You know how it is, you visit some famous world city, a place where all the tourists go, but you don't want to stand out. No fanny pack and wide brimmed-hat with Bermuda shorts for you! You watched 42 YouTube videos and know exactly how to blend in and avoid the tourist vibe. You're going to vacation like a local. But sometimes those tourist attractions are world-famous because they are absolutely worth the time and photo opportunities—even for the seasoned world travelers. That's the case in Rio de Janeiro. Whether you have a day as you pass through, or a week to see the city, when you're in Rio, two of the city's most famous landmarks are can't-miss moments. Do whatever you need to do to take the cable cars to Sugar Loaf Mountain and the train to Christ the Redeemer. If you leave Rio without visiting these two places, you will leave with regret.
To get to the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain, you ride cable cars, but the trek to the top looks scarier than it feels, I promise. Sustained only by those cables hanging in midair, it may appear rather precarious, but once you're inside, it's not wobbly or otherwise disconcerting. Mostly, the views overtake any hesitancy and will capture your wonder as you stare at the unparalleled beauty of Brazil.
Perched almost 1300 feet, or about 395 meters above Guanabara Bay, you will actually take two trips to reach the top of the mountain. The first cable car takes visitors to Morro da Urca, where you disembark to stunning views of the beach, and Christ the Redeemer statue across from you. There on the ground you can spend as little or as much time as you like in the café and gift shops, which include a Havaianas (Brazil's famous flip flops) store.
When you're ready to head to the top, follow the signs to the tram, and be sure to have your ticket out because you have to show it each time you board, and head up higher to the mountain itself.
Even before you ascend to the highest level of the mountain, the views are incredible, but once you arrive, you will be stunned by the awe-inspiring views. Truly, you will have a 360º view of the entire region below you, the ocean waves clamoring against the shore, the city buildings rising in a tiled chorus, and the Christ statue hovering over it all, a genuine Wonder of the World, before your eyes.
Considering you can spend hours wandering, shopping, eating, and viewing in both the landing areas of the Sugar Loaf Mountain excursion, the cost is quite reasonable. My ticket came out to be $22.66 in USD. I bought this at the ticket office at Praia Vermelha (Red Beach). Ubers are incredible low priced in Rio, averaging $2-3 per trip around the city, so I just plugged it into my destination, and the local driver knew exactly where to take me.
If Sugar Loaf Mountain is a treat, then Christ the Redeemer is your main course. Heralded as one of the modern seven Wonders of the World, this statue draws visitors from around the globe, from the pious to the curious. The statue is at the summit of Mount Corcovado in Rio and is almost 100 feet tall. The 30 meter statue has outstretched arms that are spread a distance of 28 meters. More awe-inspiring than the views it offers at the summit, this Art Deco statue is an iconic picture of Brazil itself. To miss seeing it is to miss visiting Brazil.
When you go, though, go the right way--by train. The Tremdo Corcovado is the way to climb the mountains of the Tijuca Forest National Park and take that last elevator to the statue. It's worth every minute of the ride and penny of the cost--which is actually not very much. In USD, the cost came out to be $18.51, which is a round trip cost.
The views on the way up are pretty terrific, but when you reach the top, then take an elevator, followed by a set of stairs, to the summit where the Christ statue stands, you will see Rio like you have couldn't have imagined it. People clamor to the viewing areas, awed by the wonder of the land. Below they have come from a busy neighborhood, where the train station sits, and from a major world city that doesn't sleep. Atop the mountain, at the feet of the Christ statute, it is peaceful and quiet--almost a religious experience of its own.
Of course people don't just look at the views of the city, but at what they rode the train to see: Christ the Redeemer.
Most people tried to get a selfie alone at the base of the statue and spread their arms out in the same manner as the statue is modeled. But as crowds gathered, there generally is just a large group of people. Anyone who shares any religious faith can't help but imagine this as being a bit true to the story of Christ himself, with people gathered all around him.
Behind the statue is a chapel. Pictures are not allowed inside the chapel; however, the day I visited, a couple was being married inside. The doors were open, presumably to allow air to circulate--Rio isn't the coolest climate on earth. The couple had a small wedding, and then they jumped right back on the train with us, holding hands, and rode back down the mountain after. But not before they were able to take pictures--just like the rest of us, they appreciated the expansive views.
Rio is active, lively, and fiery. Rio is a city of action, people, and nightlife. It's always busy; people are everywhere. So to rise above the crowds to the phenomenal views afforded by these two landmarks is a special treat that offers a side of Rio you must see to say you have really seen Rio.
A few tips for these and other attractions:
Avoid the travel websites that offer "deals" on some of these attractions. When I compared their ticket prices to the ones I bought directly from the ticket office (Sugar Loaf Mountain) or website (Christ the Redeemer), some of them were as much as double the price in USD. Save your money on these services that push the buttons for you, and buy that cheesy photo both attractions take as you are entering them.
Use Uber. I'm not usually a Uber user, truth be told, but in Rio it's the way to go. Not only is it the simplest way as far as managing your money with a credit card, but the prices are guaranteed and you know them ahead of time. I was stunned by the low prices for transportation, which allowed me to offer large tips to the drivers.
If you're traveling from the US, Canada, or the E.U./UK regions, your dollar/Euro/pound is going to go a long way in Brazil. Be generous! People are really friendly. Their economy needs tourism, and since you're doing the classic tourism treks, buy the pictures and the souvenirs, give the tips.
Join this adventure to reach the top of the famous Sugarloaf mountain in a natural way! The most part of the hike is an ascent up the steep mountain face but mid way through there is a fun 15 meter roped and secured rock climb - no previous experience necessary!