We went to Rio and nearly didn’t bother going to visit Christ the Redeemer. I know, I know…how ridiculous would that be? Yet frankly hubbie and I just weren’t keen on queuing for hours in 40°C heat, it wasn’t our idea of a swell time. We only had one day in the city, and to be honest we weren’t sure it would be worth it, especially with the unpredictability of the Rio weather.
I have to admit that having a blog does sometimes affect what we do on our travels. There are times when we simply want to hide away from the new world we’ve just landed in, and get used to it slowly. We’d rather sit under that air conditioning for a few more hours and sleep off the jet lag, than head out on a mission to explore. That, however, doesn’t make for an exciting tale, an informative titbit or a funny story. It’s not what you, as readers are here for, and because of that we feel a certain duty to go sightseeing even when we really don’t want to.
Yet that’s not a bad thing.
If we didn’t sometimes feel this sense of obligation then we’d have missed out on several incredible experiences. Christ the Redeemer being one of them! So thank you. Without you reading Conversant Traveller, we’d have probably stayed in our hotel that day (despite having a great flight over in Business Class!), and truly regretted it afterwards.
Read More: KLM Dreamliner Business Class Review
Christ the Redeemer, what’s it all about?
At nearly 30m tall, Christ the Redeemer – or Cristo Redentor – is the world’s largest Art Deco sculpture. Weighing in at an impressive 1,145 tonnes, it soars high above the city of Rio, keeping a watchful eye on life down below, and has been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Did you know the exterior of the statue is actually a mosaic of thousands of triangular soapstone tiles? Local women volunteers glued them on to strips of cloth, often writing messages, wishes or the names of their boyfriends on the back of the tiles. Christ the Redeemer could tell thousands of stories!
Religious symbol, tourist attraction or just a great viewpoint, there are many reasons for visitors to make their own pilgrimage up Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer.
How to visit Christ the Redeemer
Understanding how to visit Christ the Redeemer should be a relatively simple process, yet in reality it can be quite confusing. To reach the top of Corcovado, you have 3 options:
1. Cog Train
We took the cog train because it was the most scenic route, climbing slowly up the Corcovado mountainside through the lush forest of the Tijuca National Park. We decided to chance the weather rather than the crowds, and pre-booked our tickets to avoid the queues (we were there on a Saturday at the beginning of March but actually the queues didn’t look half as bad as we’d expected!).
The ticket collection and boarding process was rather confusing. If you have pre-booked your ticket online, you need to take the printed voucher to the small kiosk on the left hand side as you enter the station. On our visit this was hidden behind the people queuing to buy tickets on the day, and we ended up wrongly standing in line with them for 20 minutes before realising our mistake. Once at the top of the station, the queuing system descends into chaos. In theory, only those boarding the next train should be standing in line. Yet in practise, this doesn’t happen. It’s advisable to ignore the staff telling you “don’t worry, take a seat, you don’t need to queue yet” and get in that line! Otherwise you risk missing your slot. In the end, we ended up taking an earlier train, so weren’t too upset that the system clearly didn’t work!
Location: The trains depart every half hour from the station at Cosme Velho, and the journey to the top takes 20 minutes.
Cost: R$56,00 (low season) R$68,00 (high season) – includes round trip and entrance to Christ the Redeemer.
You can purchase tickets online here.
Tips: The best views on the way up are from the right hand side. This does mean you’ll be facing backwards, you’ll keep sliding off your seat on the steep bits and if you’re tall you’ll bash your knees on the seats in front. It’s comfort v scenery!
The train does stop half way up in a siding to allow the return train to pass. At this point several local lads will appear from the forest, selling bottles of chilled water at R$2 each. It does get incredibly hot in the train (try and sit by a window if you can), so you might not want to say no!
Vans to Christ the Redeemer depart from both Largo do Machado, and Copacabana. They will take you all the way to the top and the price includes your entrance ticket. Shuttles start at 8am and you can purchase tickets online here. It is possible to take a taxi part of the way up Corcovado to Paineiras, but you’ll have to take a van for the last stretch. Really, it’s much easier to take a van all the way, and be aware that there is no set fee for taxi rides up the mountain, so always ensure the meter is turned on!
