Tijuca National Park is a large wooded area of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The name Tijuca is that of the mountain range on which it was created, the massif being larger than the park itself. This park is covered by a forest whose density varies according to the zones, it is home to a fauna and a flora of its own, and has within it several of the emblems of the city of Rio, like the three peaks of the pedra Gavea, Corcovado and Tijuca Peak, the highest peak of the park, at 1022 m altitude. For information the peak of the Corcovado culminates "only" at 710m altitude.
The forest of Tijuca is the largest urban forest of the World, it is the one whose area surpasses all the others. This is mainly due to the galloping expansion of the urbanization of the city of Rio, whose favellas extend endlessly on the various slopes of the surrounding hills. The forest of Tijuca does not cover the whole park of the same name.
The forest has a special history, it is not a primary forest. In fact, during the colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese, the latter developed agriculture, the local climate permitting the cultivation of plants different from European plants. Thus the original tropical forest was destroyed to cultivate coffee trees, the whole of the western zone of Rio being fields. But the second half of the nineteenth century saw the introduction of hydrology. Deforestation had destroyed the city's water supply and the city was rapidly expanding and a decision had to be made. The Emperor Peter II chose to destroy the plantations to reforest the city, which was done from 1861 under the military direction of Major Archer. The latter had at his disposal six slaves whom he had worked for thirteen years, the result was the replanting of 100,000 trees.
The choice of these trees was not insignificant, Major Archer chose species coming from the Atlantic coast corresponding to the habitual vegetation on this type of climate. He took advantage of this to develop tourist facilities by installing fountains, recreational areas. These facilities were very unusual at the time, as tourism was not really an economic sector to develop compared to others, such as the industry. Yet these profound changes in the local landscape came in parallel with the future innovative installations of the Corcovado (a road, then a railway, both with a tourist vocation). The strength of this park is that it was not immediately abandoned as one might have feared in view of the urbanization of the city, it was on the contrary maintained and developed.
The park of the Tijuca is a national park, that is to say that it has an interest at the level of the Brazilian State. It is also the smallest national park in Brazil, but when you are there, it seems terriblemelnt big (anyway). In 1991 it became a biosphere reserve, a title awarded by Unesco. Nowadays this park is maintained by the Chico Mendes Institute of Conservation of Biodiversity.
The park does not form a coherent entity, although it has a central role in the city of Rio. Administratively, it is divided into 4 zones:
- sector A (Forest of Tijuca)
- Sector B (Serra da Carioca, mount of Corcovado and Chinese point of view)
- Sector C (Pedra Bonita, Agulhinha da Gávea and Pedra de la Gávea)
- Sector D (Serra dos Pretos Forros e Covanca)
Things to see and do
The Tijuca National Park is not really visited, but it is a forest area very popular with the cariocas themselves. It is crossed by some bike paths for a total of 6Kms of path. There are many more hiking trails, including a particularly well-known one that leaves from the park Lage, the point of convergence of many buses. At the far right there is a small hut that marks the beginning of the path that leads to Christ the Redeemer, may be the most used trail of tourists.
This particular trail leads to the top of the Corcovado in 1:10, but depending on your habit and your capacity, count more. Know that the hike is basically the climb. The panorama opens regularly over the city, offering superb views. You get up on the road that goes up to the top, and this is the least interesting part since you share the asphalt with the rest of the tourists. This is how you get to the monument.
There are two other interesting hiking trails from the Alto da Boa Vista: the "Pico da Tijuca" (Tijuca Peak) road that climbs to 1022m, and the "Pedra da Gavea" (842m). The first one lasts about 1h30, the second is much longer, it is 6h. Both are of an average level, so if you walk normally, there should be no problem.
Otherwise, the park also hosts some waterfalls (Cascatinha, Taunay) and a museum (Açude). Among the points of view, that of the Chinese view is the most prized, especially that it is gratuitous, compared to that of Christ redeemer. The Chinese view is a viewpoint offering a panoramic view of the city of Rio.
Concerning fauna, the park is traversed by endogenous species, it is due to its replanting with plants that were not native to this region. The three best-known animals are the only carnivores in the park: the savannah fox, the common coati and the crab-eater, but of course there are many other animals that belong to this park: Common marmoset, collared anteater, the brown-throated sloth, plus a large number of cobras, spiders, and various insects.
This should encourage you not to stay in the park at night. Not only can the animals be dangerous since they come mostly at night, but the park also hosts a human fauna that is better avoided at night. (and the day also for that matter, but during the day the park is still quite safe).