I’ve seen it in films and documentaries, in postcards and photos but it’s another thing entirely to be there in person and to stand in awe at the architectural marvel that is Cristo Redentor. What you don’t often hear though is how to get there but personally I find it equally as important since the way you choose changes how much things cost.
If you’re about getting there quickly then the best bet would be to take a taxi and then one of the vans up to Cristo Redentor but the cost of that is the most expensive, ranging anywhere from R$50 to R$100 ($13 to $25 USD). There’s also the option of a train which takes you up a more scenic view of the surrounding forest but it’s also around R$60 to R$75 ($12 to 18).
There is however a free option, climbing up 3 kilometers of mountain to the summit of Corcovado which naturally is what I ended up doing. From where I was staying in Copacabana it was a 5 kilometer walk to Parque Lage where the trail up the mountain begins. After a brisk 35 minute walk I was at the entrance and began my ascent. A ranger on site indicated to me how to follow the trail and stated that it would be about 2 hours to complete the winding trail that cuts through forest and offers a closer connection to the area’s nature. As it turns out, it only took me an hour to complete and that’s with several stops to catch my breath due to the steep ascent up 700 meters.
But it’s an absolutely beautiful hike full of green vegetation, interesting insects and a symphony of tropical bird calls that echo through the mountains. Through the trees you can see brief glimpses of the world below, slowly becoming smaller and smaller with every step upward. The humidity of Rio is notorious and while not an exceptionally hot day, I did sweat quite a lot so it was a good choice that I opted to wear shorts at the last minute rather than pants as usual.
Once I reached the top I paid the entrance fee, significantly cheaper considering I didn’t have to pay all the other costs and was greeted by an incredible view of all Rio de Janeiro. In the distance was the large rock known as Pao de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) which offers equally gorgeous views of the city and beyond that Guanabaro Bay with the city of Niteroi on the other side.
But of course there’s also the massive statue of Cristo Redentor, forged through faith and architectural ingenuity. Cristo Redentor was built by French sculptor Paul Landowski and Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa from 1922 to 1931. It towers 30 meters (98 feet) on top of the 700 meter tall Corcovado mountain. Its construction was motivated by a matter of faith as well as the perception of Godlessness in society. Ultimately it has become not just a symbol for Rio de Janeiro but an icon for all of Brazil.