I believe there’s always two ways to get things done. There’s an easier way that requires shorter-time, less-energy in preparation; something that offers convenience and comfort; it may appear more expensive but actually cost-saving, or doing everything the other way around. The same holds true when engaging in tours, or when traveling (whatever you call it!). You could either plan everything and Do-It-Your own way, cut cost and save much, however spend more time and efforts; or choose the no-sweat-easy-thing by simply contacting a tour operator, pay and leave everything to their professional services, until you hop into the tourist bus, train, or plane.
VIATOR’S DAY TOUR IN RIO DE JANEIRO
In my recent 2-week-break in South America where I went to few personally selected cities in Brasil, Peru and Bolivia, I combined both ways to do things for my travel. After I read online reviews of tour-operators in Brasil and Peru, I chose package tours that offer my preferred itineraries, and opted for Viator (Disclosure : Neither I pitch to be sponsored, nor they offer sponsorship. Needless to say, I paid voluntarily. It follows that this is not a sponsored blog post.) to book day tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil and in Machu Picchu, Peru. The rest of my days were an imperfect product of my tedious research and decision making. It was a hit or miss-kind-of-thing. Either way, I’m proud to state that I learned so much from the entire experience!
Viator’s Day Tour in Rio de Janeiro covers most areas of interest. Although some may find it a bit steep in price, I consider it value-for-money (I paid USD 173.99. Kindly visit their website for detailed information). Everything was systematic and carried out properly. From the day I paid online, to the moment I received my tour voucher, until the day before the tour when their partner in Brasil – The Gray Line Tours confirmed the time and place for my pick-up, I could not speak of anything negative. I really have no reason to regret joining them even for a day. I could’ve not enjoyed those places had I did it the other way.
Since I did not stay in a hotel and opted to spend 3 nights in Rio de Janeiro in my AirBnB accommodation in Ipanema, they notified me that my pick-up spot is Sofitel Hotel in Copacabana Beach at around 8:15AM. I met our tour guide on time, who appeared in Gray Line Tours uniform with ID, and identified me easily, collected my printed tour voucher, and led me to the tourist bus that looked so new and clean, with surprisingly spacious leg room and super comfy seats.
Among the 26 tourists who speak French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and English (yes, those were the languages that Karla, our tour guide had to speak while annotating our itineraries. I personally find linguistics so intelligent and brilliant!), I heard my native tongue spoken in crisp Tagalog greetings by 2 Filipino couples. Yehey, I have my own tribe in our Day Tour!
Our tour guide Karla welcomed all of us warmly and officially started our day along Copacabana beach with a very fascinating statement :
“To your left is a yellow building fronting Copacabana Beach, with penthouse where Brazil’s famous gift to the world resides whenever he’s in Rio. It is where he wrote, The Alchemist. It’s the penthouse of the famous novelist, Paulo Coelho.”
Too bad, I was left in awe upon the sight of Paulo Coelho’s penthouse and forgot to click my camera. Not for long, we moved from Copacabana to downtown Rio de Janeiro and visited one of the most important religious landmarks in the city.
THE METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL OF SAN SEBASTIAN
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
It doesn’t require an architecture degree to appreciate the apparent beauty of this church. With contemporary design, the cathedral was based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids, with conical form inside and an impressive height of 75 meters! The church was constructed to be massive; it has 5,000-seating-capacity!
Following less than half an hour stay in the cathedral, we drove towards the location where world famous Rio de Janeiro’s Samba Parade is held every year!
SAMBADROME, THE VENUE OF RIO CARNIVAL
Dubbed as the most beautiful show on Earth, the Rio Carnival isn’t only a street-merry-making in this side of Brasil as it has evolved into something exciting and truly special! Twelve samba schools compete in two nights (6 Samba schools parade per night) of themed dancing, complete with colorful and flamboyant costumes, and elaborately detailed floats amidst the beat of the drums along the Sambadrome. Initially, I thought, that Rio Carnival is done in a main thoroughfare in the city where vehicular traffic is obstructed, not until I was educated when I found myself standing in the same place where they hold the world’s biggest party annually!
Third on the list of our itineraries that day was to ride cable cars twice en route the observatory deck at Sugarloaf Mountain.
