By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With Rio’s scorching summer sun and crowded beaches, this time of year can drive some Cariocas and even visitors a bit crazy. Luckily Rio’s lush environment also offers some amazing waterfalls which are a great alternative for cooling off in the Cidade Maravilhosa’s hottest season.
Famous for its beach culture, predominant throughout the year, Rio and its privileged geography offers dozens of stunning waterfalls to its residents. You certainly don’t need to leave Rio to find Floresta da Tijuca’s accessible falls or Zona Oeste’s surprising cascades.
The highest waterfall of Parque Nacional da Tijuca is Cascatinha do Taunay, a 35 meter high exuberant cascade. Even though entering the water at Taunay is forbidden, its beauty is worth the visit and, of course, the photos.
Only 500 meters away from Parque Nacional da Tijuca’s main entrance – which is situated at Praça Afonso Viseu, in Alto da Boa Vista -, Cascatinha do Taunay is open from 8AM to 6PM, and is surrounded by restrooms, a souvenir shop and a parking lot.
On the other side of Floresta da Tijuca lies Cachoeira dos Primatas, which can be accessed by a twenty-five minute trail that starts at Rua Sara Vilela, in Jardim Botânico. Primatas has two falls: at the first, visitors can appreciate a spectacular view of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas from the top; those in the mood to refresh properly should also check out Primatas’ second fall, a stronger and more voluminous cascade.
An alternative path to get to Primatas is through the Cachoeira da Gruta’s trail, which starts at Estrada Dona Castorina, in Horto. Even though this path takes considerably longer than the first one, those who pick this trail will have the opportunity to stop by two nice waterfalls: Cachoeira da Gruta and the Cachoeira dos Primatas itself.
The best way to get to Horto is via bus line 409, which departs from Tijuca and passes by Lapa, Flamengo, Botafogo, Humaitá and Jardim Botânico.
Three kilometers away from Parque Nacional da Tijuca’s entrance, in Alto da Boa Vista, Cachoeira das Almas combines natural beauty and history: the name “Cachoeira das Almas” (The Souls’ Waterfall) alludes to the Afro Brazilian rituals that former slaves used to practice in the area. Cachoeira das Almas’ four-meter fall is one of the few among Parque Nacional da Tijuca’s where visitors can enter the water and enjoy the waterfall.
The most adventurous people cannot miss Zona Oeste’s waterfalls. Different from those situated in Zona Sul, which get busy during summertime (especially at the weekends), places like Açude do Camorim, located at the Pedra Branca State Park, and Cachoeira do Mendanha, at the Mendanha’s State Park, will make you feel like you’re in a real natural sanctuary.
Close to Rio Centro, Açude do Camorim is a 210,000 square meter lake artificially created in 1908. The trail to the lake takes approximately one hour, and it starts at the Camorim’s Entrance of Pedra Branca’s State Park. Those who walk for a further hour into the trail will find Camorim’s stunning waterfall, which includes small natural pools.
Going to Campo Grande, Zona Oeste, can be quite a long excursion, but the trip is worth the effort when it comes to visiting Cachoeira do Mendanha. Composed of three wide falls and some natural water slides, Mendanha is a favorite among Cariocas who are into more challenging trails and unusual natural programs. To get to Cachoeira do Mendanha, one must take the Abílio Bastos Road in Campo Grande, inside Mendanha’s State Park.