It’s easy to understand the attraction luring nearly 2 million visitors to the top of Corcovado mountain each year. Here, Christ the Redeemer monument, an icon of Rio de Janeiro, overlooks the city from an urban rainforest. For many, the visit is a spiritual attraction. For us, it was the panoramic landscape with a glittering bay and a mountainous backdrop that was the draw. While the desire to visit Christ the Redeemer is high on many visitors’ lists, there are a few things you should know first.
Things to consider before you visit Christ the Redeemer
While glad we visited the famous Rio de Janeiro monument, there are four things worth thinking about in advance: crowds, queues, heat, and safety.
- Crowds: There is no option that gets you away from the shoulder to shoulder crowds. Arriving in Rio de Janeiro for New Year’s Eve, we encountered massive crowds. You need both patience and a bit of aggression to enjoy an unobstructed view.
- Queues: Unless you are hiking very early in the morning, or you purchase a Skip-the-Line tram pass, you will be waiting in long queues. The wait to board the train is often an hour, although on some days, it can top two hours.
- Heat: Rio is hot, yet not unbearable. The average high temperature in summer is only 29°C (84°F) and it rarely exceeds 35°C (95°F), although the humidity adds to the discomfort.
- Safety: Petty theft is rife here. Two of the 40 people in our group encountered pickpockets before we reached the top. The action is swift, so be extra vigilant. Click here for our Rio safety tips or click here overall South America safety tips.
If you really hate crowds, this will be the hardest part of your visit.
So, why would anyone want to visit Christ the Redeemer?
This was the question that haunted Jeff and I as we planned our two days in Rio de Janeiro. We didn’t feel the religious pull or the need to follow the crowd just to say we were there. Nevertheless, there’s often a good reason that a destination is so popular.
For us, we knew we made the right choice when we reached the top of Corcovado Mountain. Rio de Janeiro is a far more spectacular city than we had realized. The 360-degree views from the top are worth it alone. And then there is the 30-meter art deco statue perched on an 8-meter tall base.
How to get to Christ the Redeemer
Corcovado Mountain is located in the Tijuca National Park, a rainforest within the city boundaries. There are five basic ways in which visitors get to the top.
While we often favour hiking as an option, this particular hike didn’t appeal to us for three reasons. First, it’s a difficult 3-hour hike requiring a higher level of fitness than what I include in my definition of fun. While it starts out easy, it gets so steep that they have installed chains to pull yourself up to the top. Second is safety. While pickpocketing is prevalent on the trams and at the top, there have been more aggressive robberies on the hiking trails. Third, and this one is personal, after recovering from dengue fever obtained in a different Brazilian rainforest, the idea of hiking in the Tijuca rainforest had no appeal.
The trail starts at Parque Lage next to the Botanical Garden. Tips for those who want to hike:
- Go early. It is cooler and there are fewer people on their way down.
- Use a good insect repellent.
- Bring plenty of water.
- Don’t hike alone. There is safety in numbers.
- Don’t wear jewellery and leave valuables at home.
- You can purchase tickets to see the monument at the top.
The 20-minute cog train journey on the Trem do Corcovado through the Tijuca Rainforest is the traditional way to get to the top. Tickets include round trip transit and entrance to see the monument. While it sounds lovely, there are a few things you will want to know about this Corcovado train. The train station is in the Cosme Velho neighbourhood. While it’s easy to get there by public bus, the nearest subway exit requires a 40-minute walk to the station.
The train moves only 345 passengers per hour, thus resulting in long queues at a station that attracts pickpockets. Once on the train, you have the option to sit facing forward or backwards if you’re lucky enough to get a seat at all. Many passengers end up standing, a challenging position on the steeper portions of the hill. Photographers, be prepared for dirty windows.
However, despite being a bit uncomfortable, it was a quick and easy way to the top. Our number one recommendation to anyone planning to take the train is to purchase a Skip-the-Line: Christ the Redeemer Admission Ticket. For us, this made the difference between a two-hour queue (New Year’s Eve weekend) and less than 20-minutes total time from exiting our bus to being on the tram.
