Highlights of Rio: Christ The Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and More! | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Jan 27, 2020

Highlights of Rio: Christ The Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and More!

Rio de Janeiro is a city that few people warned me about. It's either you'd love it or hate it! My heart played tug-of-war the moment Ed and I stepped out of GaleĆ£o International Airport. The city exudes a certain relaxed vibe that made me feel at ease despite those horror travel stories.

Our journey from the airport to our accommodation in Copacabana was a breeze. Uber is well-organized. Outside the arrival area, there are signboards leading to the "Uber terminal" and there's a staff assisting passengers to their respective rides.

In less than 30 minutes, we have already checked-in at B&B Hotels RJ Copacabana Forte where we booked a 2-night stay. We originally planned to spend 4 nights in Rio but decided to book only the first half just in case we need to cut our holiday short... which eventually happened.

So, having only one day and a half, Ed and I focused on the highlights and the must-dos in the city they fondly call Cidade Maravilhosa.

Rio de Janeiro travel itinerary

Catch the sunset at Sugarloaf Mountain
With no time to spare, we dropped our luggage in the hotel, took a quick lunch in an eatery nearby, and booked an Uber ride to the Sugarloaf Mountain. Locally known as Pao de Azucar, Sugarloaf is one of the top attractions in Rio de Janeiro. I remember gawking this odd-shaped mountain in my World Altas Book when I was a child, and I thought, never in my wildest dreams, I'd see it for real! Now, I'm telling my 10-year-old self "Nothing is impossible, Babe." 

There are two ways to visit Sugarloaf Mountain:
1. Hike.
2. Ride the Cable Car
Of course, we chose #2; easy, safe and less time-consuming. 

We bought our tickets from the electronic ticketing machine at Praia Vermelha station. Each ticket costs 104 BRL and covers the two cable car lines; the first is from Praia Vermelha to Morro de Urca, the second is from Morro de Urca to the top of the Sugarloaf.

The view from Morro de Urca is already rewarding! We reveled in the lush mountains, the beautiful harbor, and the magnificent city in between. But minutes before sunset, we decided to take the next cable car to the summit. 

At 396m above sea level, Sugarloaf Mountain's viewing deck is undoubtedly a magical spot to catch the sunset. It was already filled with people when we arrived, all quietly witnessing an ethereal sunset behind Christ the Redeemer! What a way to end our first day in Rio!

Sugarloaf Mountain cable car
Sugarloaf Mountain cable car from Praia Vermelha to Morro de Urca

Sugarloaf Mountain viewing deck
First viewing deck and I'm already stunned!

Helipad in Morro de Urca
Helipad in Morro de Urca where visitors can take the famous Rio de Janeiro aerial tour.

Lady in Sugarloaf mountain
Sugarloaf mountain or Pao de Azucar was named as such
because of its resemblance to the shape of traditional Brazilian sweet bread.

Onto the next cable car!

But first, a photo op before it gets too dark! :)

Sunset in Sugarloaf Rio de Janeiro
We were greeted with this view at the summit!
No wonder Sugarloaf mountain is considered as one of the best spots for sunset viewing.

night view in Sugarloaf Rio de Janeiro
Rio dazzles at night. Out of all the city lights, Cristo shines the brightest!

Enjoy a scenic helicopter ride
On our second day, we splurged for an out-of-this-world travel experience. We went on a helicopter ride over Rio de Janeiro! It was our first time and it was Ed's birthday gift, so although we had to shell out a little more from the travel budget, seeing how marvelous Rio is from up above was all worth it!

The heli ride was one for the books, so I had to devote a separate blog post for it. 
Read about it here: Helicopter Ride in Rio    

Helicopter ride in Rio de Janeiro
Off to get a bird's-eye view of Rio

Ed and Lady helicopter ride in Brazil
Another travel experience to reminisce when we're old and gray!

Marvel at Christ The Redeemer up close
A quick glimpse of Christ The Redeemer from the helicopter is never enough. I mean, yes it's glorious from up there, but as first-timers, we wanted to see it in all possible perspectives. So after the aerial tour, we took an Uber to Trem do Corcovado station and rode the cog train to the top of Mount Corcovado to get a closer look.

