Rio is a huge city with tall skyscrapers, an abundance of honking cars and horrible, just outright horrible traffic jams. It is loud, dirty and intensely busy. But at the same time it is full of nature, has one of the largest urban forests and lies nestled in between beautiful mountains for hikers and gorgeous beaches for surfing. It truly is a nature city and each and every Carioca loves this quality about their home town. Especially in comparison with other huge South American cities such as Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires Rio is so much greener and has numerous places of complete tranquility, mere minutes away from its busy centre. It is what makes Rio de Janeiro such a mindblowingly beautiful place and allows you to enjoy both the culture, nightlife and restaurants of a big city as well as beautiful forests, beaches and mountains. While you will probably know about Rio´s beaches in Ipanema and Copacabana here are some more hidden gems of Rio´s surroundings.

Parque Nacional da Tijuca

The largest urban forest spreads over about 39 square kilometers and also is the home of the famous Jesus statue on the top of the Corcovado. It has an abundance of wild life and a number of beautiful waterfalls. There are a number of guided hiking and jeep tours, but most of the trails are well marked enough to just go on a hike by yourself. Well marked does not mean easily accessible, so you should be at least on a certain level of fitness and wear suitable shoe work. Brazilians might be able to do these hikes in flip-flops, but anyone who did not grow up in them will not manage this sorcery. Make sure to bring lots of water, some snacks and maybe a light jacket as well, the altitude plus the shade from the tree usually keeps the park a little more on the chilly side. It´s best to take a cab or an Uber to the park as it´s not the easiest to reach with public transport. Uber is usually incredibly cheap (2-4 Euros for a 20 minute ride) and often a much quicker and easier option than the Metro or buses, especially when you are not just taking it by yourself.

Jardim Botanico

With trees from the amazon, a rose garden and an army of little monkey a trip to the Botanical Garden of Rio has everyone you could wish for. Strolling around here for a couple of hours easily lets you forget that you are in a city of almost 6.5 million people. Supposedly there are even sloths in the more remote areas of the park, but even if you do not find them you are sure to have a good time for only 10 Reais or about 3 Euros. We sadly went in Brazilian winter, which meant far less flowers than usual, but even then it is definitely still worth a visit and if it´s only for some peace of mind amongst Rio´s buzz.

Morro Dois Irmaos 

This has been my absolute favourite new attraction in Rio. While the view from the Christo and the Sugarloaf are well-known by most visitors of the Cidade Maravilhosa, there is an even better (and much, much cheaper) option for an incredibly view over Rio from Dois Irmaos, the iconic mountain you can see from Ipanema. All it will take is some sweat and a little bit of muscle work, but you will get a view like no other, being able to see both the Christo and the Sugarloaf at the same time. Laying between two favelas Rocinha, one of the biggest favelas of South America and Vidigal the hike was not accessible to tourists until the pacification of them for the Football World Championship, but today so many tourist come here, that you should not do this hike on weekends as the top will be quite crowded.
To get here take an Uber or Cab to the main square of Favela Vidigal on Avenida Niemeyer. You can also take buses 557, 2337 or 104 from Ipanema or Copacabana, as long as it says Niemeyer as one of the destinations you should be fine. Once you get off at the main square you will see a number of white vans or mototaxis waiting to take you to the top. Both will take you to the access of the trail next to a football field, but I can honestly say the motorbikes are much more fun. They will also cost you a little more than the vans (10 Reais compared to 3). From the football field you can access the trail up the mountain. The climb takes between 45 minutes and an hour and is quite steep in some places, so take some decent shoes. Once again Brazilians may be able to do this in flip flops, but gringos should not attempt this.

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