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Parque Nacional da Tijuca RJ Travel Guide

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Tijuca National Park officially opened in 1961 and occupies approximately 80,000 acres in the heart of the city.

Depending on personal interests, one can explore the park in a few hours or in a few days. Options exist for experienced sports enthusiasts as well as for people who just want to go for a walk.

Within the forest there are historical buildings, trails, waterfalls, climbing and picnic areas, and lovely lookout points. T he park also has two very pleasant restaurants.

The park 's forest, Floresta da Tijuca, spreads out along the slopes of the Tijuca massif, a huge stone mass composed of gneiss rock. It is one of the oldest rock formations in the world , with mountain peaks emerging from the treetops.

The fo rest also contains many underground caves. During Brazil 's colonial and imperial periods, this area attracted explorers and naturalists.

The Brazilian Royal Family often came here to enjoy the wood's mild tempera tures. But this patch of paradise almost became a victim of expanding coffee plantations in the 19th -century. This threatened the source of many of the region's rivers.

However, in 1861, Dom Pedro II ordered the re-forestation of the woods with native trees and a few exotic species, thus preventing the total collapse of Rio's water supply system and guaranteeing the survival of local fauna and flora.

To this day, about 10% of water suppljed to Rio de Janeiro comes from the park. The reforestation project was one of the first of its kind in the world.

The Baron of Bom Retiro spearheaded the project, assisted by Major Manoel Gomes Archer and six of his slaves. They planted around 100,000 seedlings in just over a decade.

The Barao D'Escragnolle continued on with the Major's work, and, in time, nature reclaimed her place on the mountain slopes. Tijuca, today one of the biggest urban forests in the world, boasts trees such as ipes-amare!os, angicos, jequitibas, and embaubas. These species provide a habitat for coatis, capuchin monkeys, crab-eating foxes, sloths, and several species of birds and butterflies.

The park, just thirty minutes from the city center by car, has four sectors: Floresta da Tijuca (Sector A); Serra da Carioca (Sector B); Pedra Bonita and Pedra da Gávea (Sector C); and Serra dos Pretos Forros and Covanca (Sector D). The last sector, being the newest, lacks a full complement of tourist facilities.

The Centro de Visitantes (Visitors' Center) provides detailed information and maps. The wellmarked trails make independent access easy. Nevertheless, we recommend that you hire a guide, as it is common for visitors to get lost in the park. It is very important to bring insect repellent, sunscreen, water, and snacks, as well as some warm clothing - temperatures in the park are lower than in the city.

Anyone who doesn't want to hike can take a motor tour on the park's 25 miles of surfaced roads. Centro de Visitantes: Praҫa Afonso Viseu, Tijuca.

Map of Parque Nacional da Tijuca

Map of Parque Nacional da Tijuca

Map of Parque Nacional da Tijuca Attractions

1 PICO DA TIJUCA

The moderately easy trail to Tijuca Peak - the highest in the park at an altitude of 3,353 feet - starts at Largo do Bom Retiro. In use since the 19th -century, this path is busy and so well-marked that you can walk it without a guide; however, for safety we recommend that you go in a group.

At the end of the walk visitors will come across a flight of steps built in honor of the King of Belgium, who visited Brazil in 1928. These steps are the final obstacles before seeing one of the park's highlights - a dazzling view of Pico da Tijuca.

On one side you can see São Conrado and the rock formations of Tijuca, while on the other side you can see the city's North Zone and downtown areas, as well as Maracanã Stadium, part of Guanabara Bay and the Rio-Niteroi Bridge.

On clear days (which are most common in autumn), visitors can see Dedo de Deus (God's
Finger), a peak in the Serra dos Órgãos mountain range.

The trail takes about four hours to complete, including a rest stop. You can also reach the top of the pea k by scaling the rock face along one of several mapped-out routes. Some of these climbing routes are very short, while others can be as much as 650 feet long. Climbers always set out early, because the rock faces north and the midday sun is scorching.

2 TRlLHA DA COVA DA ONÇA

This trail is almost two miles long and is one of the oldest in Floresta da Tijuca. It leads to several interesting places, including the dam, Aҫude da Solidão, the forest called the Bosque dos Eucaliptos and a hill, Morro da Taquara.

Almost completely flat and well signposted, the trail is of medium difficulty, and is slightly tougher on the final stretch. The trail forks into Estrada Barão d'Escragnolle and Estrada Barão de Bom Retiro.

3 CASCATINHA DO TAUNAY

One of the most famous waterfalls in the park, the Taunay's Cascade is the subj ect of the painting Cascatinha da Tijuca.

Nicolas Antoine Taunay, a member of the French Mission, painted this waterfall between 1816 and 1821.

The artist put himself in the picture, too. The Museu do Primeiro Reinado now holds the painting.

4 BICO DO PAPAGAIO

At an elevation of 3,245 feet, Bico do Papagaio (Parrot's Beak) is the second highest peak in the park.

The trail to its top branches off from the trail that takes you to Pico da Tijuca. Once the trails split, the branch leading here becomes increasingly difficult. The final stretch demands a lot of effort on a short climb through low-hanging branches and tall roots. Roundtrip, you can complete the trail in three hours.

The peak also has three rock-climbing routes on the large rock faces at the crest. These routes range from 11 to 65 yards long.

The summit affords dazzling views of the vibrant green forest. Our tip: it's better to climb in the afternoon when there's plenty of shade. But take a flashlight in case darkness catches you unawares.

5 MUSEU DO AÇUDE

This sophisticated museum houses a lovely open-air art collection in an immense area in the middle of the lively Floresta da Tijuca.

Visitors can walk among works produced by contemporary Brazilian artists including Helio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Iole de Freitas and Nuno Ramos.

