By Ravi Costa, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Tijuca Forest (locally known as the Floresta da Tijuca) is that big green mass of trees that sandwiches the city with the sapphire blue waters of the sandy coastline. Rio’s rain forest sits within “The Tijuca National Park”, the largest urban forest in the world.
The famous statue of Christ over-looking the city on Corcovado Mountain is located in the Tijuca Forest as well, and at a height of 2,300 feet (701 meters), it has given thousands of tourists breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro.
Tijuca Peak peak though, reaches 3,300 feet (1022 meters), and offers a better bird’s eye view. It is the highest point in the forest, and contrary to what people may have heard, it can be reached in a day hike, without the use of a guide.
It is easy to hail a cab there, just ask the driver to take you to Alta Boa Vista, which is where the trail starts. Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, jump on the metro and take it to Saens Pena, located in the North Zone of the city. Across the street from the station, catch the bus #233 to Alta Boa Vista.
Ask anyone on the bus where to get off, or just keep a lookout for the signs on the road. The park entrance at Alta Boa Vista has a nice restaurant with a big open area and a fountain. The park closes at sundown, so do get an early start in the morning.
On the way up, and not far from the entrance, is the 100-foot Cascatinha Taunay waterfall. Keep following the road, and past the visitor’s center. Shortly after, take a right onto another road, which leads up to a picnic area called Bom Retiro.
There’s also a trail to the right that climbs up to Bom Retiro through the forest. Look out for the signposts with arrows. Bom Retiro can be reached by foot or by jeep from the car park near the visitor’s center; the rest of the way is a forest trail. Total time to the top is around 2-3 hours, depending on your level of fitness.
Tijuca Forest is home to a great variety of trees, plants, wildlife, and, of course, insects – which is why it’s a good idea to bring some insect repellent. It is also advisable to carry at least one liter of water (two liters, if you sweat a lot), sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and some snacks.
There is no restaurant or luncheonette at the top, just spectacular views; so don’t forget the camera. Using a good pair of hiking shoes or sneakers is also highly recommended. For safety reasons, hike on the weekends when there are more people on the trail, as it is Rio still.
Once at the top, enjoy the views of Pão de Açúcar and Guanabara Bay. Also, tread carefully up the staircase that’s carved into the rock. The steps were constructed in 1920 for the visit of King Alberto of Belgium. For just one day now, you will know what it feels like to be royalty.
There are many guided tours which cost approximately R$100-R$150 per person. With some research and preparation, you can get there for approximately R$15-R$25.