It could certainly be said that there isn’t a bad view of Rio de Janeiro. The city is absolutely stunning, and walking around town can leave you a little bit trigger happy with the camera. But that said, for those looking for some truly iconic photos and views of Rio de Janeiro, there are a couple spots that will get you that postcard view.
On my most recent visit to what is easily one of my favourite cities in the world for photography, I went out looking for 3 really cool sunset spots in Rio. I came away with some cool images, and think I managed to capture those iconic views with my own little twist added to each one of them as well.
Mirante Dona Marta or Christ the Redeemer
Of all the classic views of Rio, this is likely the most iconic. From here, you’ll be photographing down towards Sugarloaf Mountain and have Botafogo beach in your foreground. It makes for a fantastic place to photograph sunset as the sun will be right behind you and cast a glow on Sugarloaf. This view is memorizing, and your best location in the city to get that perfect view.
Getting Here: Essentially, there are two places to photograph this view. You can either go to Christ the Redeemer or a place called Mirante Dona Marta which is below Christ the Redeemer. Both offer that classic view, just from different angles, and Christ the Redeemer is farther away.
You can catch a taxi up here, or there are buses during the day. Beware that the cell coverage is incredibly weak up here, so if you have to call a taxi to get you after dark, it might happen that you have to hike down the hill a bit. I was lucky enough to meet a local photographer who offered to drive me down to the bottom.
In general, this area is safe, even at night. But take the usual precautions.
The view from Sugarloaf Mountain is the classic sunset view of Rio de Janeiro. However, for photographers, the fact that you’re shooting straight into the sun setting behind the mountains makes it a tricky place to shoot at this time of day. It would be a fantastic place to shoot sunrise. What also makes this spot a challenge to photograph is the hoards of people that come up here for sunset. You’ll be shoulder to shoulder with selfie stick-wielding locals and tourists, for sure. That said, the views from up on Sugarloaf are spectacular, and you should definitely still make the cable car journey up here to photograph it all. Despite the challenges of light and crowds, I got some cool photos from up here.
Getting Here: From Copacabana and Botafogo you can easily walk here. However, there are also regular city buses from around the city that come here. Bus 107 comes here from the center of the city, and 512 comes from Leblon/Ipanema here via Copacabana.
Once you arrive, you will catch two different cable cars to two different viewing areas, the top one on Sugarloaf Mountain is the best. Sugarloaf Mountain is open until a couple hours after sunset, so you can definitely get your low-light photos here.
Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers) Peak
Dois Irmaos is the mountain you see in the background of all those photos of Ipanema Beach. And though the mountain looks absolutely massive from the beach, it’s a fairly easy hike and offers perhaps the best view of Rio de Janeiro. I was a little bit apprehensive about hiking up to Dois Irmaos for sunset as I wasn’t really sure if the area was safe at night.
However after visiting, and photographing Rio de Janeiro from up on the peak until dark, I realized that this area is completely safe. This was my favourite view of Rio, and it was my favourite place to photograph the city as well.
Getting Here: By bus, catch a Sao Conrado bound city bus and ask your driver to stop at Vidigal. I caught bus #177 to get here, although there are others that do the trip. You can arrive to Vidigal on foot from Ipanema, as well if you’re willing to add to your hike. Of course, you can also catch a taxi here.
Once you get to Vidigal, you can either hike up through the favela (which is very safe) to the start of the trail, or catch a moto-taxi (video of the moto-taxi ride, here). The moto-taxis cost 3 Real up, or 2 Real down the favela. Personally, I chose to take the moto-taxi to save time. The moto-taxi will drop you off at the football pitch which is where the start of the trail is. You’ll find the trailhead by walking to the left side of the field and climbing through the forest.
It’s about an hour’s hike to the viewpoint at Dois Irmaos. Along the way there are views of Rocinho favela and the Atlantic Ocean. The hike is somewhat difficult, but I feel like most people can do it without much struggle. There are a couple slippery bits, so watch your step.
Some Alternative Views
Of course, I couldn’t visit all the views in Rio on this trip. However, I have checked out some other spots for photography on other trips to Rio. These are some of the alternative views
From Ipanema Beach, you get a really cool view of the beach with Dois Irmaos Peak in the background. This is one of the classic views of Rio, and looks spectacular at either sunset or sunrise.
Mirante de Leblon
Ipanema Beach is essentially split in two with the half closest to Dois Irmaos being called Leblon. At the very end of Leblon Beach there’s a viewpoint called Mirante de Leblon that offers a great angle of the beaches with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. Again, this is a great spot for sunset in Rio. There’s even a couple bars and restaurants here, so you can enjoy a drink with your view.
Believe it or not, one of the best views of Rio de Janeiro is found in the shopping center in Botafogo up in the food court. There’s even a little viewing area for people to take photo, albeit through glass. Still, if you want a cool photo of Botafogo and Sugarloaf Mountain this is a cool spot.
Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
The thing about Rio de Janeiro is that it’s bigger than you expect. On the map, it looks fairly tucked in and densely populated. In reality, getting around is a bit of a journey. So, I think you want to be fairly central to the photo locations.
Personally, I think the Copacabana area is probably the best place to stay in Rio de Janeiro for photographers. You have access to lots of photo spots, and you have both public transport and the taxi system at your finger 24/7.
I’ve stayed in some of the hostels in Rio de Janeiro, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend them. Backpackers come here to party, and they’ll often bring that into the hostel with them. If you want to sleep to get good photos at sunrise, get a hotel.
Although a bit pricey, I had really good experiences staying at the various Windsor hotels in Rio de Janeiro. I highly recommend them.
What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog?
After enjoying my photography in Rio de Janeiro, I made my way to the north of the country. I have articles and videos coming from Olinda, Jericoacoara, and the Amazon. Stay tuned!