Going to Rio and not visiting Christ is like not taking a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower when you’re in Paris. It just has to be done.
The 38-metre tall statue stands atop the massive granite dome of Corcovado hill and, since its erection in 1931 has become one of the most famous landmarks in the world.
Amazing as it is, though, it was definitely one of those trips I was kind of relieved was over when I finally made it back down to sea level.
For starters, it’s not as easy as you might imagine to find a day when fog isn’t shrouding him from view. I’d taken a bus across town from Lapa days earlier only to sit at the bottom for two hours waiting in vain for a patch of clear sky. After all, just over 50R$ (about £16) is quite a hefty amount to spend on a trip to see this…
Assuming you’ve been lucky with the weather – or waited a full two weeks for a sunny day as I did – the next thing to consider is timing.
If you like a lie in like me, this will come as bad news: the best time to see Christ is in the morning.
Reason one: you have more time to hang about waiting for better visibility
Reason two: you avoid the crowds (to an extent at least)
It’s no surprise that there is a constant swarm of people trying to get up Corcovado on a daily basis. Figures suggest that over 300,000 people visit it each year. Now imagine what the queues are like. I spent a good couple of hours standing in line in 40 degree heat waiting for mini buses, and the top is like a mosh pit of tourists scrambling over each other to get photos of themselves fanning their arms in front of Christ, or looking down at the panoramic views of Rio.
Reason three: the sun is in the right place to illuminate his front side.
Unless what you’re after is a great shot of the back of his robe, you really want to be there early in the day. Although I quite like the halo of light around his head, it’s clear from these photos that the sun was in the wrong place to capture his facial features in all their glory:
Bearing all of this in mind, my next piece of advice to you would be to take food and drink with you. Trust me – you will not be in the right frame of mind to spend any more time in line waiting for an overpriced burger at the top.
Getting there – what’s involved?
Wherever you’re staying in Rio, there are great bus and metro links. Ask the bus driver to drop you at Cosme Velho or catch the metro to Largo do Machado station and hop on the Metro Superfice transfer from there.
You can walk up Corcovado, but it’s not recommended. It’s a tough slog and robberies have been reported.
A better option is the popular cog train, which leaves between 8:30 am and 6:30 pm daily, although this gets booked up fast. Both times I was there, there were no spaces until 5 pm, and anyone else I spoke to was told the same thing.
Most people end up catching a mini bus from Cosme Velho (men will direct you there from the bus stop). It takes you part way up the mountain, where you queue to pay for your entrance ticket and then queue again for a second mini bus. Then it’s just one more queue (starting to see a trend?) to get in through the gates, before you’re free to explore.
Fancy something a little different?
If you’re not one to follow the crowds, and you have sufficient expertise, there are over 50 rock climbing routes up Corcovado. From Park Lage, it should apparently take about 2.5 hours to scale, bringing you out on a trail just a few minutes away from Christ. Note that you’ll still have to pay an entrance fee. I haven’t got the upper body strength to pull myself out of some swimming pools, so I opted for a daring tattoo of Brazil’s famous landmark instead…
Where to stay in Rio
I tried out a few hostels in Rio and my favourite, by a long shot, was Books Hostel in Lapa. In fact, it was one of my favourite hostels in South America. I went back to it twice after visiting other parts of Brazil, and I visited it in the evenings when I made the mistake of trying out a hostel near Copacabana Beach for a few nights. The guy who runs is – Felipe – is awesome, and there is a sense of homeliness to it that makes almost every backpacker extend their stay. Decorated with quirky graffiti murals and left-behind shoes, and with a small bar serving cachaca and beers every evening, it’s the perfect place to socialise with new friends before checking out the famous street parties of Lapa.