There are three major tracks to enjoy in this terrific park. The lower circuit (views from the bottom of the falls, 1.4 km long), upper circuit (top of the falls, 1.8 km), and Garganta del Diablo (train ride and 1.1 km walk). I recommend starting from the lower circuit so you get to admire the full length of waterfalls and get a little wet.
The Iguazu Falls will sweep you off your feet and leave your jaw dropped for days. It was by far the most impressive nature site we have seen in our travels. An area at the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay contains 275 waterfalls which vary in size and speed of water flow. And they have lush, tropical forest where hundreds of birds fly and capuchin monkeys lurk in trees.
The absolute highlight of our stay in Rio was a ride on top of Corcovado mountain (710 meters high) to see Christ the Redeemer up close. We waited for a long time to make this visit on a sunny day with good visibility. Oh, it was totally worth the wait. The awe when you see the massive 30 metres high statue of Christ with his arms open is hard to describe. Not to mention the stunning view over Rio and Sugarloaf Mountain.
The traditional way to ride on top is to take a tram from Cosmovelho station. It is quite expensive (we paid BRL74 per person for online tickets) but we found it worth it as it climbs slowly past lush rainforest and offers panoramic views over the city. But if you are on a budget, we read that there are good minibus connections from different parts of Rio for BRL30-40.
Some of the great spots in Rio, continued.
Mosteiro de São Bento
This is one of the prettiest monasteries I have seen. Build in 1590 by Benedictine monks it is still operational today. The gold-leaf interiors decorate the walls from top to bottom in a majestic but not tacky way. The ceiling is made from jacaranda – one the most precious granite stones in the world. Most importantly, one gets a sense of total peace there. This is a beautiful spot to take a few minutes off from the bustling centre of Rio.
We had two weeks in Rio so plenty of time to explore the city. Here are some of the spots I liked, without any order of preference.
Cactus garden in Botanical Garden
I can recommend a visit to Jardim Botânico to anyone who finds themselves in Rio. They cover a large area with different sections where one can see things like Atlantic Forest, orchids and water lilies. We even saw some capuchin monkeys lurking in the trees. And it costs only BRL10 to visit.
My favourite though was an extensive cactus garden they have. I haven’t seen so many different cacti anywhere before. I am really fond of these plants who survive in the minimalistic settings for long time (like years with me and Markus). And they just have this raw beauty and grace in them that pleases the eye.
Our visit to this landmark of Rio happened rather spontaneously after a rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon. One of the first advices we got after arriving to Rio: If you get few hours of sunshine, use them as they might not last. So we saw an opportunity on the move and grabbed it.
First, I want to say few words about the surrounding area. Next to the Sugarloaf Mountain is a smaller hill called “Morro da Urca” that one must reach before getting to the actual mountain. The classic way to reach the Sugarloaf Mountain (SLM) is to take two cable cars, first to the Morro da Urca and second one leading to the top of the SLM.
The alternative way is to hike to the top of the Morro da Urca and then take the cable car for the second leg of the journey. That is what we did.
We started our journey from the beach at the base of the hills. It is so beautiful there – we only regretted not having time to lie around and enjoy the sun.
I do apologies for the title, but truth is we don’t have much to report from our stay in Bangkok. We’ve been to Thailand some three years ago, so didn’t feel the pressure to do sightseeing. Instead, we enjoyed the luxury of our five star hotel (which cost us about the same price as our tiny windowless box in Singapore) and spent the days working.
Luckily, we have friends everywhere. Patanon, one of Natalia’s course mates from London, returned home to Bangkok after his year in the UK, so was now happy to show us around some of the better hidden temples.
A couple of days have passed since we arrived here and I can say we are falling in love with Rio. It is a city filled with good vibe, happy people, good food and live music. Not to mention the most beautiful beachfronts we have seen. Prior our arrival we heard many warnings on how it is dangerous it is here for tourists from gun point robberies to scams with ATMs. So we were quite stressed out landing here and taking a taxi ride to Copacabana where we rented a flat through AirBnB. But our fears were quickly dissolved when we met our AirBnB host Guta who is a true Carioca (a person born and raised in Rio) and a very nice person. She told us that Rio is not that dangerous when we just use common sense such as not going on dark side streets and not carrying cameras/phones in our hands and so on. So far we haven’t felt at all uncomfortable and are now enjoying relaxing stay.
Local life in block of flats
We live in a residential building right off the Copacabana beach. The flat we have is very nice – see Guta’s listing. She also has her own YouTube channel. Some quirky little details, do stay here when you visit Rio.
Just few notes from my experiences about travelling in Germany as I know some of you might be travelling there soon.
Relatively cheap food and drinks
This is one of the first things I noticed after staying a week in Finland. Food and drinks are relatively cheap compared to Scandinavia and London. For example coffee and sandwich are about EUR4, half price what you would pay on average in Helsinki – very nice. Beer price is really low – for good beer it is normal to pay somewhere between EUR2-4 depending on the place. So yes, you don’t need too big food budget in Germany.
Markus and I really love visiting zoos and going out of town to visit one in Singapore was totally worth it – it turned out to be one of the best zoos we have been. They really try and recreate a natural habitat for animals and in many cases one can just walk around and observe animals that are not behind bars like in typical zoo. They also have a great variety of species. I guess being at the equator the natural conditions of many animals are easy to recreate. Please meet some of the animals we met there for the very first time.
This long nosed monkey reminded me so much of Pinocchio. Except that for them the nose is not connected to lying but to sexual attractiveness. The longer the nose of the male monkey the more attractive he is to females. These monkeys are only found in Borneo.