Rio de Janeiro 's Tijuca National Park surrounds one of the 7 Wonders of the World in breathtaking beauty!

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.

From Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro back to