Parque Nacional da Tijuca, also known as the Tijuca National
Park, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is an 8000 acre rainforest that
was once stripped bare of it’s native vegetation by coffee
and sugar cane plantations. A tribute to the ecological mind of
King Don Pedro II, Tijuca National Park is one of the last few remnants
of the Atlantic Rainforest that at one time dominated the Southern
coast of Brazil.
Replanted over ten painstaking years by engineer M.G. Archer, Tijuca
National Park was result of the project ordered by King Don Pedro
II in 1861. Concerned that the erosion and deforestations caused
by the sugar and coffee plantations combined with a dramatic decrease
in rainfall in the area would severely reduce drinking water available
to his subjects, the King began the reforestation of the area.
Today, Tijuca National Park is the largest urban forest in the
world, home to 30 waterfalls, hundreds of plants and trees and at
least 100 different species of animals. The park actually reduces
the medium temperature of the city by approximately nine degrees.
A spectacular tourist attraction, Tijuca National Park surrounds
the Cocovado Mountain and the Statue of Christ. It is also home
to Gavea Rock also known as Pedra da Gávea, Beautiful Rock
or Pedra Bonita and Tijuca Peak which is the second highest peak
in Rio de Janeiro at 3350 feet.
Visitors to Tijuca Peak are awed by a seemingly unending view of
the entire city of Rio de Janeiro including the Rio-Niterói
Bridge, the famous Maracana Stadium, the Favela of Rocinha, and
Sugar Loaf Mountain. From the peak, you can also look down upon
the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, Botofogo and Leblon. Inside
the park, visitors are encouraged to wander the trails through an
exotic jungle resplendent with tropical flowers and stunning waterfalls.
Those with an adventurous spirit can climb to the peak of Pedra
Bonita and join hang gliders in a heartstopping flight back to the
bottom. Other areas of interest include the Mayrink Chapel whose
murals were painted by Cândido Portinari, the Paula and Virginia
Grotto and the Luiz Fernandes Cave. The Gabriela, Cascatinha and
Taunay Falls are also popular amongst the tourists and locals alike.
If you have time, you’ll also want to make a point to see
the pagoda style gazebo at the Vista Chinese Outlook as well as
the giant picnic table made of granite known as the Mesa do Imperador.
An absolute must see on your visit to the Tijuca National Park
is the Pedra da Gávea which literally means Rock of the Topsail.
Pedra da Gávea is a rock composed of granite and gneiss that
rises 842 meters above sea level. It is said that the rock’s
position and size have caused it to erode heavily and that erosion
has created the impression of a human face on the vertical face
of the rock. An inscription carved into the face of the rock, however,
suggests something entirely different. That inscription, according
to is believed to have originally been Phoencian and has been translated
to read “Tyro Phoenicia Badzir Firstborn Jethbaal”,
allegedly referring to a ruler of Phoenicia named Badzir, which
would date the carving to around 850 B.C.
Many scholars believe that the image etched on the rock was not
caused by erosion but rather was carved into it, a portrait of Badzir.
There are several inconsistencies within the inscription itself,
however, that seem to suggest that it is not authentic. It was originally
reported in the 1800’s during the years that Brazil was struggling
for her independence. Many believe that the inscription was a political
tool of the early and short-lived empire under Emperor Pedro I.
Also located in the Tijuca National Park is the Cocovado Hill and
the famous Statue of Christ. Recently named one of the Seven Wonders
of the World, Rio de Janeiro’s most famous landmark, Christ
the Redeemer embraces the city with his outstretched arms rising
30 meters into the sky from the top of the top of the hill. The
Hill itself is over 2310 feet high.
Gaining entrance to the park is a fairly simple process. The area
has been divided into three sections by major roadways and it is
accessible from virtually all parts of the city. The park can be
dangerous after dark so you may want to get an early start. The
park is open year round and there is no admission charge. Guided
tours of Tijuca National Park are available. Jeep tours will take
you right into the park and they can handle most of the steep terrain.
If you prefer to hike or bike without a guide, do not venture into
the park alone.
The Corcovado Rack Railway runs from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm and is
the best way to reach Corcovado and the statue. Although it is only
a 20 minute trip to the top, the wait can sometimes be several hours
so be sure to allow yourself enough time to enjoy the view once
you get there. You’ll want to avoid the peak on cloudy days
as cloud cover will obscure your view.
The address of the Tijuca National Park is Alto da Boa Vista –
Parque Nacional da Tijuca. Phone number is (55-21) 2492-2253 or
2492-5407. The entrances to the park are located on Sumare Road,
R. Almirante Alexandrino, Dona Castorina Road, Vista Chinese Road,
Redentor Road, Acude da Solidao Road and Cascatinha Road.