Although throwing down my canga on the sand and frying on Ipanema or Copacabana beach is an essential weekly activity, taking a more active approach and exploring Rio by foot (or on wheels), whilst embracing the amazing summer climate offers an alternative and enriching experience of the Marvellous City.
The 360 degree views from the statue of Christ the Redeemer are well worth the challenging climb
CLIMBING UP CORCOVADO
Corcovado is the mountain on top which stands the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The usual means of getting to the top is by taking a tour, however you can also take a trek to the peak through the verdant rainforest. The corcovado hike usually begins in the beautiful Parque Lage, where, before we started on own our adventure, we popped into the Escola de Artes Visuais, an art school within the most beautiful old mansion. It’s well worth a quick visit before embarking on what will essentially be a two-hour workout.
The walk through Tijuca Forest was incredible as all the forest’s inhabitants seemed to come out and welcome us. We saw countless monkeys, a toucan, a snake, and endless amounts of other wild animals. The trek is said to take between two and three hours, but if you’re in good shape, you can complete it in one hour and fifteen minutes. There is also a small section which is slightly more challenging, however there are iron rings and a rope to help you climb during this part – it looks daunting but in reality it is fairly easy to navigate your way through.
Once the path ends, you have to walk up the road for ten minutes but you’re already surrounded by breathtaking vistas. Once at the top, not only do you have a huge sense of achievement after the climb but you also understand the scale of this monumental statue. The best part by far, however, is the view: a complete 360 degree panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains; it’s truly unbeatable.
Take to two wheels and embark on a great adventure around Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon
CYCLING AROUND THE LAGOON
The cariocas are well-known for being active people, and bikes become not only a great option for commuting but also for exercising. All around Rio there are the Itaú bikes – they’re orange and parked in bays throughout the city, but you also have several companies offering bike rental services or tours. There are plenty of options when it comes to biking in Rio as there are cycle lanes lining the beachfronts, but one of the best trails, for its beauty, safety, and landscape, is around the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.
It is a leisurely bike ride which takes about an hour, and because the route is so straightforward with a very clearly marked two-way system, it’s easy to just sit back and take in the views. Around the lagoon there are cafes with outdoor seating that are perfect if you need to step out of the sun and rehydrate for a moment. There are also opportunities to do water sports – mainly rowing and stand-up paddle boarding are on offer. The lagoon is also in a perfect location, just next to the Botanical Gardens and very close to Ipanema – we simply veered off the lagoon cycle lane and within five minutes we were back on the beachfront. The perfect way to get some air and see a different part of the city. If this sounds appealing, you can book a bike tour in Rio here.
The atmosphere at Estádio São Januário was both authentic and electric
SUPPORTING A LOCAL FOOTBALL TEAM
Being a Briton doesn’t necessarily make you a football lover, but it is impossible not to get swept up in the football fever here in South America, particularly in Rio where football and carnival are the inhabitants’ two main passions. Of course there are many other options than going to the famous Maracana, and all of them are equally authentic.
We recently went to a football game between Vasco de Gama and away team, Resende at the Estádio São Januário. We arrived excited but with relatively low expectations, but once we walked into the stadium we couldn’t believe our eyes because the fans we’re already full of such enthusiasm: all jumping in unison and waving enormous flags. The atmosphere was so electric – from kick-off to the final whistle the noise never stopped and as always, the Cariocas never failed to include us.
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When visiting different places, travellers are usually on tight itineraries and try to get the most out of every day. I have learned in Rio though, after taking things easier, that sometimes the most enriching experiences are off the well-trodden tourist routes.
By: Lucy Gavan, student of Spanish and Portuguese culture at the University of Bristol in England, currently living in Rio as part of an exchange programme with Rdj4u.