Rio from above: 5 lookouts of easy (or medium) access
Rio de Janeiro has stunning natural beauty, easily seen from several places, including viewpoints, which sometimes go unnoticed. Even though I am from Rio, I have only been to two of those five before I wrote this list!
Since I have returned to live in Rio, I have rediscovered the city, getting out of the ordinary, prioritizing contact with nature and outdoor activities. I share with you this list of accessible places with a light (or average) walk:
1) Morro da Urca:
The trail is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Access by the Cláudio Coutinho track, in the left corner of Praia Vermelha.
(Attention to alternative opening times during the pandemic. It is always good to check their website https://www.monapaodeacucar.com/ ),
The Cláudio Coutinho track runs through the "feet" of Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca with beautiful views and an enjoyable sea breeze. After a few meters on the track, on the right, we see the access to the trail of Morro da Urca.
(*Attention, this trail does not lead to the Sugarloaf Mountain itself, but to the first hill where the cable car stops first. If you want to visit the top, you will need to purchase a cable car (bondinho) ticket). The beginning of the trail is quite steep, with many steps, but in just 10 minutes we reach the first lookout on the right, overlooking Flamengo's Aterro and Urca beach just below. Continuing, in another 10-15 minutes, we reach the top, from where you have access to all the beautiful views of Morro da Urca, cafes, and shops.
2) Parque Natural Municipal da Catacumba:
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.
The access to the park is through the gate located at Av. Epitácio Pessoa at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
Located on a hill by the Lagoon, where there used to be a favela, the park was reforested and protected in the 70s. There is a circuit trail, lasting approximately 20/30 min that goes up the park passing through art sculptures, arriving at Mirante Sacopã (lookout point) and Mirante do Urubu, with beautiful views of the sea, the lagoon, Dois Irmãos, Cristo, and Pedra da Gávea. In addition, there are picnic spaces and a private company that offers the service of abseiling, zip-lining, or rock-climbing.
3) Parque do Penhasco Dois Irmãos:
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 5 pm.
Although it has existed since 1992, this is one of the lesser-known viewpoints for locals and tourists. To access it you must go up Aperana street which is hidden in a corner of Alto Leblon. In 10 min ascent on the asphalt, we reach the guardhouse at the entrance of the Park. Unfortunately, we entered almost 17hrs and we were only able to see two of the five viewpoints that exist there. Mirante Sétimo Céu is right at the beginning, overlooking the beach of Ipanema, Leblon and the Cagarras Islands.
4) Duque de Caxias Fort - Leme:
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9.30 am to 4 pm
Tickets: (exceptionally free at the moment due to pandemic)
Regular Price: $ 4.00
At Pedra do Leme there is a military fort where, after 15 minutes of uphill on a cobblestone road, we have a privileged view of the Sugarloaf Mountain and all of the "little princess of the sea", Copacabana beach. With clear weather, you can see the Christ and even the Dois Irmãos hills, located in Leblon. There is also a small exhibition with details of the history of the fort and pictures of Copacabana in the past.
5) Pedra Bonita:
Open from 8 am to 5 pm and closed on weekends due to the pandemic.
Last, I left the only one on the list a little more difficult to access, not so much because of the hike itself, but because it starts in Alto da Boavista. For those who are not driving, it was not difficult to get there by Uber, but returning can be more complicated because there might not be a cellphone signal.
The trail takes 15 minutes of steep uphill on a cobblestone road and another 20 minutes of light uphill through the woods. The view is one of the most beautiful in Rio, with a privileged view of the "face" of Pedra da Gávea from very close, in addition to Dois Irmãos and São Conrado and Barra / Recreio beaches.
In addition to these, we obviously have the incredible view of Pedra Gávea and Garganta do Céu, but I left them out because these trails are more difficult and require preparation, especially for the famous and feared carrasqueira of Pedra da Gavea.
We also have the "Instagramable" sunrise from Mirante Dona Marta, easily accessed by car, in addition to Corcovado and Pão de Açúcar, obviously, where you need to buy tickets in advance.
It is essential to always carry enough water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Despite the desire to take our furry animals for a different ride, stay tuned, as in most of Rio parks and trails in Rio pets are not allowed, in order to protect the native fauna.
(PS: The day I went to the Penhasco park viewpoint, I went last minute, without planning and unaware that it is an enclosed park. The guard made the exception and courtesy of letting me in to see only the first viewpoint with my dog)