Rio is the marvelous city and the best way to see it is from above. Here are 4 different hikes that will allow you to see this city from a bird’s-eye view.
- Trilha- trail/hike
- Vista- view
- Morro- mountain/hill
- Pedra- rock
- Praia- beach
- Como chego a…- how do I get to…
More vocabulary words for the common gringo in Brazil here.
Located in Tijuca National Park, This tall rock looks over a great deal of the city of Rio. TO its sides you will see Dois irmãos (Twin Hills) and Pedra da Gávea. Pedra Bonita, or the beautiful stone, offers a bird’s eye view over Barra neighborhood as well as Leblon and Ipanema and Tijuca Forest.
This hike is one of my favorite ones because of its difficulty-view ratio. In other words, I love this hike since it’s a relatively easy one (even kids can do it) and the view from the top is absolutely stunning. Also, it’s a destination for both tourists and locals and even if there are many people hiking with you the rock is huge so there is enough room for everyone to watch the city from above.
To get to the trailhead of Pedra Bonita you will have to ascend the road Estrada das Canoas by car (Uber) or bus. The bus that will take you up there from the main road at São Conrado is number 448 and it will leave you and the paved entrance to the trail. After a steep hike on the paved road, you will see a cabana and that’s when the hike through the forest begins. This is a great stopping point for a short break before starting.
You will hike for less than an hour (hopefully) and will pass many fellow hikers along the way. The hike is shaded but you will definitely feel the heat since not a lot of wind penetrated the trees. Plan your trip according to the weather. The hotter the day the more difficult the hike is and, of course, the fewer clouds there are the better you will see the spectacular view.
Apart from hiking to the top and enjoining the bird’s eye view of the city, Pedra Bonita is also known as the takeoff-point for hand gliding (parapentes or asa-delta in Portuguese, in the former you sit and in the letter you lay like in the pic below). Prices run around R300.
Time: 30 minutes hike +time to enjoy the view at the top.
Level of difficulty: Easy
How to get to Pedra Bonita: get to São Conrado, go up by car or bus to the trailhead and look for the sign at the paved road.
Pedra do Telegrafo
This rock is famous for giving the illusion that those who stand on top of it are above a cliff and can fall when in reality there’s another rock beneath it.
Located in Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca, this rock is a bit farther than other hikes available in the city and can be found in the West Zone of Rio. The rock is at the summit of Morro de Guaratiba where there were military posts for observation during WWII. The rock looks over the beautiful Praias Salvagens (wild beaches), Barra da Tijuca neighborhood and Pedra da Gávea.
The trail begins at Praia Grande (big beach) and you will have to hike for about an hour to get to Pedra da Bigorna (Rock of Anvil) which is actually the rock on which you will stand to take your pictures.
Word of warning: this place went viral a few years back and since then it became overly crowded to the point that you might have to wait for over an hour under the burning sun to in line to take your pictures. And that’s after hiking for an hour. So be aware.
My tip is- If you went to other hikes such as Perda Bonita and have seen some great views of the city already and couldn’t care that much about taking pictures, I would highly suggest skipping this hike since it only gets more crowded as time goes by.
If you are into taking some cool pictures try to get there early, and by early I mean: be at the top before 6am. Bring an umbrella (yes, not a hat) with you to protect yourself from the sun because standing and waiting was the harder part of the hike. Also, I will highly recommend looking this place up on google or Instagram so you will get some inspiration for your photos and be prepared.
I liked that I have some cool pictures but to be honest if I had known it would be so taxing I would have not done this trail. Or I would have done it differently. Back then I didn’t even use Instagram so I had no idea how big this place was and wasn’t ready, didn’t have enough water or even brought a hat. Once it was our turn to take pictures, we took just a few and very quickly before the people standing in line will boo you and didn’t even get to enjoy the view.
On the top, you will have a vendor or two selling water and a photographer that will offer to take professional pictures for you. On your way back one you reach the houses below you will find some açai vendors. I had one and it simply brought me back to life after this hard hike.
If you made it to Pedra do Telegrafo you might as well visit the beaches that are found at the area like Praia do Perigoso (the dangerous beach) and many others. To get to one of those beaches you will have to either go all the way down and enjoy the beaches at the bottom of the mountain (like we did) or go halfway down on the trail and then you will see the trail splits and you can turn to get to the beaches.