Van to Christ the Redeemer
An alternate way to get to Christ the Redeemer is to take an air-conditioned van from Copacabana that drives you straight to the top of Corcovado Mountain (statue entrance included in pricing). On the return trip, you will make a stop to see the Selaron steps in the Lapa neighborhood. We didn’t do this, but we talked to people who did, and they had no complaints. The only downside seems to be missing the ‘experience’ of the train.
While you can’t drive all the way to the top, you can park your car at the Paineriaras station and take a van from there. Personally, I wouldn’t want to drive in Rio de Janeiro, but if you are renting a car already, this is an option to consider. Again, I recommend going early as the car park will fill up.
Go with a tour
A tour is the easiest way to see the monument and often includes other sites in the city. We were in Rio de Janeiro on a two day stop-over from a South American coastal cruise and opted for a tour that included a skip-the-line tram ticket and a guide available at the top. The advantages of having a guide meant no hassles anywhere, but we paid for this luxury. If you are selfie impaired like us, the other advantage of a guide in Rio is they can take your photo without walking off with your camera. However, in our case, our guide was even worse than us.
Christ the Redeemer tours
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Here are our recommendations depending on what added sites you want to include:
Just the Corcovado tram and Christ the Redeemer
If you only want to see the monument and the views, we highly recommend getting a skip-the-line ticket. With this one, you will still need to make your own way to the station at Cosme Velho. ⇒ Check pricing for a skip-the-line ticket.
Christ the Redeemer & Sugar Loaf small group guided tour
This six-hour small group tour will take you to Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf. In addition, you will visit the artistic Santa Teresa neighbourhood, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Carioca Aqueduct, and the Selaron stairs. This tour hits the highlights of this city in a day. It includes entrance fees and pick up from the Copacabana Palace hotel or your southern neighbourhood hotel. The reviews are excellent. If I were staying in Rio, this is the tour I would want to take. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews.
Christ the Redeemer, Selarón Stairs, & Sugar Loaf sunset tour
Similar to the above tour, this six-hour tour will also take you to the top of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. However, your start time will be later, resulting in the opportunity to watch the usually spectacular sunset from Sugar Loaf. On this tour, you will visit the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Selaron stairs. It includes entrance fees and pick up from most southern neighbourhood hotels. The reviews are excellent. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews.
Rio de Janeiro: 10-Minute Helicopter tour
For those who have more money than time, this is the fast way to get amazing views of it all. The risk is the weather. A woman on our ship took an even more expensive helicopter option offered by the ship but the fog came in and she saw nothing. However, if you love this kind of adventure, this particular ride is well-rated. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews.
Don’t miss the chapel
Located under the base of the statue is a small Catholic chapel that is often missed by visitors.
A few interesting Christ the Redeemer facts
- Cristo Redentor (Portuguese) or Christ the Redeemer (English) is the official name of the statue. However, in our short visit, we heard it called the “Jesus statue in Brazil,” “Rio Jesus,” and “that big Jesus statue,” among a long list of other names.
- It is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. You can see the complete list here.
- Built by the Catholic church, the monument was completed in 1931.
- Construction materials are reinforced concrete covered in soapstone tiles.
- Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue ever built.
- At 671 meters (2,200 feet) above sea level, it was built to be seen from nearly every vantage point throughout Rio de Janeiro.
- Tijuca is the world’s largest urban forest.
Click here to see our full South American itinerary.
Photography on this page
In the interest of keeping it, I opted to leave my big camera on the ship as we toured Rio de Janeiro. Instead, I used the Olympus TG5, the predecessor to the TG-6. It’s a tough point-and-shoot type camera that is waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, crushproof, and freezeproof. Better still, it is compact and fits in my pocket. It allows for some manual capabilities and RAW output. Despite the extremely hazy day, you can see the impressive quality of images it can produce. The only drawback is the maximum optical zoom is 4x so I couldn’t get a nice close up of the monkeys. ⇒ Check pricing and reviews of the TG6 here.
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