Just like Sugarloaf, we purchased our tickets from the electronic ticketing machine. The two-way ride costs 70 BRL each. We visited in an off-peak time, hence there was no queue. But during high season, a lot of travelers advise purchasing tickets online to avoid the long wait. The cog train is scheduled to leave every 30 minutes, and travel time from the base, through the urban forest, to Cristo is approximately 20 minutes.

Christ The Redeemer is a world-famous art deco statue of Jesus Christ. It is one of the New7Wonders of the World and is considered as a pilgrimage site. So we were not surprised the see the summit packed with people even on midday. 

With its colossal size and the huge crowd beneath, taking photos of the Christ is a struggle. It was such a good example of an expectation vs reality meme. But on a serious note, beyond the photos was an experience of a lifetime. The Cristo, with arms gracefully outstretched and eyes seemingly watching over the city, is a symbol of peace and of redemption. Standing small next to it gave me goosebumps. 

Train tickets to Christ The Redeemer
Train tickets to Christ The Redeemer

Trem do Corcovado
This red historical train journeys through the Atlantic forest before reaching the top. 

Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
From the train stop, a 220-step staircase leads to the world-famous Christ the Redeemer.

visiting Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
Expectation vs...

tourist photos at Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

crowd at Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
Huge crowd at the top! And it's not even peak season!

view from Mount Corcovado
The viewing decks surrounding Cristo offer a stunning panorama of Rio de Janeiro.

Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon
A must-see from above is the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon...

And also, Pao de Azucar!

Savor some downtime in the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema
The coastline of Rio de Janeiro is blessed with beautiful sandy beaches. And we considered ourselves lucky to find an affordable hotel smacked in between the two popular beach destinations; Copacabana and Ipanema.

So on our last night in Brazil, we decided to leave our mobile phones in the safe box and head out to the beach with just our big old camera. We wanted to savor our remaining hours without worrying much about our valuables. It was a perfect plan.

As it was almost sunset, Copacabana beach was nearly empty when we arrived. The vibe was quite contradicting to how I imagined it to be; you know, wild atmosphere, samba music and sexy people in skimpy clothes. We could have experienced all those if we came earlier, but I could never trade that quiet hour we spent by the beach for anything.  

Before it got dark, we moved to Ipanema beach and noticed that it is where most people are at sundown. The sun casts a golden glow over the Two Brothers Hill. It was a sight to behold, and it was at that very moment when we realized Brazil has become one of our favorite places on earth!    

Just chilling at Copacabana beach
Just chilling at Copacabana beach

A quiet and empty Copacabana at sundown
A quiet and empty beach strip at sundown

Sunset in Ipanema beach
Sunset in Ipanema beach

Indulge in Brazilian barbecue
A shortened holiday has to be compensated with a good dinner! So, we went to Churrascaria Carretao to indulge in an authentic Brazilian barbecue for the second time. I wrote about our first churrasco experience in Fogo de Chao in my Sao Paolo blog post. 

Compared to Fogo de Chao, Carretao has a more casual ambiance. The dining area is bright and cozy. The buffet set-up is simple, yet teeming with delicious Brazilian fare and also a few Asian specialties! Sushi spotted! And of course, waiters walk around the restaurant serving juicy cuts of fire-grilled meat.

I know I've said I'm a picanha girl, but my fave at Carretao has to be the flank steak with cheese! Don't you dare miss that! ;)

Buffet in Carretao Ipanema branch
Buffet in Churasscaria Carretao Ipanema branch

Lady at Carretao Ipanema
Flank Steak with Cheese!
Full churrasco (plus drinks) at Carretao cost 277 BRL for 2. Not bad! 

And that's how we spent our days in Rio.
If we had more time, we could have visited these tourist attractions as well:

  • Parque Lage: public park in Jardim Botanico at the foot of Mount Corcovado
  • Metropolitan Cathedral: a pyramid-shaped cathedral with towering stained glass windows
  • Escadaria Selaron: a flight of stairs adorned with colorful mosaic tiles

Want to read more about our sweet escapes in Brazil?
Check out these blog posts:
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