Time: 1-hour hike +time that you will wait in line to take some pictures.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
How to get there: go by Uber to Praia Grande at Barra de Guaratiba. Getting there by bus is a bit more tricky.
Morro Dois irmãos
You might have seen Morro Dois Irmãos (twin hills) before from the Rock of Arpoador at Ipanema beach. From the top of the rock, you will have an amazing view of the favelas perched on the hillside as well as Ipanema beach and Leblon. You will also see the iconic Corcovado, the Jesus statue.
This is another one of my favorite hikes since it leaves from the favela of Vidigal, one of the most famous favelas in Rio. Next to it is another famous favela, Rochinha, the largest favela in Brazil, and below it is the luxurious Sheraton hotel.
The favela was pacified by the Pacification Police Unites of Rio in preparation for the World Cup and is generally considered to be a safe favela. Many favela tours take place there and Airbnb’s are rented out all over the favela.
When I first did this hike I wasn’t even aware I was entering the favela. Don’t let the image created by films such as City of God intimidate you. Unless there is something going on in the news, Vidigal is completely safe.
In order to get to the hike, you will have to take an uber to the entrance of Vidigal (some drivers will bring you further up but many won’t because of the narrow streets of the favela). From the entrance of the favela, (next to the Pacification Police post) you will need to take a moto-taxi to the top.
Once you hop on a moto taxi in the favela the driver will drop you off at the trailhead that is located next to the favela’s soccer field. The ride might be a bit scary since they ride through the narrow alleys relatively fast, often times coming very close to other cars or motorcycles. You can mention to your driver that you’re scared (like I did) and maybe they will go easy on you. But at the end of the day, it’s an adventure, one that a terrified person such as myself enjoyed.
If you’re really adamant about not taking the moto-taxi you can always walk up the favela or take the white van that drives the residents, to the soccer field. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before and was terrified but it was totally fine. These drivers go up and down the favela streets all day long and know what they’re doing. It’s the fastest way and one that will get you to the exact point of departure.
The trail goes through the forest and back when I did it wasn’t really marked, but with the years it became much better. Still, watch your steps and do not wander around. Don’t go on this trail if you have any physical limitations since the rescue procedure is a complicated one. Do not get off the trail because although the favela is pacified and safe (especially for tourists) you do not want to run into some unfriendly characters. Also, make sure you have enough time to get down before sunset.
The top of the hill is a small area that offers an insane view of Rio.
Once you descend, feel free to have some lunch at the favela, talk to the locals, and then you can walk down to the beach beneath the Sheraton Hotel.
Time: 1-hour hike (1.5 km)
Level of difficulty: Moderate.
How to get there: this hike starts at Vidigal. After reaching the entrance of the favela (with an uber) you will most likely have to get a moto taxi to the trailhead (3R$ maximum- come with change on you).
The famous Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the most common sites that will allow you to see Rio from above. Since you can get to the top with cable cars this touristic attraction is suitable for all, including people with physical disabilities.
While this is the perfect place for families do not write it off your list just because you want to do more adventurous hikes since the panoramic view from the top is amazing! You can see the beautiful Guanabara Bay and the Corcovado (Jesus statue). Also, this is one of the only places that will allow you to see Rio at sunset since other hikes go through the forest and it’s better to avoid descending them after the sunset.
The cable car leaves every 20 minutes and has 2 stopping points: one at 220 meters high and then at the top at 396 meters high. The ride is an experience in itself and you can get a 360-degree view of the city. At each stop, you will find a variety of pricey coffee shops and souvenir shops and you can sit and enjoy this fabulous view. At the first stop, you can also enjoy an exhibition that will tell you about how the city built the mountain at 1912 (with AC inside!).
If you want to combine a visit to this place with a hike you can get to Urca and hike about less than 30 min to the first stop. On the way back you can go down to the breach at Urca for a swim.
Opening hours: 8-19:50. You can verify the hours on the official website.
Time: The cable car ride is about 5 minutes. 1-2 hours to enjoy the place.
Level of difficulty: Not difficult at all. Suitable for everyone.
Price: adult: R$ 85,00. Children up to 5 years old – Free. ages 6 to 21 years old – R$ 42,00. Students – R$ 42,00. Seniors above 60 years old – R$ 42,00. People with disabilities – R$ 42,00.
How to get there: This place is conveniently close to the touristic areas of Rio so Uber should be pretty cheap from Copacabana or Botafogo. you can also take a bus to Urca.
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