Best Tourist-Trap Alternatives in Rio de Janeiro

Boats in Brazil
Boats in Brazil | © Rafael_Neddermeyer / Pixabay
Paris has the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées, London has Tower Bridge and Big Ben, New York has the Statue of Liberty and Times Square – but Rio de Janeiro, along with its globally recognizable landmarks of Christo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain, is probably one of the most intriguing cities in the world. With so many sights and such an incredible vibe in such an iconic city, it’s nearly impossible to avoid huge crowds at the major attractions. Here are a few options that you can throw into your Rio itinerary so that you can enjoy the city, but without all the hustle and bustle.

Morro dois Irmãos

As you peer along the coast from Ipanema beach at night, you will see a splatter of glowing specks which, due to the surrounding darkness, look as if they are floating in the night sky. In the day, however, you will notice that they are located on a big hill, which is known as Morro dois Irmãos. Here, you can not only get a terrific view of Ipanema from a unique angle; on your way up the the trailhead you will pass through one of the city’s infamous favela communes.

Dois Irmaos from Ipanema Beach © paulisson miura / Flickr

Pedra de Gávea

Meander through the Tijuca Forest to get a view of the city that rivals that from the famous, and expensive, Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf is one of the most central parts of the city and looks back towards Flamengo and Copacabana, while Pedra de Gavea is on the west side of the city and separates Rio de Janeiro from neighbouring Barra de Tijuca. It provides you with one of the most peaceful places around to get a stunning view over the city of Rio.

Pedra de Gavea  © Leonardo Shinagaw / Flickr

Grumari beaches

A day at the beach should be a calming, relaxing way to rub the stress away, but unfortunately, a day out on the sand in Copacabana or Ipanema will be a little more hectic than that, as it is often packed with people and buzzing with activities. Make the trek south of Barra de Tijuca, and visit some beaches that will make you feel as isolated as you could wish for. Off the main highway that runs inland is a coastal road that will take you along a string of magnificent beaches from Praia do Secreto to Prainha, finishing at Praia Grumari.

Pedra do Pontal de Sernambetiba

As you head through Barra de Tijuca and the impending forest looms closer and closer, keep your eyes on the coast and pull off at Pedra do Pontal. This giant rock looks as if it was delicately balanced just offshore of the sandy point that now connects the mainland and the rock, allowing you to clamber up it for another stunning view, this time of the Barra de Tijuca suburb on one side, and the many shades of blue on the other.

Maracanã stadium

Football is more than a sport in Brazil, and even if you don’t know the local teams that hail from the different areas of the city, you can still do a tour of one of the most iconic stadiums in the history of not only Brazilian football history, but of the sport in general. The Maracanã stadium has a long history, including the enormous upset in the 1950 World Cup Final in which the Goliath Brazil were defeated by Uruguay’s David. An astonishing 199,854 people packed into the stadium, making it the largest attendance in football history.

Maracanã packed to the brim  © IK's World Trip / Flickr

Mirante Dona Marta

The Christ the Redeemer statue that is known the world over is so constantly swarmed by people that you can actually pay to have your face superimposed on vacant photos of the statue, so if you want more or less the same view of Flamengo Beach and Sugarloaf, but without all the craziness, visit this viewpoint. Sitting below Corcovado Hill, topped by the big statue of JC, is this more modest hill. You can drive almost to the top, and there’s a small trail at the end of the road that will take you to the concrete circular viewpoint.

Dona Marta viewpoint  © Rosino / Flickr

Botanical Gardens

OK, we get it, you’re not a big city person, and maybe Rio de Janeiro is becoming a bit much for you, so we have saved you the most peaceful place for last. We challenge you to even try to be stressed in the Botanical Gardens, located in the Leblon area of the city. This huge, perfectly manicured and serenely arranged garden is the ideal place to come and relax, enjoy the little lagoons and rows of palm trees, and stroll around with a cool cup of refreshing açaí.

Rio Botanical Gardens  © Rodrigo Soldon / Flickr