Posted by: Caroline | July 11, 2013

Cidade Maravilhosa

Rio calls itself the Cidade Maravilhosa–Marvelous City–and I just don’t think it fits.

It’s a huge understatement.

Rio has everything we’ve loved about other cities–the bustle of NYC, the ambience of Paris, the scenic backdrop of Cape Town–and amps it up a notch, all wrapped up in the relaxed, joy-seeking Brazilian spirit (these are the people who put on Carnaval, after all).

For example, the city’s natural setting is unparalleled. Fortunately it offers you plenty of opportunities to soak it up. I’ll talk about two of the best here.

cr tram

Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer overlooks the Marvelous City from Corcovado Mountain, tucked safely away from the urban grind inside peaceful Tijuca National Forest. You can visit by train…

cr buses

… or by approved National Forest vans.


Christ the Redeemer is omniprescent on Rio’s skyline. For days as we traveled around Rio’s different neighborhoods, it served as something of a North Star. It was incredible to finally see the massive, 600-ton statue up close.

cr lagoa-ipanema

Not to mention the views over the Lagoa and Ipanema…

cr sugarloaf-flamengo

..Sugarloaf Mountain, Botafogo Beach, and a teensy stretch of Copacabana…

cr rocinha

… and Rio’s largest favela (slum), Rocinha.


With the dozens of slums creeping up hillsides, a typical Rio view is a mix of gorgeous landscapes as well as blunt reminders of the country’s enormous income gap.


The people watching on Corcovado is almost as interesting as the stunning vistas. People swarm around Christ, wriggling on the floor with camera lenses pointed skyward to try to capture the height of the statue (98 feet) or thrusting their arms out to mimic his pose with zero regard for the people behind them (who inevitably get smacked in the face). Spending much time near the statue itself requires Christlike patience indeed. And anyway, if you followed the Cape Town link earlier in the post, you’ll see Alex has already presciently struck this pose, so we didn’t need to replicate it.

cr us

Way less competition when you switch statue for scenery as your backdrop.

sl bottom

The other must-do attraction to fully savor Rio’s landscape is Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain.

sl middle

You make the cable-car journey in two steps: first, up to Morro de Urca, which gives you your first taste of the amazing panorama that awaits…

sl top

… as well as plenty of restaurants, shops…

sl monkey

… and semi-friendly marmosets.

sl view bay

But the real fun starts on Pão de Açúcar. Here’s a view of the bay that gave Rio its name (Portuguese explorers mistook this bay for a river, and this happened to take place on New Year’s Day, so… Rio de Janeiro.)

sl view centro


sl view copacabana

Copacabana Beach.

sl view rio

Although visiting in the morning may provide the best lighting for photographs, overlooking the Marvelous City during sunset is pretty magical, too.


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