By Levi Michaels, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With World Youth Day (WYD) in full force as of Tuesday, July 23rd, the Cidade Maravilhosa is now host to an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims looking to explore the city as well as their faith. The official WYD program features over 600 activities to help pilgrims get in touch with the spirit of Rio, including tours, hikes and concerts.
For any pilgrim visiting the city, Rio’s fantastic religious architecture is not to be missed. To this end, the WYD program includes tours of 36 cathedrals in neighborhoods all over the city.
Daily tours will run in most churches until Sunday, July 27th and are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Consult the WYD website for a complete list of churches and time schedules.
Certainly no spiritual journey would be complete without time spent in nature, and to this end the WYD program also features guided tours of the forests, hills and national parks that surround the city.
Until Saturday, July 26th, visitors can participate in daily hikes through Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest), Morro Azul (Blue Hill), Parque da Catacumba (Park of the Catacombs), Parque Municipal da cidade de Niterói (Municipal Park of the City of Niterói), and Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Stone).
For more information on departure times and meeting locations, check the WYD website. For those that want to break from the pilgrim pack, there are a number of English-speaking private tour operators that can help navigate the sites in and around Rio as well.
For those who who want to get away from the crowds, many spiritual day trips are available just outside the city. About 45 miles north of Rio lies the small city of Petrópolis, also known as the Imperial City, where one can find the Catedral do São Pedro de Alcântara (Cathedral of Saint Peter of Alcântara), one of the most famous cathedrals in Brazil.
Popularly known as Cathedral of Petrópolis, it features French neo-gothic architecture and an imperial mausoleum which houses the remains of Emperor Dom Pedro II, Empress Teresa Cristina, Isabel, Imperial Princess of Brazil and Prince Gaston, Count of Eu.
“[Petrópolis] is absolutely lovely,” said Stephanie Kasten, an American who studied at PUC in 2010. “Even among Brazil’s many natural splendors, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more spiritual getaway.”
Bus tickets from Rio de Janeiro to Petrópolis are available on the Busca Onibus website starting at R$20, with several buses available every hour. The buses leave from the central Novo Rio bus station and take around 2.5 hours.
In addition to being a popular getaway from the city, the small resort town of Armação dos Búzios, commonly referred to as Búzios, hosts another well-known religious destination.
Located about a hundred miles east of Rio, Búzios is the home of the Igreja de Santa Rita de Cássia (Church of Saint Rita of Cascia), where one can find the Capela da Nossa Senhora Desatadora dos Nós (Chapel of Our Lady Mary Untier of Knots), which is the first chapel in the world dedicated to Mary Untier of Knots.
Masses take place on Sundays at noon in the chapel and are open to the public. Tickets from Rio de Janeiro to Búzios are available on the 1001 bus line website, with prices for the outward journey starting at $43.67 and R$39.49 for the return. Buses depart every other hour and take around three hours.
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