Beautiful Parque Nacional da Tijuca (Tijuca National Park) is located in the city of Rio de Janeiro and extends over an area of approximately 39 km2, the so-called Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest). It comprises the largest urban forest in the world, a World Heritage Site and is nearby many localnomad-rio.com apartments.
Tijuca National Park History
When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500 they found simply dense jungle, known only to the locals. Large areas were cleared to found the city of Rio de Janeiro and to supply it with wood for construction and fuel. Later came sugar and coffee plantations, which also required a great amount of forest to be razed.
Of course, this destruction of the rainforest was not without consequences. Emperor Dom Pedro II realised that it affected the city water supply given that the sources were no longer protected by greenery. He ordered Latin America’s first re-forestation program to be led by Manuel Gomes Archer. Around 80,000 seedlings were planted, mostly of mahogany, Brazil nut, eucalyptus and rosewood, over 13 years with 6 slaves and 22 employees. An additional 30,000 seedlings were planted in the coming years.
This was the foundation of the Tijuca National Park, which opened in 1961. The forest later became a public-access park with a variety of recreation facilities, fountains, ponds and bridges.
Tijuca National Park
The results are astounding. Although only classified as secondary rainforest it has become lusher than parts of the Amazon, and serves as the green lung of Rio. It takes plenty of good luck to see the exotic wildlife, which is mainly timid or nocturnal. The Tijuca National Park is, however, a haven for endangered or threatened species of flora and fauna, including varieties of insects, spiders, snakes, hummingbirds, coatis, capuchin monkeys, armadillos and many, many more.
The forest attracts roughly 1.5 million visitors each year, and is well laid-out with marked trails to the main attractions. More than 200 roads and trails criss-cross the land, but it is still advisable to travel with a guide to avoid any potential accidents. Paths lead to caves, waterfalls and viewing platforms, and are adapted for bicycles, motorcycles, cars or buses.
Atop Corcovado Hill, a peak within the park, stands one of Rio’s best-known landmarks, Christ the Redeemer. Built between 1926 and 1931, the statue is 33 metres tall and 28 metres from fingertip to fingertip. It towers some 700 metres above the lush Tijuca Forest area.
Further attractions include Pedra Bonita in Rio, which serves as a popular launchpad for hang-gliders, and the lovely Cascatinha Waterfall. There are also some challenging routes for rock climbers. Finally, remember that, since you are in a rainforest, you should always expect a sudden downpour if you visit Tijuca National Park.