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.
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.