2300 ft above Rio de Janeiro at the top of Corcovado Mountain sits one of the most iconic statues in the world – the statue of Christo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer. Every year over 300,000 visitors make their way up to the mountain peak to take in the panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro that lies beneath it.
The majority of travelers choose to reach Christ the Redeemer via the Corcovado Rack Railway, or Trem do Corvocado, paying R$50 for their roundtrip train ride and admission to Christ the Redeemer’s monument.
The ride takes about 20 minutes each way and takes you through the lush scenery of Tijuca Rainforest. It sounds like a wonderful way to get up to the top, but unfortunately, the reality of this train ride can be far from that. Think hour long queues to board the train, sold out tickets, and being crammed inside the car with hundreds of other travelers.
This didn’t sound like our idea of fun, so after a bit of research we came across an alternative route.
Embarking on a Hike to Christ the Redeemer
We saw a brief mention about an alternative 2-hour hiking trail up Corcovado Mountain on Wikitravel. Despite having very few details about the hike, the path, and the level of difficulty ahead of us, Max and I jumped on the challenge.
We arrived at Parque Lage, the start of the hike to Christ the Redeemer, just after 10am, not really knowing what to expect. Stepping into the park we were immediately taken aback by the contrast between the lush peaceful surroundings inside the park with the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro streets just outside the entrance.
The park is a beautiful place to visit, even if you don’t fancy a hike to Christ the Redeemer. Inside the park are a number of short walking paths that allow you to soak in the beautiful nature in the heart of Rio de Janeiro.
After spending a bit of time taking in the beautiful views around the park, we were finally ready to begin our hike.
To our pleasant surprise, the hike started at a small security house with clearly marked signs and directions up the mountain. Before letting us start the hike, the security guards inside the check-point carefully took down our names and emergency contact info, making us feel a lot more comfortable about the adventure ahead.
The first part of the hike was easy. The trail wasn’t steep and the rainforest was pleasantly cool, with the trees providing a nice shade from the hot Brazilian sun. After only a short walk, we both agreed, this was so much more pleasant than the cramped train ride!
We passed a few “waterfalls” along the way. I’m sure these look a lot more attractive in spring/summer but in the winter, they were nothing more than wet rocks.
After about 20 minutes along the trail, we came to a steeper part of the mountain. I naively thought that this was just a brief incline along the trail, but unfortunately, it wasn’t.
After only a few minutes of climbing up the steep incline, I was out of breath. Now, I like to think of myself as a fit person. When I’m not traveling, I eat healthy, exercise a few times a week, and I get outside as much as I can. I didn’t think this hike was going to be an issue at all. I was wrong…
The steep trail continued on for another 10-20 minutes until we reached the most difficult part of the trail: steep rock with a chain tied to the top of the rock. Holding onto the chain you were meant to pull yourself up to the top.
It wasn’t easy, but after a few swear words under my breath, I managed to pull myself up. As I stood at the top of the rock, catching my breath, I really questioned whether I should’ve gone on this hike and whether I would make it to the top…
I took a few more steps and spotted a stunning view of Rio de Janeiro starting to peek out from among the trees.
It was exactly the motivation I needed to keep going. After another 15-20 mins, we crossed the train tracks and reached the road. The end was near.
Seeing this view as we approached the top was almost surreal. Within seconds, all the pain from the hike and struggles on the way up seemed completely worth it.
As we approached one of the world’s most iconic statues, I became overwhelmed by the feeling of accomplishment blended with the feeling of excitement… I suppose it’s the rush that you get after finishing any physically and mentally challenging activity. It’s so powerful! And it’s the reason why I continue to challenge myself with these types of adventurous activities over and over again.
The view from the top, although interrupted by hundreds of other travelers, was incredible. You could look down on all of Rio de Janeiro, spotting Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance, the parks, and mountains covering the city, the beaches of Copacabana to Leblon and Guanabara Bay.
So, Should You Hike Up the Trail to Corcovado Mountain?
If you are traveling to Brazil and are considering a hike to Christ the Redeemer, I highly recommend it! While it is a challenging climb and at times, it will make you wonder why on earth you signed up for it, at the end it is definitely worth it.
Here are a few tips that might help make your hike to Christ the Redeemer a bit smoother:
1. Climb in the morning. It will help you avoid the heat and other climbers. In the morning, everyone will be going up, but as the day progresses some will decide to take the trail down. The trail to Corcovado is fairly narrow, so meeting ongoing traffic will inevitably slow you down.
2. Bring lots of water. The climb is rather exhausting and you will get dehydrated. 2 liters per person should last you through the hike.
3. Wear shoes with a grip and comfortable clothes. You don’t necessarily need to get out your hiking boots, but please don’t attempt to hike up in flip flops. It’s not a walk in the park.
4. Buy your ticket to Christ the Redeemer monument at the top. Don’t stress about trying to find tickets before you leave. You can easily get them from one of the staff manning the entrance to the statue. You ticket to the statue will include a van ride back to Paineiras, inside Parque Nacional da Tijuca, if you choose to forgo taking the same trail back down to Parque Lage.
5. Get into the right van! The van ride that is included in your admission ticket will only take you down to Paineiras, but finding a way to get from Paneiras back down to the city is tough. There are vans that can drive you down to Rua Amirante Alexandrino, but if you are staying in Copacabana or elsewhere in Rio, you’ll have to take another bus to get back to your accommodation. A better way is to try and get the ticket for the Copacabana vans. These leave from the exact same place at the top of Corcovado Mountain. You can either try to buy a ticket for that van or use your Paneiras ticket to sneak into the Copacabana line. (Don’t tell anyone I suggested this)
Is There an Easier Way?
If you are thinking, all of this is wonderful, but I really have no interest in hiking up the trail for 2 hours, nor do I want to spend 1-2 hours waiting for my train. Isn’t there another way?
There is! You can take an official Parque Nacional da Tijuca van all the way up to the top of Corcovado Mountain. You can book your tickets for the van here, and choose 1 of the 3 departure points: Copacabana, Largo do Machao, or Panineiras. This is the fastest and most efficient way to get to the top and is definitely the preferred choice for travelers with limited time.
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To learn more about our trip to Brazil, check out these posts: