Few famous sights in the world live up to the high expectations overexposure has placed on them. The view from Corcovado mountain is one of them. Come, if you can, for dusk. Almost a kilometre above the city and at the apex of one of the highest pinnacles in Tijuca forest stands O Redentor – Christ the Redeemer – lit in brilliant xenon and with arms open to embrace the urban world’s most breathtaking view.
At his feet to the west are a panoply of bays, fringed with white and backed by twinkling skyscrapers and the neon of myriad street lights. To the east as far as the eye can see lie long stretches of sand washed by green and white surf. And in front and to the south, next to the vast ocean beaches, is the sparkle of Niterói watched over by low grey mountains and connected to Rio by a 10-km-long sinuous bridge that threads its way across the 10-km expanse of Guanabara Bay. As the light fades, the tropical forest at Christ’s back comes to life in a chorus of cicadas and evening birdsong loud enough to drown even the chatter of a thousand tourists.
At the base of the mountain is the sleepy suburb of Cosme Velho, leafy and dotted with grand houses, museums and a little artist’s corner called the Largo do Boticario. There are several ways to reach the top of Corcovado. A cog railway and a road connect the city to the mountain from Cosme Velho. Both are on the northern side of the Rebouças tunnel, which runs to and from the Lagoa. From the upper terminus of the cog railway, there is a climb of 220 steps to the top or you can take the newly installed escalator, near which there is a café. Mass is held on Sunday in a small chapel in the statue pedestal. There is a museum at the station with panels showing the history of the statue and the railway.