Certain times of the year are best avoided when planning your trip to the Christ statue. The Christmas and Carnival period are the most crowded times as Rio begins to fill up with thousands of additional tourists. Weekends also get busy and you may find yourself jostling for space to see the heavenly views. The best time to go is early in the morning during the week before 8:30 a.m. or late afternoon after 3:30 p.m. when there are few crowds, less heat and better visibility. Many tourists take the seemingly easy route and book with a tour guide, but this isn’t necessary; not only will you end up going at the peak afternoon times, it can be expensive for a trip that is easy to do independently.
There are three options for going up to the Christ.
The first is by taking a taxi to the Paineiras car park that is halfway up the Corcovado mountain, where the Christ is. You can get a taxi directly from your hotel and then take the van up to the entrance into the compound of the statue. At the car park, you can buy a combined ticket for the van and the entrance fee. This is the most straightforward and quickest route up and back down, so it is great for those exercizing a tight schedule. The downside is that this route misses all the beauty of the mountain, and doesn’t give you time to appreciate the exotic and diverse wildlife of the Atlantic forest that covers Corcovado.
The second option is taking the train from the base of Corcovado to the car park and then taking the van to the top. This route is still relatively quick, yet gives a bit more time to see the forest as the train slowly chugs up the mountain and to enjoy the live samba bands inside the train carriages. Combined tickets can be bought at the train station at the base of Corcovado.
The final option is the most time consuming, but definitely the most rewarding. Head to Parque Lage, the former mansion-turned-art-school in Jardim Botanico. Tucked behind this architectural beauty is a hidden path that winds through the forest right up to the top of Corcovado mountain. The hike up is tiring yet doable, and you will be treated to waterfalls, luscious vegetation and the occasional curious monkey and skittering lizards.
Getting photos at the Christ statue comes down to a fine art and is not as simple as it may seem. The best time for photos is early in the morning when the sun is not brightly overhead — there is little to no haze in the skyline and there are less crowds in your picture. If you go during mid-afternoon, the sun will be right behind the Christ, so getting a clear photo of the statue is difficult, not to mention the lack of space from the other thousands of visitors getting in the picture.
There are cafés and small eateries at the top, but they tend to be overpriced and have long waiting lines. It’s better to go fully prepared with a rucksack of water and some snacks. Not only will it save you money and time, it’s hard to imagine eating a better lunch with the Christ behind you, an exotic jungle just around the corner and a view of Rio that unfolds into an endless stretch of ocean and forest.