Blog Post Type: Expert Opinion Piece
Great cities have great parks but Rio de Janeiro has the largest. Most visitors focus on the fabulous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. It’s not until you venture into the high lands on the way to the iconic Statue of Christ the Redeemer that the immense forest reveals itself. It blankets over 12 miles creating a natural border between the cities zones.
Buses and taxis twist uphill, past favelas once riddled with violence and still seeping with poverty. The green is breathtaking after the crowds and cement of the city below.
How did Tijuca come to be and why is it preserved?
In the early 19th century Rio’s hills were cleared for sugar and coffee plantations. By 1861 the King, Dom Pedro III, became concerned about declining rainfall and the drinking water supply which also threatened lucrative export businesses. Erosion on the steep slopes continued until Major Manuel Gomes Archer led an immense replanting effort. Today one favela, its members related to the original workers involved in the 1930’s reforestation, still live within the park boundaries.
Replenish your soul. Of all the forests treasures enjoy the views and rare wild life, including tufted marmosets, boars, sloths and exotic birds. Many are endangered and found only in this Atlantic Rainforest region.
Trails will take you to over 30 waterfalls. Scientists estimate that due to the dense vegetation the temperatures in the surrounding areas are lowered nearly ten degrees.
Alternative: Visit Jardim Botanical Garden
At sea level, in Rio’s South Zone, is the gracious and gorgeous Jardim Botanical Garden, designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1992. Located at the base of Corcovado Mountain, you can look up into the arms of the Christ the Redeemer Statue on the pinnacle above. Take a taxi or bus to the park entrance which is open during daylight hours daily except Christmas and New Years Day.
Originally established by King John VI of Portugal in 1808 to grow spices imported from the West Indies, the Garden was opened to the public in 1822. Victorian era statues, manicured lawns and dozens of greenhouses are spread throughout the grounds.
Walking through the serene park you will likely be surprised by a rustling in the branches above. Scores of monkeys live in the treetops. They harvest mangoes and coconuts, and see enough people to be comfortable being photographed.
The Garden is on a main boulevard where taxis are plentiful and bus stands close. Getting to the Parks is pretty simple. Find a hotel that has taxi service from the airport or can help schedule a tour.
If you go to Tijuaca:
- Take a taxi, rent a bike, hire a local guide or book a tour.
- Bring water and food. There’s a restaurant in the park but given the expanse you’ll need to carry a snack.
- Bring a change of clothes. It’s steamy hot in Rio.
Visiting Rio is an urban adventure set on full tilt mode. Take a break in nature to replenish your spirit when planning a visit to Rio de Janeiro.
This is a sponsored post but opinions and ideas are always my own.