Lisa Owen

Did you know one of the world’s largest urban parks is right on Rio De Janeiro’s doorstep? Neither did I until I paid a visit to the vibrant city and discovered there’s more to Rio than meets the eye. This South American destination is blessed with natural beauty not far from the highrise buildings and traffic jams, and a great way to see Rio and leave the crowds behind is on foot. 

Brazil Rio Coastline

There are a number of outdoor adventure outfits that offers full day guided hikes through some of the beautiful natural areas around the city. Most companies have English speaking guides. Expect to pay between £34 and £46 for tours depending on the length of the hike.

Tijuca National Park

For outdoor lovers, your first stop in Rio should be Tijuca National Park. The national park covers an area of 3200 hectares and can be seen from various points around Rio. It’s classed as one of the world’s largest urban parks. The national park was once home to a coffee plantation, was close to destruction through deforestation, but was regenerated in the 1900s to protect the city’s water supply.

I was lucky to get a tour all to myself of the Tijuca National Park with Jungle Me Tours – which meant time to ask questions about Rio and learn about the area’s natural assets. I went on the Tijuca Express Hike which takes you through part of the national park to the top of the Pedra Bonita mountain. Here you’ll get panoramic views over Rio’s beaches, the Pedra Da Gavea monolith – and on a good day – see the paragliders and hang gliders launch and soar above the treetops. You’re also likely to spot capuchin monkeys during the hike.

It’s about a 45 minute walk through the forest to the viewpoint. You take your chances with the weather up here though with a combination of cloud and haze a regular occurrence over the city.

Tijuca Brazil

You can also check out the view from the pagoda-style gazebo at the Vista Chinese outlook. Jungle Me Tours also offers a four hour hike through the Tijuca Tropical Rainforest to see ruins, caves and waterfalls.

Part of the Tijuca National Park is Corcovado Mountain – and taking pride of place at the summit is the Christ the Redeemer statue. The 38 metre iconic statue was completed in 1931 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Brazilian Independence.

Jesus Statue Brazil

There are two ways to reach the statue. I went with a guide that I’d hired for the day to show me around the key areas of Rio, and we reached the statue by parking at the Largo do Machado lookout on the mountain and then taking a shuttle up the rest of the way. You can also do this way if you take a taxi up. The other way up is via a 20 minute tram ride from the station on Rua Cosme Velho. This option needs to be pre-booked online where you’ll need to pick a date and time.

Once you reach the statue, marvel at its construction then check out the view below of the mountains, beaches and national parks. The platform around the statue is small so try and get there early to avoid the crowds. You’ve also got a better chance of getting a clear view earlier in the day as clouds tend to creep in over the mountains as the day wears on. About halfway down the mountain is another viewpoint at a helicopter landing area. This viewpoint looks down to Sugarloaf Mountain. This is a particularly good stop if cloud at the top prevented you from seeing the view.

View of sugarloaf mountain


Hike to Turtle Rock

West of central Rio De Janeiro is one of the city’s hidden gems. Pedra da Tartaruga or Turtle Rock is a tranquil place off the beaten path and removed from the boisterousness of Rio. The Turtle Rock is a large rocky mound rising out of the ocean and connected by a narrow strip to the mainland.

Turtle Rock Brazil


Entry to the trail is via the small fishing village Barra de Guaratiba – about an hour’s drive from the Rio centre depending on traffic. It’s still technically part of Rio De Janeiro but it doesn’t feel like it. When I visited, there were only a few people milling about this little town.

Turtle Rock Brazil


The hike into the Turtle Rock takes about 45 minutes to an hour over a rocky dirt track. Not far in along the trail you’ll spot the Turtle Rock through the trees. The trail leads you onto the rock for expansive views over the blue ocean and the beach. You can then head down to the quiet beach below for a picnic, nap or a swim. 

Turtle Rock

Things You Should Know:

  • It’s recommended to hire a guide to see the natural areas of Rio De Janeiro as robberies have been known to occur in Tijuaca National Park. There are a number of tourist operators running hiking tours – and there’s a lot of hikes you can do. TripAdvisor is a good resource to research the most recommended.
  • Rio De Janeiro is a big city with lots of traffic. You’ll need to allow time to get across the city to see the sights.
  • If you’re heading independently to the Christ of Redeemer statue, try and get there early. The attraction is very popular and I’m sure you’d rather not be battling against selfie sticks trying to get a look at the statue and the view. While hiking is possible up to the statue, it’s only recommended in a group with a guide due to safety concerns.
  • If you’re taking the Corcovado Tram option to reach the Christ statue, it’s recommended to pre-book your tickets online to get a seat during high season (December-March).
  • Low cloud is common in Rio De Janeiro up on the mountains so it can be hit or miss if you’ll get to see the views of Rio from its high points, but your best chance is to get to the mountain viewpoints early.


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.