urca Hill (app 220m asl), and the second to the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain from where you will have literally a 360º view of the whole city and its surroundings, Guanabara Bay, Niteroi, and with good weather even the God’s Finger Mountain in Teresópolis.
The tickets are sold in a ticket office at Praia Vermelha and the cable car runs from 8h00 to 21h00, every 20 minutes.The ride is smooth and you can hop off on the first station, take you time, enjoy the view and at any time hop on again.
When you get to the top, nothing prepares you to what you will see, breathtaking views, ranging from Leme to Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon. From Downtown to Flamengo, Pedra da Gávea and Corcovado mountain, the planes taking off from Santos Dumont Airport, the Rio-Niterói bridge, Niteroi, Guanabara Bay, Marina da Glória, Urca. The sunset and the slowly change in colors as night rises its something you do not want to miss.
How to get there
Getting to Urca is easy, either by bus, taxi, Uber or cabify. If going by bus, from downtown Rio take bus 107, from Zona Sul bus Circular 2, bus Circular 1 are the options. If taking the subway, leave at Botafogo Station and take bus 513. For more information on rates, and other general information the official site is a good starting point:
- New to Rio, traveling solo and feeling unsure of what to visit or insecure on being safe? Hire a reliable Touring Company. There are many, they have several packages, and they take you to Corcovado and Sugar Loaf in one day, with lunch at a steakhouse.
- Dress in comfortable clothes and shoes, a cap or hat, take your sunscreen and sunglasses, camera, and cash (in case for some reason your visa card will not work, it happens sometimes)
- Restaurants and cafes are expensive, over priced. You can of course eat there but be prepared to pay and the food being only ok.
- Take water with you unless you want to pay more than it is worth it
- Souvenirs are expensive. You can find all of them in shops other than at the Corcovado or Sugar loaf.
- I like to go in the middle of the afternoon and wait for sunset. However, that is also the time of day when it rains frequently (depending on the season)
- Be prepared for queues, crowds. Be patient, take care of your belongings
- If taking a taxi, negotiate or ask them to switch on the meter
- Buy tickets online in advance, do not forget to take your passport
- To be continued ….