After waking up from a sensual night of dancing in the Lapa barrio you can’t help but look up and see Christ the Redeemer. He watches over the favelas surrounding the city and hears the firework signals going off nightly. He sees the pickpockets as they start their weekend rounds along the beach and celebrates Carnival as the parade dances into the early morning. He is all knowing in this city, and remains a symbol of faith to the 6.2 million cariocas living below.
Christ the Redeemer stands proud at 130 feet tall, on top of Corcovado Mountain which reaches 2,300 feet over the city. This Jesus means business and is one of the largest tourist attractions in the city. There is no disputing that this is one destination that you must add to your itinerary when you visit Rio de Janeiro during your Brazil travel.
History of the Christ
In Portuguese, he is known as Cristo Redentor. The statue was designed by local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French sculptor Paul Landowski, and is the largest art deco statue in the world. Since its completion in 1931, the statue has been hit by lightning, defaced by graffiti vandals and in 2010 was restored to the tune of 7 million real (~$3.5 million).
Visiting Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer is to Rio like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, or the Statue of Liberty is to New York. It’s an instantly recognizable symbol of the city. Some tourists are drawn to the statue for its original purpose of spirituality, while some simply go to be in awe of the breathtaking views. When you reach the summit you can truly see the full reach of Rio.
Once you arrive at the top, via taxi or rail, you have only 220 steps left to reach the statue. There have been elevators installed so climbing the final stairs is no longer required, but the personal trainer in me would suggest taking the stairs if you are capable of doing so.
The top area around Christ the Redeemer is shoulder to shoulder congestion. Imagine merging the Jersey Turnpike with the 405 in LA, it’s nuts. Everyone is trying to get the perfect shot of the Christ. With the small size of the platform and the statue’s height it is hard to get the right angle so you will see many people laying down on the ground and shooting straight up. You have to be either very creative or very patient if you want photos without 10+ other tourists.
While you are up there, get your pictures out of the way and save some time to look out at the Rio landscape. Hopefully you visited on a clear day because you are able to see miles of beaches, forests and cityscape. The views from up top are some of the most incredible sights I have seen.
The Corcovado Railway
If you have the time I suggest taking the train up. It was the first electric train in Brazil and supports green initiatives to keep the air clean and conserve the forest by not contributing to pollution. Arrive early to purchase your tickets to see The Christ, there is almost always a wait. We arrived at 11 AM and the first train we could get on left at 1:30 PM. I suggest blocking out 4 – 5 hours round trip from your hotel for this excursion. The train leaves every 30 minutes starting from 8:30 AM – 7 PM. It travels directly up the Corcovado Mountain, crossing the largest urban forest in the world, the Tijuca National Park.
How to Get to Christ The Redeemer
From Ipanema Beach
Take the subway from Ipanema to Largo de Machado (3.20 reai pp)
Directly outside the Largo de Machado station look for the bus heading to Cosme Velho (2.75 reai pp)
From there you can take a taxi or the Corcovado railway to the summit.
If you are short on time, hire a taxi to pick you up at your hotel and drive you up the mountain. Set a time and have him wait for you while you go in to walk around the Christ and then drive you back. With a larger group you can negotiate a lower per person price.
If you don’t feel like doing the planning yourself or you want to join in a bigger group to explore, you can join a tour of Christ the Redeemer from almost all of the hostels or hotels in the city. This is one of the most popular tours and usually includes Sugarloaf, Tijuca National Park and visiting various neighborhoods such as Lapa or Santa Teresa.
Couples Travel Tips
- Check the weather. The tickets are non-refundable and you are purchasing the tickets for 1 – 2 hours ahead. Check the clouds and make sure there isn’t a storm rolling in.
- Expect crowds. Once you get off the train the area they have set up around The Christ is packed full of people. Most everyone up there is a tourist so don’t hesitate handing over your camera to get a photo of the two of you together.
- Bring a book. Since you usually have to wait 1 – 2 hours until you can get a seat on the train, having something to read or a deck of cards will help the time fly by.
- If you can’t wait, meet other couples and negotiate a round trip price for a taxi to drive you to the summit and back to your hotel. It will help you save money and time while also meeting fellow travelers!