Cost: R$ 39.00 (low season) R$ 49.00 (high season) – includes round trip and entrance to Christ the Redeemer.
Don't fancy the train or van and still wondering how to visit Christ the Redeemer? You can walk up! We would have loved to hike up through the Tijuca rainforest, but as we only had 1 day in Rio we didn't think we'd have time. In reality, we were glad we didn't, as it was sweltering just sitting in the shade, let alone puffing up steep humid slopes. The hike generally takes 2-3 hours and is best done in the morning before it gets too hot. You should be aware that there have been robberies on the trail, so don't take valuables or hike alone.For more information on what the hike up Corcovado is like, check out this post by The Life Well Traveled.
What is it like at the top?
As you'd expect, it's all elbows and selfie sticks on the platform in front of Christ the Redeemer. Even outside of peak season it was heaving, and we had to wait ages to push to the front to get photographs of the city below. Although I'm sure if we weren't polite English tourists we could've jostled with the best of them and got there sooner.
It was fairly hazy, but we considered ourselves lucky that Corcovado wasn't enshrouded in cloud like it was for several days afterwards. I'd suggest if you have longer than us in Rio and don't mind queuing, you might be better to wait for a clear day, and then just turn up really early (get there before 8am when they open) to buy a ticket on the day.
There are restaurants and toilets at the top. The food is unsurprisingly mediocre and overpriced, but you're paying for the view of course.
Best time to visit Christ the Redeemer
As with most tourist attractions, it's best to avoid peak season (December - March and July) and weekends if you can. September and October are great months thanks to cooler temperatures and less humidity.There's of course no perfect time of day to visit. It really depends what your priorities are. Do you want to avoid the crowds, take pictures of the city, or the statue?
Morning: Best for photographing the statue, avoiding the crowds and the heat of the day. The sun rises towards the statue which makes taking photos of the city, harbour and Sugar Loaf Mountain rather challenging.
Midday: Best for hedging your bets and trying to photograph both the city and the statue. We arrived just before midday and with a bit of careful positioning, had the best of both worlds. The downside is that it gets very hot and crowded at this time.
Afternoon: Best for photographing the city as the sun has moved overhead. Come later during the afternoon for fewer people and to avoid the worst of the sun. Really not great for taking pictures of the statue.
So now you know how to visit Christ the Redeemer! I'm so glad we made the effort in the end. Whilst we were hot, tired and grumpy for most of the day, it would have been madness to miss this opportunity, and I'd agree with all those who have gone before and say if you do nothing else in Rio, do this!
Christ the Redeemer is open between 8 am and 7 pm. This information is correct at September 2019.
Where to Stay in Rio
There's plenty to keep you occupied for a few days in Rio, and there are dozens of great hotels to suit every budget, from skyscrapers with infinity pools to laid-back boutique guest houses on the hillside with views to die for. Here are some of our favourites:
Porto Bay Hotel - centrally located right on Copacabana beach with some of the best views in town (the picture below was taken from here!) and a gorgeous rooftop pool to make anyone jealous. This is where we stayed!
Belmond Copacabana Palace - a bit of an institution in Rio, this graceful old hotel boasts a stunning pool and rooftop tennis courts.
Hotel Fasano - rub shoulders with A-listers at this understated and cool luxury hotel. It's the place to see and be seen.
The Villa - up on the trendy hillsides of Santa Teresa, The Villa offers possibly the grandest views in town, overlooking Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain. The terrace and pool aren't too shabby either!
Casa Amarela Boutique Hotel - also located in the historic Santa Teresa district, this casa has bundles of authenticity and dates back to 1904. The pool is great for the hot afternoons, and the design is elegantly French.
Sol Ipanema Hotel - right on the famous Ipanema beach, this is another great option if you're looking for rooftop pools and fabulous views.
Mama Ruisa - a tropical boutique hotel with far reaching views and vast rooms with glorious balconies and lots of old colonial charm.
Mama Shelter - a decent budget option in one of the world's most expensive cities, this pretty boutique number is colourful and full of that all-important Rio vibe.
Gavea B&B - an utterly charming option close to the botanical gardens, with free breakfast, air conditioning and even a sauna (if you need it!).