We decide to stick around in Rio de Janeiro for a few more days after the carnival. Because this city has so much to offer besides the unforgettable carnival.
Rio de Janeiro is really a city that has it all, from long beaches to immense mountains with a fabulous view over the city. You can go hiking in subtropical rain forest or get a taste of the culture in the characteristic downtown areas, like Lapa. More than enough to please everybody and when carnival is over, it is nice to have some days to recover. Also the bloco’s will be there the entire week after carnival.
We are a bit unlucky though with the weather, with 3 days of rain. That’s not ideal for travelling around with a backpack. Luckily, Mauricio is very kind and offers to let us stay as long as we like, how convenient. Unfortunately he has to work himself, so he can’t show us around in his city. But he did give us some great advice on where to go and especially on how to get there. Together with Othmane we are going sightseeing.
At the edge of downtown there’s a mountain called sugar loaf (Pão de Açucar). The top can be reached via a gondola existing of 2 sections. The first part can also be done on foot and takes about 45 minutes. Upon reaching the top there is no other option than to take the gondola to the top to get a fantastic view over the city. Especially the sunset from up here is really nice according to Mauricio, so we set out to go see for ourselves.
We start at the bottom of the mountain and decide to travel the first part on foot. This is a lot cheaper and therefore a good option for our budget. Once we arrive at the stopover we get lucky. There is a woman there, trying to sell her 2 tickets back to the ticket office but they are not allowed to do that. The woman decides that she would like to sell them to us for half price! The lady behind the counter tries to sell them a bit more expensive but the woman insists we should get it for half price, how sweet of her. We buy our third ticket and head to the gondola.
At the top it becomes clear that we won’t be seeing much of the sunset because it is very cloudy above the city. On the other side there are even big black clouds as well. Let’s hope it will stay dry up here on the mountain.
We look for a nice spot to take some good pictures, but this really is a tourist hotspot so there aren’t that many. But since it is getting darker and greyer a lot of people decide to start heading down again. Not us, we just got here so we will stay no matter what even if the weather gets really bad… And so it did…!
In stead of having a nice sunset and a view over the city we got thick drops of rain, a genuine gust of rain and as cherry on top, thunderstorm! So here we are on one of the highest points in Rio, next to a huge metal cablecar control center, with lightning flashing everywhere. Fortunately we did manage to take some great pictures.
After we have taken enough pictures and there are barely any dry spots left we go down one station with the gondola. Maybe the weather is better down there? Sadly, no! Here the rain is even worse and we witness lightning strike right next to us. What a blast that is! We got it on camera so you might hear it in one of our next video’s.
We wait a bit longer underneath a small shelter before heading to the next gondola through the rain. We are taking the gondola down now because the path closes at 6PM so we don’t really have a choice. On the way up the lady at the counter gave us a good tip though. At 6:30 PM all the cash registers close so you are unable to purchase any more tickets then. Which means if you don’t already have one, you get to travel down for free. Of course we waited for this to happen, every penny counts when traveling on a budget. So we just got in line, saw a really annoyed face of the guard and he opened the gate for us.
Pico de Tijuca
Also worth a trip in Rio de Janeiro is Pico de Tijuca. This is the highest mountain in the city with a great view over all of Rio, almost 360 degrees around. The mountain is set in the last piece of tropical rainforest that Rio has. The rainforest makes the climb up the mountain a bit tough because of the humidity. But it is a pleasant change to the urbanization of the city. You are even able to spot monkeys and toucans but also snakes and spiders, so be careful! We have seen all of those, except the toucan. That one is still on our wish-list to spot in the wild.
The climb up takes about an hour but is definitely worth it. After reaching the top you can decide to take the same path down to the parking lot, but we chose to take another path down. Make sure to bring a map when you are going or that you have installed Maps.me on you smartphone. This app is really essential when travelling. In case you were wondering what other apps we recommend, check out this blog.
Would you also like to go to Pico da Tijuca? This is the easiest way to get there:
- Take a taxi or Uber to the start of the track. THis is a parking lot called ‘Bom Retiro’ and is easy to find in the Maps.me app.
- Write down your name before you start at the park ranger.
- Take a hike! By using Maps.me you can easily track where to go so you won’t go wrong.
- Once you’ve reached the top you will have to walk back to the last intersection. There you can decide to either take the same way back or to do the loop. We took the loop and this will take you to another exit out of the park. We have walked passed the next points, in order: Pico da Mirim, Cachoeira das Almas, Clareira do Tai Chi Chuan, the visitor center, the waterfall next to the road and finally the bus stop.
- At the bus stop we got some help from locals to get the right bus to Copacabana beach. Tip: at the square in front of the bus stop there are 2 big trees packed with red fruits. Throw some rocks at them and if you are lucky some will fall out and you have yourself a delicious fruit. We don’t remember the names but they were really nice. You can wash them in the fountain next to the trees.
Copacabana, Ipanema and Botafogo
The beaches of Rio don’t need further explanation, they are phenomenal. Most people even know them by name I guess: Copacabana, Botafogo and Ipanema are the most famous. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to swim at Botafogo because of pollution by all the boats that are there. Hopefully this will be undone in the future. The other 2 beaches are really beautiful, kilometers long and the water is nice and warm. Along the beach there are a lot of tradesmen trying to sell handcraft items to tourists. They are not that expensive and really nice, you should check it out while you are there.
Pedra do Telégrafo
The final attraction we visited in Rio de Janeiro is Pedra de Telégrafo. A mountain south of the city which provides a spectacular view over the city from another angle. The climb up takes about 40 minutes and is totally worth it. You can take awesome, daring pictures here of the sea and Rio on the background.
Make sure to go here early in the morning because this spot is very popular. A lot of people want to take pictures here and every day there is a queue for it. We started our climb at 10 AM and had to wait for an hour before it was our turn to take pictures. The waiting itself is not the worst part, the fact that there is hardly any shade is. So that means waiting in the burning sun. Luckily we brought sunscreen so we could protect ourselves from it. Should you decide to go to Pedra de Telégrafo, make sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and maybe even an umbrella.
In between the rain and sightseeing we made up our mind about where to go after Rio de Janeiro. We set our compass to Ilha Grande!