By Lauren Hogan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Hiking is one of the best ways to see the Cidade Maravilhosa and there are a variety of companies out there that can help make the climb more enjoyable, easier and even safer. While a handful of trails are okay to hike unguided, for visitors it is always wise to get some local Rio expertise.
For those watching their wallet, Free Tours De Aventura offers hiking trips with no fixed prices, although voluntary tips are accepted as a thank you and a way to continue support for the tour. Every week a schedule is posted on their website of the upcoming climbs they’ll be offering, which range in levels from easy to hard and include everything from speed hiking to conquering the great Pedra da Gávea.
Jungle Me strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, working only with groups of ten or less to minimize impact on trails. Their guides are registered with local tourism authorities who respect the practices of the Brazilian Association of Ecotourism and Adventure (ABETA) as well as provide the Ecotrip personal accident insurance for each hiker. Tours range from R$150-200 per person, but trekkers will get bang for the buck – some trips last nine hours and are packed full of facts and fun.
“In our tours the main thing is the hike and the opportunity to see Rio from different angles, but we also give our clients a history and geography lesson about Rio and Brazil using maps, timelines and more before the tour starts,” says founder Thiago Mourão, who worked as a marketing analyst before following his passion for the outdoors. “We reveal the origin of the word ‘Carioca’ and give important facts and dates from discovery to actual days. This mix of history and nature improves the experience of the whole trip.”
Another group which promotes ecotourism is Rio Natural, but along with hikes, they also offer group activities like city tours and adventure sports, such as abseiling at Morro da Urca and scuba diving in nearby coastal resort town Arraial do Cabo. For every adventure, whether it’s hiking or something more, guests are taken care of from start to finish, with transportation and entrance fees included in the price.
Daniel Farache of Rio Natural says that while they are a small company – the two founders still guide most of the tours – they maintain friendly relationships with the other trailblazers. In fact, they work as the tour operator for a few other agencies like RioXreme and Rio Adventures for their Ocean Kayaking adventure.
Similar to Rio Natural, both Rio Xtreme and Rio Adventures offer a variety of outdoor group activities along with different generic hiking tours. However, with the wide range of programs offered, those looking for more to do than just tackling the trails can usually combine their climb with another city or adventure tour.
And when it comes time to decide which hike to do, for those who want to see a variety of what is out there, Mourão has a few recommendations. “Wild beaches on the west part of Rio combine beach time and hiking in a rainforest, while Tijuca National Park has many different options for all tastes, views, waterfalls, deep rainforest, easy and hard trails.”