With the sea and beaches of Rio de Janeiro taking the majority of the fame with those visiting this magical city; the mountains of Rio sit quietly in the background. However, the Carioca landscape has been shaped and inspired from the highest mountain in the city down to the golden sands of Rio’s famous beaches. Rio de Janeiro has a spectacular cityscape and one that can be enjoyed and appreciated from many angles and heights offering some of the most mouth-watering views of the city. In this special travel blog article, we’ll be exploring the unsung heroes of the mountains of Rio from Corcovado Mountain that holds the Christ the Redeemer Statue to the hidden gem of Pedra Bonita.
A natural landmark due to its location at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain rises 1,299ft. above the Bay and acts as a point of reference for sailors and pilots. The mountain is unsurprisingly engrained in Rio’s history with Estácio de Sá establishing the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro at its foot on March 1st, 1565. Estácio de Sá’s settlement would later grow into the beautiful and ‘Marvelous City’ we know and love today. The Sugarloaf cable car system was inaugurated in 1912 and put Rio and the iconic mountain on the map as it became the first cable car in Brazil and at that time, only the third in the world. Once at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, you are rewarded with a stunning 360 degree view over Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara Bay, the city of Niteroi and the glistening blue of the expansive Atlantic Ocean. Being there at sunset will give you arguably the best view in the city as you soak up the vista from one of the most iconic peaks in the world.
Pedra da Gavea
The Pedra da Gavea rising up 2,769ft., is one of the highest mountains in the world that runs directly into the ocean. However reaching its summit is by no means a walk in the park. You’ll quickly forget about your aches and pains as you reach the top of Pedra da Gavea due to the fantastic 360 degree view of the south and west zones of Rio de Janeiro as well as the Tijuca Forest. The Pedra da Gavea has become an iconic mountain in Rio due its shape which resembles the face of a man. This has given birth to a number of interesting legends of Phoenicians, extra-terrestrial life and more. We recommend hiking with a knowledgeable guide who will be able to point out the landmarks and neighborhoods that lie below as well as dive into some of the legends that surround this spectacular mountain.
The hidden gem of Rio de Janeiro is the beautiful Pedra Bonita that towers 2,283ft. above the Tijuca National Park and which still surprisingly is relatively unknown. As you walk through the forest on the trail you will be rewarded with views of some fantastic wildlife and if you’re lucky enough you may even catch a glimpse of the occasional monkey swinging through the trees. Of those that know of Pedra Bonita’s existence even fewer have made the hike to its summit where even though it is not as well known as the other mountains of Rio, it is just as beautiful. Like a sprawling blanket below, the west side of Rio can be seen along with most of the Zona Sul, the Tijuca Forest, Sugarloaf Mountain and even the Christ the Redeemer statue in the distance. If you want an adrenaline-pumping experience, this is one of the best places to go paragliding, 1,700ft. above Zona Sul. However, if you prefer your feet firmly on the ground, it’s still heart-pounding watching people queue up beside the wooden runway before launching themselves off the Pedra Bonita.
Morro da Urca
In the shadow of its bigger brother, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Morro da Urca is just as important if only because the cable car stops atop of this small mountain before reaching the summit of Sugarloaf. Little more than half the height of Sugarloaf, the Morro da Urca stands at 720ft. yet this by no means affects the spectacular panoramic views on offer. From Christ the Redeemer and the beaches of Rio to Guanabara Bay and downtown Rio, perhaps the biggest selling point of Morro da Urca is the view of Sugarloaf Mountain from below. Hiking trails skirt the Morro starting at the beautiful beach of Praia Vermelho but perhaps the most exhilarating experience is taking a helicopter ride around Sugarloaf and nearby Copacabana for an unforgettable travel experience.
Meaning hunchback in Portuguese, Corcovado Mountain is perhaps more widely known and recognized for being the home of the Christ the Redeemer Statue. Located in the Tijuca National Park and to the west of the city center, many people visiting Rio de Janeiro manage to confuse it with the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. As you’re staring up at the 98ft. tall Christ the Redeemer statue, you’ll come to realize that you’ve had your back turned to one of the best views over Rio de Janeiro. From downtown Rio, Sugarloaf Mountain and the sparkling Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (lake) to Rio’s beaches, the Maracanã Stadium and the colorful favelas of Rio; this is an all round eye-catching and mind-blowing experience.
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