The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood of Rio preserves some of Brazil’s most important plant species, some of which are endangered. The park’s rich diversity is spread throughout an area of 1.5 squared kilometers and concentrates over 6,500 species of plants, as well as provides homes for over 140 species of birds, including the distinctive toucan. Be sure to walk along the Avenue of Royal Palms, a long path where a row of 134 palms stand to attention at the side of the trail. Don’t miss the sensory garden, too, which demands smell and touch rather than just sight.
A stunning mansion nestled in the forest almost seems like a scene from Indiana Jones with its exotic looks and surreal atmosphere. Parque Lage is now an art school, yet is open to the public for visitors to come in, appreciate the students’ masterpieces and enjoy a coffee or light lunch at its café. The former mansion is set in one of the most stunning grounds in Rio — a vast park replete with vegetation from the Tijuca rainforest and resident wildlife such as colorful birds and inquisitive monkeys. Take a wander through the narrow, winding paths without any plan and enjoy the natural settings around you. Stop at the cove in the middle; inside is an aquarium that showcases some of Brazil’s unusual yet wonderful river life, including piranhas.
Flamengo Park is the perfect kick-back-and-relax kind of park. The park overlooks Guanabara Bay and provides a view that comes complete with Sugarloaf Mountain in the skyline before the water stretches over towards Niteroi. The park is a local hotspot for sports, being equally common of seeing people ambling along slowly on their pushbikes or lyric-claden pros whipping past on quality gear. The young crowd usually skateboards or slacklines, or just sits around drinking and enjoying the shelter from the palms. The park is right next to a beach so catch some rays, take a dip in the sea and find a palm in the park to sit under and cool off.
Parque Nacional da Tijuca
Tijuca park is the most extraordinary park in Rio. The fact it’s the largest urban forest in the world is impressive enough, yet it’s also the home to several incredible points of interest such as Vista Chinesa, Corcovado (the mountain of Christ the Redeemer), Pedra da Gavea, Pico da Tijuca (the largest peak in Rio) and a number of beautiful waterfalls. One of the most accessible waterfalls is Cachoeiro do Horto that is just a short trail away from the main road that winds through the forest and is small enough to bathe under. The forest is always home to fauna and flora that is unique to this rainforest and is facing endangerment; an excursion with a reputable tour guide is recommended to ensure you can experience the best of what this forest has to offer while protecting its sensitive wildlife.
Quinta da Boa Vista
Located in the north zone of Rio de Janeiro, this park offers an incredible green and natural space for an area that is otherwise totally built up and far from the coastline. Quinta da Boa Vista is the grounds of São Cristóvão Palace, the past-residence of the Emperors of Brazil who used to enjoy the large open space at their garden. Nowadays, it is a public park of luscious green grass, curving lakes and exotic plants. Be sure to check out the zoo within the park that is home to more than 2,000 species of animals and birds, with a particularly special collection of monkeys and forest-dwelling birds. Don’t miss the National Museum, either, which is also a research institute with one of the largest collections in the Americas.