Inside the neo-classical main building, which belongs to Raymundo Castro Maya, pieces range from Portuguese mosaics from the 18th and 19th centuries to examples of Portuguese-Brazilian furniture.

Castro Maya's collection of Oriental art, another nice attraction, is comprised mostly of iron sculptures and ceramics. Estrada do Aҫude, 764, Alto da Boa Vista.

6 CAMINHO DAS GRUTAS

This easy walking route, called "Path of the Grottos" in Portuguese, passes through gneiss caves as well as crevasses and chambers. The best-known caves are Gruta do Morcego and Gruta de Paulo e Virgínia; other notable caves include do Bernardo de Oliveira, Solitária, Eleutério, Belmiro, Perdida, and Luis Fernandes.

7 CORCOVADO

At 2,330 feet above sea level, this hill (on whose top stands the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer) is ideal for hiking and climbing.

One trail leads from Parque Lage, in Jardim Botanico and offers a chaIlenging two-hour walk.

Corcovado has four rock-climbing areas, each with several routes. The best known and easiest of the routes is K2. Along the route's entire length, climbers can see the lovely Rio landscape below. The southern side of Corcovado is the biggest and sheerest face in the city.

Nonclimbers who simply want to admire the view can go by car, taking Estrada das Paineiras or Estrada do Redentor to Estrada do Corcovado. Or, simply take the train from Corcovado Station, in Cosme Velho.

VISTA CHINESA AND MESA DO IMPERADOR

On Estrada Dona Castorina, which leads from the neighborhood of Jardim Botanico to one of the park entrances, Vista Chinesa stands at an elevation of 1,355 feet. This cement pagoda, built to resemble a bamboo structure, honors the Chinese immigrants who worked on the first roads through the forest. (some historians also claim the Chinese immigrants came in the time of Dom Joao VI and introduced tea farming.)

From the lookout point you can see part of the nearby forest and the city, as well as Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the sea, and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Monkeys here appear from time to time. For safe ty reasons, it's advisable to visit the lookout point only during the day and only when a police car is around.

A little fitrther up the road you will find Mesa do Imperador (Emperor's Table), which stands at an altitude of 1,585 fe et and ofrers a slightly less panoramic view than Vista Chinesa. This is where Dom Pedro II stayed when he visited the region. Don't get too excited, though :The enormous table is not the original one th at the Portuguese-Brazilian emperor ate at.

8 PEDRA DA GÁVEA

Of all the peaks that make up the Parque Nacional da Tijuca massif, Pedra da Gavea, eleva tion 2,762 feet, is closest to the sea. That fact has made it a popular landmark for navigators.

Three trails carved into the slope's Atlantic fo rest lead aIl the way to the summit, where you can take in a spectacular view.

These trails are slow going, with some difficult uphill stretches. You can also reach the top by Estrada do Sorimã, which starts at Barra da Tijuca.

Pedra da Gávea also has three good rock climbing faces. On Cabeҫa do Imperador (a rock formation that resembles a human head, hence the name, Head of the Emperor, you can see the famous Passagem dos Olhos, a big, almost entirely horizontal rock face. The east face has the longest routes, like Chamine Elly, which demand good climbing skil ls. It can take up to a whole day to climb, so take plenty of water, a helmet, a sturdy jacket, and a flashlight.

MAYRINK CHAPEL

Built in 1863, this tiny chapel in Floresta daTijuca rece ived a facelift in 1944.

Working on a commission by patron of the arts Raymundo Castro Maya, architect Wladimir Alves de Souza led [he refurbishing.

The chapel did lose something in the update, however: It used to fea ture murals by Candido Portinari. They now reside in the Museu Nacional de Belas-Artes, and the chapel houses only reproductions.

9 PEDRA BONITA

This hill possesses the Rampa de Voo Livre do Rio de Janeiro, a "free flight" take-off ramp for gliders.

Experienced instructors offer hanggliding and para-gliding lessons that begin here and land on Pepino Beach.

Pedra Bonita, elevation 2,283 feet, has well-marked trails and rock-climbing routes. The best route, Lionel Terray, is on the south face.

Plan on starting this climb very early in the day as the entire route, including the return trip takes six hours.

The well-marked trail to the start of the climbing route begins about 15 meters to the right of the take-off ramp. Wherever the trail forks, always keep to the right.

The vehicle road is not in good condition. Estrada das Canoas takes you to the narrow road to Pedra Bonita (follow the signs), but some stretches are potholed, and there are no police or park staff.

The surroundings and view are dazzling, but the facilities leave a lot to be desired. There is no tourist information office, the hill is eroding, the dirt road is very bumpy, and there is no indoor plumbing.

OBSERVING ANIMALS AND PLANTS

The forest contains a veritable menagerie, but it takes some care and attention to spot many of the most interesting species.

You'll need to take binoculars to see the tree-dwelling animals, for example. And car traffic tends to scare the bird" which usually remain hidden in the dense fo liage and are not easy to spot.

Commonly sighted animals including coatis, agoutis, snakes (particularly coral snakes, vipers, boa constrictors, and Ianceheads), hedgehogs, opossums, and small primates such as marmosets.

The monkeys subsist mainly on jackfruit, which is abundant from November to February.

During the rest of the year, packs of hungry monkeys may attack visitors who carry food in plain sight. If you are looking for sloths, keep an eye out for embuaba trees, their favorites.

The best place for bird watching is Jardim Botanico. Snakes tend to be seen on humid, rainy days. The bromeliads are at their most eyecatching on such days, as well.

However, the forest is not abundant in flowers because the canopy blocks out much of the sunlight.

Parque Nacional da Tijuca Travel Guide and tourism information such as festivals, maps, activities and attractions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Brazil Travel Guide

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