PAO DE ACUCAR or SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN
One of the best ways to view and savor the incredibly stunning panorama of Rio de Janeiro is to ascend to the peak of Sugarloaf mountain via double cable car rides. Pao de Acucar in Portuguese, or Sugarloaf mountain is called as such, because its appearance resembles the traditional shape of refined loaf of sugar.
Obviously, the advantage of availing a Day Tour Package with Viator or Gray Line Tours was the fact that all tickets and admission fees are already included in the fee. There’s no need to wait on long queues as everything was prepaid.
The bubble-shaped-cable cars that offer tourists a 360-degree-view of the place!
Here we go!
Try to contract your eye muscles and you’ll see Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain! We first rode the first cable car that brought us to Morro da Urca at 220 meters high. On that station, the view of the city was already captivating! It served as a wonderful backdrop to our obligatory souvenir-shot amongst us Filipinos in the tour.
(left to right) Engineers Amy and Armando Lustre from Puerto Princesa, Palawan (who are globetrotters!), and Mang Boy and Ms. Baby from Boston, Massachusetts (who are world travelers as well)! Happy to meet them in Brasil!
Breathtaking, isn’t it?
Ladies and gents, boys and girls, here are the proofs of improvement and evolution of cable cars at Sugarloaf Mountain…
The summit of Pao de Acucar can be reached by a second cable car ride.
Because I was literally mesmerized by the beauty of Rio de Janeiro at all angles, I honestly didn’t notice that it’s almost past noon time. Despite a part of me wanted to stay longer than 45 minutes in such pretty place, I had to depart with our group to go down the bus for us to go back altogether to downtown Rio for much-needed-lunch that’s also included in the Viator Day Tour package.
CHURRASCO BUFFET LUNCH
I wasn’t expecting much from the tour hence, I was surprised when we were brought to a decent and tasteful Churrascaria or steakhouse for an authentic experience of Brazilian dining! Common in Latin America and European countries, churrasco or skewered and grilled meat of beef, pork, chicken, lamb, roast beef, barbecued beef ribs, chicken heart, turkey and ham were brought to our table and served generously to our hearts’ delight! Besides those carnivorous treats, there’s the restaurant buffet spread with various choices of salad, sushi and sashimi, seafood, vegetable and pasta dishes that were all enticing to one’s appetite! Churrasco and the buffet spread were included in the Day Tour package we availed except for preferred drinks and beverages. That restaurant serves beer, wines, juices, bottled water and soft drinks to wash down everything!
Ham slices that I loved to the last bite!
Chicken tikka and chicken heart.
Roast Beef that I found too salty.
CRISTO REDENTOR or CHRIST THE REDEEMER
The highlight of the day was our trip to the top of Corcovado Mountain to pay a visit to one of the world’s most iconic statues, Christ The Redeemer.
We alighted from the bus before a monument in a small park in front of the gates to the train to Cristo Redentor.
Spotted our very own Philippine flag however was displayed on the wrong side.
Then came those cogwheel trolley train that brought us up to Corcovado Mountain.
If you’re not availing of a Day Tour, options for you to reach the foot of Corcovado Mountain includes taking a public bus, or a taxi cab. If you failed to book tram tickets online (which is done by tour operators for those joining the day tour), you may reach the summit by taking a taxi cab or hiking up to the top.
Inside the cogwheel train, I was seated at the left side (mountain side when going up).
Red’s a perfect color for those trams!
And then, there’s that first-time glimpse of something iconic.
After seeing Him aboard a chopper tour via Helisight, standing in front of Him was a different feeling!
The statue of Cristo Redentor, named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, remains to be a great symbol not only for Rio de Janeiro but for entire Brasil! It strategically overlooks the entire peninsula at the peak of the 700-meter-Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest.
Overall, becoming a tourist in Rio de Janeiro was something I was happy of. The professionally guided tour from Viator / Gray Line in Rio allowed me to tick off Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain from my bucket list. I could’ve not covered those places all in one day if I did it on my own.
This South American Travel Blog Series includes :
- Brasil : My Lovely Home in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Helicopter Tour Over Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro
- Itinerary of Must Visit Places in Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : 36 hours in Sao Paulo
- Brasil : Chasing Waterfalls at Iguazu
- and so much more to follow. Please stay tuned for stories and photos from Peru and Bolivia!