There is no exaggeration that Rio de Janeiro is known as Cidade Maravilhosa or Marvelous City as it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! Its magnificent mountains dotted in the vicinity of beautiful beaches are enough to justify the marvelous nomenclature. I was fortunate to have visited the city two times, in 2010 and 2011, and both times, my friend, Jamil, was magnanimous enough to take me around the city to explore its myriad beauties. The attractions of Rio, as tourists fondly call the city, are many — Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana Beach, the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião; Sugarloaf Mountain and so on.
For the city inhabitants who constitute the Brazilian ethnic mix of European, African and mixed ancestries, mountaineering is not only a sport but also a pastime. Tourists take a cue from this and also join the folks. I, too, went for hiking a mountain named Morro da Urca with Jamil, and there were pathways and unmarked highs during that uphill journey. The mountain has an elevation of 722 feet, and we took around 2 hours, I remember, to reach the peak. From the top of the mountain, the views of Rio are stunning!
The climb was strenuous but enjoyable. I am as pictured after the climb, and Christ the Redeemer is visible in the faraway mountain backdrop:
While resting on a mountain peak, it is not uncommon that you could possibly sight a group of hikers popping up beside you. I saw the following hikers as I was resting after reaching the peak where Christ the Redeemer was located:
Skipping a visit to Christ the Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, while being in Rio is unthinkable for a tourist, so I also visited the iconic symbol of Brazil. There is train service from the plain to the mountain top, but on the day of our visit, there was a long queue of commuters; hence, we took taxi to the statue located on Corcovado mountain — 2300 feet high — in the Tijuca Forest National Park. The 98-feet statue of reinforced steel and soapstone, created by the Polish sculptor, Paul Landowski, and built by the Brazilian engineer, Heitor da Silva Costa, is mounted on a 26-feet pedestal, and Christ’s stretched-out hands have 92 feet width in between. After alighting from the taxi, we walked uphill for sometime to reach the statue. Though 10 years passed by, the feelings of wow and exhilaration that I experienced while being at the mammoth sculpture are still palpable in me. The visit to the site is one of the cherished moments of my life.
A beautiful 4-km confluence of land with the Atlantic ocean, Copacabana Beach is a happening place brimming with onshore and offshore activities round the clock. It has vast beachfront area where people engaged in sports like beach volleyball, cycling jogging, etc. could be seen day and night. Canoeing in the immediate offshore vicinity is a common sight during daytime.
The views of the majestic seaside mountains from the beach are extraordinary! I had many standstill-moments as I got consumed by the towering beauties that stood tall and sprouting out of the water!
Forte de Copacabana, situated at the southern end of the beach, is a military base and does house a military museum. It is open to the public. The fort was built between 1908 and 1912 by the Brazilian Military.
Copacabana beach has a colorful nightlife with clubs, pubs and restaurants located in and around the beach. Along with a few friends, I visited a salsa club.
Rio is the first place where I had seen something unique in restaurant business: diners need to pay in advance in accordance with the weight of the food they chose to eat. It is followed in buffet where one can choose any food — including fruits, chicken, meat and fish — available on the table, get it weighed and pay as per the weight, so one price for all types of food. In this process, people, I noticed, did not waste food as they had to pay for every bit on the plate. It is a good system to prevent food wastage. I had seen such buffet system of weigh-and-pay also in countries like Argentina and Bolivia.
A few random clicks from the city:
Another hard-to-miss attraction in the city is Sugarloaf Mountain, which derived its name, it is believed, from its resemblance to the traditional shape of the Brazilian concentrated sugar loaf. Brazil is one of the largest producers of sugar in the world. To reach the mountain which stands 1299 feet high out of the water, one needs to take cable car. The cable car, built in 1912, is an engineering feat of international acclaim and runs along a 4600 feet route. It starts from the base of a hill-station named Morro da Babilônia, then, has a stopover at the mountain Morro da Urca. Passengers do not have to alight from cable car at Urca, and I think the stopover is an engineering requirement.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a monolith, meaning a single rock, sprouted straight out of the water. Geologically, Wikipedia says, it is considered part of a family of steep-sided rock outcroppings known as non-inselberg bornhardts.
On the way back, getting down at Morro da Urca and spending time at this peak are irresistible attractions of this outing in the sky. There are coffee shops and restaurants at this peak. And witnessing sunset from Urca Mountain is an awesome experience!
Roadside entertainments and funs are the untold elements of the city’s hospitality:
Overall, I had wonderful times at Rio, thanks to Jamil. I still cherish all those nice Rio moments. If you ever get an opportunity to be in South America, do not miss to make a trip down to Rio as it will be more than worth the time and money you spend. The icing on the cake of a visit to Rio is witnessing Rio Carnival, during which the city will be adorned with men and women in colors and costumes that challenge one’s imagination. I have not had an opportunity to be in the city during carnival time, so I am looking forward to have a trip to the city during such a jamboree.