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Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro City

For those who love nature tourism and ecotourism, there is a huge tropical forrest in the middle of Rio the Janeiro City, with waterfalls, pictoresque winding paved roads, trails, animals and a vast range of birds species, colorful butterflies and some historic attractions.

A Forest in The Middle of The City

Bridge built in 1862 before Taunay Waterfalls in Tijuca ForestThere are more than 3,300 hectares of forest with waterfalls, trails, animals and birds of different species, colorful butterflies and beetles, natural attractions beyond words and, besides all that, cozy trails where visitors can have a conversation, meditate, taste delicious samples of Brazilian or International cuisine, research cultural, historical, geographic or ecological themes, celebrate family or religious events. All this for those who love nature tourism and ecotourism.

Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest) is Patrimony of Humanity and one of the Biosphere Reserves most representative among those that have received the distínction from UNESCO.

Stretching over a large area on the south slope of Tijuca and Papagaio peaks, towards Pedra do Conde, and once reaching Alto da Boa Vista going down to Açude da Solidão, the forest is even more remarkable because of its historical formation, its symbiosis with the city of Rio de Janeiro and its proximity to the urban center.

A little deeper knowledge of the geological formation of the region occupied by Tijuca Florest will show that its emergence involves the hills and peaks reflected on the splendorous waters of Guanabara Bay.

Pico da Tijuca (Tijuca Peak), the most notable elevation in the whole massif is a granitic relief dating from the geological beginnings of the American continent. After that appeared stretches of the original forest in various shades of green.

Having yet to be visited by humans, the forest was then occupied by an enormous variety of trees, plants, liana of all types and sizes, all that vegetation shading the springs, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. There were also mammals, reptiles, birds and butterflies.

That original forest would remain so until divided into farms and rural properties by the nobility looking for milder temperatures during the hottest months of the year in nineteen century Rio.

Later, generalized deforesting gave place to the first Brazilían coffee plantations. The intensiva cultivation of coffee destroyed the original Tijuca Forest, the irrational form of exploration causing the first ecoiogical troubles for the people, including water shortage as a significant part of the supply depended on sources in the forest.

In 1857 a new chapter began in the history of Tijuca Forest when approximately 100 thousand seedlings were planted over 13 years continuously.

The various shades of green in Tijuca Forest at present, and the 120 kms of trees, are part of the program of reflorestation by transplant and preservation started during the reign of emperor D Pedro II and supervised by major Manuel Gomes Archer who had slaves and paid workers under him.

Taunay Waterfalls in Tijuca ForestAcher used seedlings of "ipê", annatto, "sapucaia", cedar, brazilwood, "peroba", rose-chestnut, Brazilian mahogany, cinnannon, mimosa, "rnaria-preta", eucalípt, species of breadfruit tree, Brazilian myrtle tree, mango tree etc, blending some foreign trees to species of the Atlantic Forest.

The transplantation of the fauna was achieved gradually as birds, insects, small animals and even monkeys and wild cats were attracted again to the forest.

The water shortage and near destruction of original sources, which motivated the transplantation of the forest, were no longer grounds for editoriais and articles criticizing the authorities and printed on the first page of newspapwers. The forest in all its splendor and vitality was returned to the city.

Between 1874 and 1888 there was a second reforestation under the management of Barão Gastão d'Escragnole Taunay. It was then also turned into a park, leisure area open to the public. The french landscaper, Auguste Glaziou, who was working in Rio for the emperor, created the landscape project for the park with bridges, lakes, waterfalls and the addition of exotic plants.

The painter Nicole Antoine Taunay made paintings of the forest and hosted his friends from the imperial court and foreigners at his property in the area, thus publicizing the forest and its natural beauty. The Taunay Cascade has its name after the painter, who had a house next to the cascade.

The wealthy entrepreneur Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya, with the help of archítect Vladimir Alves de Souza and landscaper Roberto Burle Marx, recovered the forest during his administration from 1943 to 1946, giving new life to the park that had been forgotten in the first years of the Republic.

Excelsior trail in Tijuca ForestThe forest itself is the main attraction for those curious and interested in it, but also remarkable is Parque Nacional da Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest National Park) and its several extraordinary sites to be visited such as Cascatinha Taunay, Açude da Solidão (a small reservoir named Solitude), Bom Retiro, Excelsior mirador or belvedere, Capela Mayrink, Mesa do Imperador mirador, Vista Chinesa mirador, Museu do Açude (Açude Museum), Horto Florestal and various grottos especially Paulo e Virgínia.

Tijuca Forest, revitalizing lungs of Rio, the Wonderful City, is accessible and popular, being near famous neighborhoods such as Botafogo, Gávea, Jacarepaguá, Laranjeiras and others. There visitors find a haven from the daily and disturbing noises and bustle of life in the big city.

The many trails in Parque Nacional da Floresta da Tijuca (Tijuca Forest National Park) please all tastes, interests and physical conditions. But there are other enjoyable leisurely options, such as visiting to Fonte Wallace and admire the beautiful art of the sculpture donated by French metalurgic from VaL D'Osner, playing with children in the allocated areas, or finding all the belvederes spread over the park.

The trail to mirador Excelsior is one of the most beautiful rustic paths of the Tijuca Forest Park. In old times, it was paved, but nowadays it has turned into a rustic trail again. As you go along the rustic road with huge trees on each side, you can see also beautiful plants, an small bridge over a stream and some nooks.

Os Esquilos Restaurant in Tijuca ForestSitting nook on the Excelsior trail in Tijuca Forest

On the left picture, you see above, Os Esquilos Restaurant, which was started in the 1940´s, in a restored colonial style house, from the 19th century. On the right picutre, you see a picturesque sitting nook on trail that leads you to Excelsior mirador in Tijuca Forest.

Bridge built in 1862 before Taunay Waterfalls in Tijuca ForestA Fazenda Restaurant in Tijuca Forest

Bridge built in 1862 before Taunay Waterfalls in Tijuca Forest. The waterfall is about 30 meters high. The picture was taken from a beautiful nook with a small lake, streams and park benchs. On the left, in the pic you see above, A Fazenda Restaurant was inaugurated in the middle of the 1940´s, in a restored house, wich used to be headquarter of a Coffee Farm in the first half of the 19th century. This restaurant nowadays need some restoration, anyway it is worth a visit. When Rio de Janeiro City was the capital city, many politicians used to visit the place, including a Brazilian President.

References:

  • Riotur brochures | City of Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority
  • Many books about the history and iconography of Rio de Janeiro City