It’s easy to see why Rio is high on most people’s bucket list. This intense and beautiful city is home to some of the most iconic sights in the world, from Christ the Redeemer to Carnival to the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. But there’s also a more tranquil, offbeat side to the city where you can escape the chaos and recharge your batteries. Here are our top 10 tips on the secret things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
1. Pedra da Gávea
This rocky monolith is a whopping 842 metres above sea level, and the views are guaranteed to leave you speechless. To get here, it’s a two and a half hour hike through the Tijuca Forest to the top so you’ll need to be reasonably fit and bring plenty of water. Once you get there, you won’t ever want to leave.
Address: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro
2. Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
This is one of the most chilled and picturesque places to hang out in Rio, so make sure you plan plenty of time into your itinerary. The lagoon is a good place to get active, with smooth paths and relatively few people – try jogging, skateboarding, rowing or cycling. One of the best ways to see the lagoon is to rent a majestic swan peddalo. Fun fact: every year at Christmas the lagoon hosts the world’s biggest floating Christmas tree.
<Address: South Zone of Rio de Janeiro.
3. Prainha Beach
This beach is a far cry from the madness and posing of Rio’s most famous beaches, such as Ipanema beach and Copacabana beach. It is almost deserted most days and you’ll likely be sharing it with just a handful of surfers. The surrounding area is a protected nature reserve and a truly beautiful place to explore.
Address: Avenida Estado de Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro.
4. Mirante Dona Marta
If you want to avoid the crowds of Sugarloaf Mountain but still enjoy Rio’s amazing sunrise/sunset, then a trip here is a must. It’s not the easiest place to get to, and the best way is by car, but it’s worth it and won’t cost you a penny. Stick around after sunset and you’ll be treated to views of the city lit up below you = Magical.
Address: Tijuca National Park, Rio de Janeiro-RJ
5. Pedra do Pontal
This huge rock divides the two beaches Praia do Recreio and Praia da Macumba, and although it’s a little far out from the centre, it’s totally worth the trip. Climb all the way to the top and you’ll be treated to surreal views and zen vibes.
Address: Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Rio de Janeiro
6. Vista Chinesa
This is another great place to see Rio from above, with views of the Corcovado Mountain and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. It’s a little bit more popular than the Mirante Dona Marta, particularly at sunrise/sunset, but it’s right next to the Botanical Gardens and free to visit, so it’d be rude not to really.
Address: Estrada da Vista Chinesa, 1294-Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro.
7. Botanical garden
This is one of the most beautiful and relaxing green spaces in Rio, and home to over 6,500 species of plant. You could spend days just wandering around the gardens, exploring the greenhouses, and stopping to say hello to the friendly local animals including marmosets and Capuchin monkeys.
Address: Rua Jardim Botânico, 1008-Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro
8. Parque Lage
Lage Park is a public park located in the neighborhood of Jardim Botânico beneath the Corcovado. The Park is also used as an open school of Visual Arts. For the adventurous, it’s possible to find a trail behind the Parque Lage which takes in waterfalls and secret vantage points along the way until you reach the ticket office for access to the Christ the Redeemer Statue. You might recognise the park from Snoop Dogg’s music video for “Beautiful” featuring Pharrel Williams.
Address: Rua Jardim Botânico, 414-Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro.
9. Casa Tuxi Hostel
Rio is home to its fair share of crazy party hostels, but for a chilled out yet sociable vibe, you can’t beat Casa Tuxi. The hostel was set up by 3 friends, who give the hostel a personal touch through quirky design and lovingly made food and cocktails. Its location in the trendy Botafogo district means that if you do decide you want a little more action, you’ve got some amazing Rio nightlife right on your doorstep. Not for you? View more hostels in Rio.
10. Gavea Tourist Hotel
This incredible building, which was never completed, has lain abandoned for the last 44 years. Until recently, the hotel was a favourite haunt of urbexers and local artists, but sadly the ruins were sealed off a few months ago for safety reasons. So it’s no longer possible to explore inside, but you can still admire it from afar, or if you’re lucky enough to have a drone then you’ll be able to capture some wonderfully eery shots from above.
Address: Estrada das Canoas-São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro.
11. Christ the Redeemer Statue
Okay, so this isn’t a hidden gem, but bear with us. Despite the crowds, seeing this amazing statue up close can be a deeply moving, almost spiritual experience. You’ll hardly even notice the selfie sticks!
About the author:
Victor is a traveller and a storyteller from São Paulo, Brazil. He believes that life is too short to wake up in your bedroom every day. He likes adventures and he dreams of travelling to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Follow his travels on Instagram and YouTube.
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