One of the features that makes Rio de Janeiro so unique is its breathtaking natural setting, so much so, that areas of the city have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of Cultural Landscape, entitled “Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea.” To admire this, most visitors head straight to Sugar Loaf Mountain or the Christ Redeemer, however, like the Eiffel Tower or other major monuments around the world, the crowds and lines can be quite overwhelming. In addition, sometimes the views of these actual sites are better from afar rather than close up. With the above in mind, we’ve polled some of our Rio docents to discover a few alternative places to enjoy the wonderful vistas of the city.
Rio has scores of "morro" or hills. One of the most famous is the Dois Irmaos (the Two Brothers), captured here by our docent Sheila Taylor, a writer and photographer. The twin hills are located at the western end of the Ipanema Leblon beaches. Sheila took this amazing shot from the Community Centre at the top of Pavao-Pavaozinho, the favela behind Copacabana. You can reach the Community Centre, by taking a Kombi (VW van taxi) on Rua St. Romain from Rua Sa Ferreira (near Rua Nsa Sra Copacabana). There is a stall with a tarpaulin where people wait for the next van. Should cost R$3. There is also a new bar, Gilda No Cantagalo, nearby the centre which offers an equally impressive view. Photo credit: Sheila Taylor
Next to the Pavao-Pavaozinho is the Cantagalo Favela. A "pacified" favela, the climb up the hill from Copacabana is worth it. There is an elevator at the metro station off Praça General Osório (the entrance on Rua Barão da Torre and Rua Teixeira de Melo), from which you can take in the view or stroll safely in the area.
In addition to being beautiful to look at, the view from Dois Irmaos is also quite exceptional and makes for a lovely hike. From one side the horizon extends towards the Lagoa and the South Zone. Photo credit: Sheila Taylor
On a hike around Dois Irmaos you can also see more of the South Zone of rio, caught here again by Sheila, we can see the white sands of the affluent Sao Conrado beach, plus the Pedra da Gavea and Rocinha, meaning little farm, which is the largest favela in Rio. Photo credit: Sheila Taylor
The neighborhood of Santa Teresa, close to the center, is easily accessible and provides some excellent views of the city, especially from the Parque de las Ruinas where you can climb an abandoned mansion to see the South Zone, shown here, and downtown, featured in the next shot. This area of the city is explored on our Bohemian Rio walk.
The other perspective from the Parque de la Ruinas, besides the islands to the east of the city, is this impressive view of downtown, the historic center of Rio in addition to being the business district. Here you can spot the city's famous pyramid-like cathedral designed by Edgar Fonseca.
On our Renewing Rio walk, which explores how the city and its urbanism are currently evolving, we visit the Jardim Valongo, granting a different perspective of the historic areas of downtown, the Morro da Providencia and even the Christ Redeemer in the distance. Valongo is part of the old port area where they've recently unearthed the former slave market and other sites linked to Brazil's involvement in the slave trade.
The best views of Rio might not even be in Rio, but on one of the nearby Islands. This excellent shot by docent photographer Juan Jose Gonzalez was taken from Niteroi, a municipality across the Guanabara Bay from downtown. It's easily accessible by ferry and is home to the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, designed by world-renowned Brazilian modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr