Tijuca National Park and Christ the Redeemer: Rio From AboveMay 15th, 2014 | Posted by in Brazil | Parks | The Places We've Been
At a Glance:
- Tijuca National Park is one of the largest urban-surrounded forests on earth, taking up some seven percent of Rio’s area.
- It is not original growth, but is secondary re-planted and otherwise re-grown Atlantic rainforest. After it was realized that the cleared land had eroded and polluted the city’s water supply, Emporor Dom Pedro II authorized a massive reforestation project in the mid-nineteenth century.
- National Park Established: 1961
- Entry fee: None (though there is a fee to visit Corcovado/Cristo Redentor; see below)
- Attractions/Things to Do: Hiking, biking, bird-watching, waterfalls, monkeys, scenic overlooks (see below)
With its combination of size and proximity to Rio de Janeiro, A Floresta da Tijuca is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, with all kinds of activities to satiate your need for outdoor stimulation. There are peaks to hike, monkeys to spy, birds to watch, and waterfall-fed pools to wade in. The big attractions though (and likely the reason you will come if you decide to take one of many Jeep tours on offer through the park) are the views. There are several scattered throughout the park, including Rio’s most famous landmark – though I’m putting that one last so you have to read through the rest of them first. We took a driving tour of these belvederi on a Saturday morning and early afternoon in the following order…
Located 380 meters vertically from the shoreline less than 2 miles away, the Chinese Belvedere is basically a Chinese-styled gazebo with a sweet overlook. It had started to spit rain when we showed up, so maybe not the best pictures, but seriously just deal with it.
Mirante Dona Marta
Though slightly lower at only 340 meters above sea level, the Dona Marta Overlook* is perhaps more dramatic, with excellent views of Sugarloaf, downtown, and Guanabara Bay in one direction (from the lookout itself), plus Cristo Redentor, beaches, Os Dois Irmãos, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, and the Zona Sul in the other direction (from a tour company’s helipad). A parking attendant charges two Reais (less than $1 USD) for you to park in the smallish lot here.
*I have no idea how to translate the word mirante into English. Overlook? Lookout? Panorama? Place of seeing stuff? In Spanish-speaking Latin America the word for such a thing was invariably mirador. Thus the word mirador has firmly supplanted the scattered and various English words that could be used to describe this spot where you look out and down at what’s around you.
Corcovado and Cristo Redentor
This is the big one. Corcovado is the name of the 710 meter tall granite peak. Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the name of the thirty meter tall art deco statue of Jesus that sits atop Corcovado overlooking Rio with outstretched arms. Whatever your means of transport in the park, you will be dropped at a parking lot/ticket booth/snack bar/train station area a few hundred (guessing) meters from the summit. There are basically two ways to get to the top from here. The first of these is to buy a ticket for the train. This is apparently a very popular way to go, as you supposedly have to buy tickets in advance during high season. I’m not sure how much the train option costs, as we choose the other option of paying thirty-two Reais per person for an entrance fee and taking the free five minute shuttle ride up the last few hundred meters of the mountain.
After hopping out of the van one enters through some turnstiles. From here you can wait in line for the elevators or just walk up the last hundred steps yourself. Passing a few places to buy some Brazilian and Carioca kitsch and finally a couple cafes, the giant back of Jesus finally looms large above you. There is a multi-level observation deck that will almost certainly be packed with people spreading their arms wide to emulate the figure above them and fighting for space to take their pictures. Really it’s kind of a mess up there, but the views and the splendor are definitely worth it.