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Hiking with a View - Rio de Janeiro

They say some of the best things in life happen spontaneously or are unplanned, and that was certainly the case for one of my most rewarding, yet demanding hikes I've ever done. Whilst I wouldn't describe myself as an avid hiker (I much prefer running or team sports such as soccer and cricket), there is a lot to be said for getting outdoors and setting foot on a trail - even more so when the surroundings are simply spectacular or just very different to what you might be used to.


One of the first things you notice when arriving in Rio is the amount of forested mountains that surround you. When I arrived on a warm evening in March 2022, you could see on one of the peaks there was a monument that was lit up, which of course happened to be one of the seven wonders of the world. It was quite a striking moment and one I'll never forget. For me there's something very special about longing to go to a certain place or see a certain sight, particularly those featured heavily in many television programmes or travel magaine, and then seeing it in person for the first time. It's always a poignant moment, and when you combine that with what it symbolises as well, it really evokes a powerful emotion that's very difficult to describe.


After an enjoyable evening featuring a sumptuous and very filling Feijoada alongside a few caipirinhas, it was time to explore Rio. We started at the botanical gardens which was a great way to see the stunning plant life that is native to Brazil whilst also taking refuge from the intense heat of the day. Once we reached the opposite side of the park to where we entered, we noticed an entrance for the start of a hiking route to the Corcovado - the mountain on which Christ the Redeemer is located. A decision needed to be made - do we go for it and brave the elements totally unprepared (with no water or proper hiking shoes), or come back to do it another time? Given the limited time we had and the fact it would be some achievement to get up there, we went for it, despite being slightly unnerved by the fact you had to register your personal details along with the warning signs of snakes (we saw a giant snakeskin when entering the park too!)


This was certainly one of those hikes where you didn't want to think too much about the distance or the height of where you were headed to, but merely focus on what's in front of you and take each step knowing you were closer to accomplishing something pretty special. To begin with, the time went by quickly with the distance on the FitBit racking up at a healthy pace. The paths were clear and easy to negotiate, as we occasionally passed a fellow hiker or 2.





As we continued, it came as no surprise that the hike became more challenging, especially given the heat, although it was somewhat refreshing to be in the shade most of the time due to the forested surroundings. At one point, there was an element of climbing involved as illustrated above - although the handles were certainly a big help! As the sweat began to drip more and more, there were increasingly less waterfalls like the one below. However the occasional glance through the gaps in the trees was enough to tell us we were making some serious headway now, and it wouldn't be long before we reached the summit.



Before long, we had crossed the tracks of the shuttle train that goes to the top and joined the main road for those taking the much easier and quicker route to the top. A couple of sharp bends later and the end was in sight. After over 2 hours of trekking in the tropical conditions, the top of the Corcovado had been reached, and one of the Wonders of the World dominated the eyeline. Being up close with Christ the Redeemer was one thing, but the surrounding views were something else, and brought home just how scenic the city of Rio and its surrounding area really is.







After taking in the incredible views (and multiple bottles of water) it was time to return to our accommodation via the shuttle and then taxi, before planning our next hike!


Having been so inspired by our hike to the summit of the Corcovado, it was time to research some of the other hiking options available to us. As you can imagine, there were many possibilities, but it was key to choose something with an appropriate level of fitness with the right balance of challenge and reward. We headed for the Tujica National Park - a beautiful green area less than half an hour drive in a taxi from Copacabana and Ipanema districts - arguably the best places to stay in Rio. There are multiple trails you can do here, however we opted for the Pico da Tijuca. Whilst we were a bit better prepared for this hike, we were planning a stop at a restaurant that was advertised here. Whilst the tourist office was open, the restaurant sadly was not, but we still felt ready for the challenge that lay ahead.




One thing we realised very quickly was that the distances stated on the signs weren't entirely accurate - at least not according to my FitBit! It would seem like several minutes and metres would pass between each signpost, however the actual progress made seemed disproportionate. Whilst the terrain and difficulty were very much on a par with the walk up the Corcovado, it became clear that the hike would take a little longer than planned. As thunder began to rumble around the dense forest we were in, it was safe to say an element of nervousness kicked in. After a couple of hours of solid hiking and the occasional drizzle, we knew we were almost there when the peak was signposted at just 400 metres away. Given that we knew that the distances on the signs had to be taken with a pinch of salt, we couldn't have been far away, and after a couple of steep bends, the peak was in sight. A couple of steps and paving slabs later, the summit had been reached. Just like the hike up to see Christ the Redeemer, we had lost a lot of water, however the view was arguably more spectacular here than it was at the Corcovado summit. Fortunately for us, the storms had passed and although there were plenty of clouds still around, we could still take in some truly breathtaking views. It was almost an "On top of the world" type feeling.



The other thing that made this hike extra special was how quiet it was. We passed a handful of hikers along the way, and there wasn't a single person at the peak when we got there. It really allowed us to fully take in and absorb the sheer greatness of the views. To be at such a peaceful, natural vantage point looking down on a tropical yet bustling city inhabited by 6.8 million people is a moment that won't be forgotten any time soon.


Before long it was time to head down, and whilst it was of course a fair bit quicker than the hike up, the legs were certainly feeling the strain, although it was certainly worth it for the views we had taken in. Once we reached the bottom, it was time to recover. And what better way to do so than to swim in one of the natural pools created by a waterfall near the entrance to the park. Although the water was colder than expected but still crystal clear, it was a great way to cool off after a very sweaty walk in the humidity of Brazil. We were also able to re-hydrate at the tourist office where we started our trek, which was greatly needed!




Despite the overcast conditions, it was still warm enough to dry off quickly enough to enjoy a sumptuous meal and some drinks at a small restaurant just outside the exit to the park. It was greatly needed after over 3 hours hiking, and safe to say we did indulge without any guilt. Following our meal it was a fairly short taxi journey back to the hotel for some downtime and recovery.


Rio may be best known for its beaches, Christ the Redeemer and Carneval, but there is so much more to discover here. It is also a perfect destination if you're looking to keep fit during a city break. With Global Dream Travel you can experience this, either with our pre-set itinerary here or through a customised, bespoke itinerary from contacting us via our page or emailing us on info@globaldreamtravel.co.uk. We can safely say from experience that it is one of our favourite destinations and an experience we would truly love to share with our fellow travellers! We appreciate it is quite a journey to travel, but as experienced hikers we have many other tours focused on being active, which you can check out in our Active and Explore section.


We're curious to know from our readers - what are your favourite hiking routes? And where's next on your bucket list for a hike? Let us know in the comments below!

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