Pedra da Gavea hike: Is this the best view of Rio de Janeiro?
Pedra da Gavea hike with vertigo
For someone who is not normally much of a hiker in England, I have found myself on many a treks in the last 7 months of travelling. Much to the dismay of my travel buddy Hannah, as we planned our next hike up one of Rio’s best viewpoint.
Pedra da Gavea was something I had seen on Instagram while looking for some inspiration before my next big trip. It was added to my list but at the end of the day, was I really going to hike up 4 hours while I was in Rio for Carnival?
It turns out that yes, yes I was going to take the challenge and climb up to one of Rio’s most impressive view points. Also one of the world’s highest coastal mountains, reaching 844 metres above sea level.
We got in touch with our guide Rafinha Copa the night before. At 6am the next morning we were raring, ok maybe not raring, but willing to go.
How I did the Pedra da Gavea hike:
Rafinha Copa – he does the Pedra da Gavea hike almost every day!
1-2 pax = R$200 per group
3-4 pax = R$300 per group
Up to 5 pax = R$60 per person
6am at the roundabout of Bar do Oswaldo and the 16 police station in Barra da Tujica.
difficult, 4-6 hours in total.
What to bring:
sunscreen, 2-3 litres of water, a hat, good trainers with decent grip and high energy snacks.
Up into the jungle
We met Rafinha and his assistant guide, Junior, in Barra da Tijuca and all signed in at the park entrance.
With a liver full of cachaça and an absolute extreme fear of heights, we began our trek through the Tijuca Forest. An easy walk but with what felt like 100% humidity and the rotten smell of jack fruit, it wasn’t such a pleasant start.
The dirt path soon turned into a vertical climb over rocks and tree roots and the sweat nonstop poured down places I never knew sweat could reach. Like eyebrows, chin(s) and shoulders!
Since reading other people’s accounts of their experience of the Pedra da Gavea hike, it appears we took a completely different route. I am so thankful for this. For 2 reasons; firstly being that we didn’t have to rock climb up a massive 30 metre steep wall. And secondly we had the most breathtaking view from the ‘garganta do céu’ – literal translation, the sky’s throat.
It takes an hour to reach this hidden cave, the sky’s throat, which is almost half way up. It offered the perfect rest spot. This cave has an ideal natural window, boasting the most stunning view of Rio’s coastline. It was hard to tear ourselves away from this vista, especially knowing the toughest part of the trek was coming up next.
On top of the rock
Once you clear the forest area, the rest of the Pedra da Gavea hike up is exposed to the heat of the day and many large rocks. This is when I had my mini breakdown. I had spoken to some people on Instagram whose photos I had seen of this hike and they did mention the use of ropes. I should have been more mentally prepared. But when faced with this apparatus, I freaked out. My fear of heights got the better of me.
Everyone was so supportive and patient with me. It really helped guide me up this, at the time, terrifying surface. I was so proud of myself for making it up, after a little tantrum. But this wasn’t the last time we’d be using ropes.
After scrambling up some more boulders, we finally reached the top of Pedra da Gavea.
We stood right out over the edge, peering down towards the Atlantic Ocean and other iconic landmarks, such as Dois Irmãos and Corcovado. There is another section to explore at the top of Pedra da Gavea. This is a little more adventurous to reach. Just when I hoped the rock climbing phase was over, I saw a large crack in the rock that we had to abseil down. And of course avoid the steep drop to my death on the right. We clambered up over the other side in order to discover new views of the south of Rio.
The photo ops here were extreme. One was of us sitting on a very small ledge with a huge drop down to the forest below. Another one was lying on our front and pretend to be flying off a protruding rock. The other was leaping over to a boulder to hang off. The last 2 I couldn’t face. I was happy with my ledge shot. After a couple of hours playing around and taking in some of the best views you could possibly imagine, we decided to make our way down. This is when it became apparent that we had taken a very contrasting route to other climbers.
Instead of scaling the 30 metre ‘Carrasqueira’ like many others, we slowly abseiled down. Some gracefully and others not so much. Myself and Hannah really struggled with this part but Rafinha and Junior were so amazing at helping us down.
The rest of the descent was an absolute dream, briskly walking down the dirt path until we finally reached tarmac, civilisation and a cafe for a well deserved iced açai!
Taking a guide
The route that Rafinha took us, garganta do céu, is one huge reason why I would recommend doing this trek with him as your guide.
There are many other reasons why you should get in touch with him as well. Such as his incredible homemade Oreo and condensed milk energy bar. His constant support for wimps like me who are terrified of heights. His motivation to go for the extreme photo ops, along with his unique photographic skills.
We were a small group, only 5 of us with Rafinha and Junior leading the way. I really had a fantastic time doing the Pedra da Gavea hike with these guys!
It was the first trek of my trip, a long 7 months ago. The feeling of exhilaration on this day has fuelled many more hikes, and aimless wanderings, along the way.
If you are a big thrill seeker and love a challenge then you will thrive off this! The Pedra da Gavea hike offers a completely different and unique way of experiencing and seeing Rio de Janeiro.