15 Best Day Trips from Rio de Janeiro

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The marvelous city of Rio is located on the South Atlantic coast and is the second largest city in Brazil with several districts. Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1565 by Portuguese colonialists. This captivating city is famous for its laidback beach culture, its breathtaking landscapes, the mixed architecture, villages that have been transformed into hip towns, and most of all, its annual carnival. It is one of the most visited cities in the southern hemisphere.

Parts of Rio have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their spectacular beauty. There are so many places to explore on a day trip, to experience the incredible city and its neighboring areas. Here is our list of the 15 best day trips from Rio:

1. Cristo Redentor

Cristo Redentor, RioSource: dmitry_islentev / shutterstock
Cristo Redentor

The world­famous statue of “Christ the Redeemer” was constructed between 1922 and 1931. The 30­meter high statue stands on an 8-metre pedestal and stretches out its hands to a width of 28m. The Cristo Redentor statue is made of reinforced soapstone and concrete. This statue weighs 635 metric tons.

The gigantic statue of Jesus Christ was designed by Paul Landowski, a Polish-French sculptor, and constructed by engineers Heitor da Silva Costa and Albert Caquot. The construction of this symbol of Christianity is famous across the world was almost entirely financed by the Brazilian Catholics.

The open-armed statue is strategically situated at the top of the Corcovado Mountain which is found in the Tijuca Forest. The mountain is 700m high and for this reason, the statue is visible from almost every corner of the city.

It will take you approximately 30 minutes to get to the top of the mountain using gauge trains that are commonly used by the public.

Recommended tour: Christ the Redeemer, Selarón Stairs & Sugar Loaf Sunset Tour

2. Tijuca Forest National Park

Tijuca Forest National ParkSource: vitormarigo / shutterstock
Tijuca Forest National Park

The Tijuca Forest is said to be the world’s largest forest within a city; it covers an area of 32km2. Within this tropical rainforest is a 3,953­hectare national park which was established in 1867.

The park protects the Tijuca forest which was the first replanted forest in the world, starting in the 1850s after the land was almost destroyed completely by coffee farmers. It also protects a couple of waterfalls and a multitude of trails as well as the historical ruins of the coffee age.

Tijuca National Park is home to the Christ the Redeemer statue which stands on Corcovado. The park also has several viewpoints that overlook the city. For this reason, the Tijuca National Park is a popular tourist destination.

On your trip to the Tijuca Forest and National Park, expect to spot some hawks, toucans, Capuchin monkeys, brilliant blue butterflies, and the colorful Brazilian racoons.

Suggested tour: Rio: Half-Day Jeep Tour at Floresta da Tijuca

3. Petropolis

Petropolis, BrazilSource: Diego Grandi / shutterstock

If you’re looking to escape from the city’s harshness and experience some new adventures, you need to visit Petropolis which is located 68km from Rio. This Mountain Resort offers a cool and calm environment with plenty of historic architecture from the 19th century as well as some charming hotels.

The Petropolis is an elegant resort situated in the highly forested valley of Serra dos Orgaos. Here you will find the Imperial Museum which was the former Summer Palace of King Pedro II. The museum houses really important memorabilia from the Brazilian history.

On your trip to Petropolis, you should make a stop by the Crystal Palace, the Palacio Quitandinha, the beautiful Cathedral Sao Pedro de Alcantara, and the Museu Casa de Santo Dumont.

Book tour: Petrópolis: Imperial City Tour

4. Volta Redonda

Volta RedondaSource: Alekk Pires / shutterstock
Volta Redonda

Volta Redonda is located 99km from Rio de Janeiro.

The city of Volta Redonda is also referred to as the “City of Steel,” after its main traditional export. There are a couple of museums in Volta Redonda that are dedicated to the city’s steel exporting heritage.

In addition to the museums, other attractions in Volta Redonda include galleries and breweries. The surrounding countryside features picturesque hills and valleys. Tourists come here to try out some extreme sports such as zip-lining.

5. Prainha Beach

Prainha Beach, RioSource: Tupungato / shutterstock
Prainha Beach

In Portuguese, Prainha means “Little Beach.” Prainha is one of the cleanest beaches in Rio and a favorite among nature lovers.

This half­moon beach is one of the popular surfing spots in the city. Prainha Beach is bordered on the sides by rocks, high cliffs, and cool evergreen mountains adding to its breathtaking beauty. This beach is surrounded by a tropical rainforest. Make a trip to this must­visit beach to explore the wildlife that hides within the rocks.

If you are looking for that cozy feeling of isolation, come to Prainha. There are numerous splendid views in store for you.

The best time to visit Prainha Beach is on weekdays to avoid the crowds that flock to this beach on weekends. The beach has black sands of volcanic origin, a couple of cute kiosks, restaurants, and enormous waves.

6. Angra Dos Reis

Angra Dos ReisSource: R.M. Nunes / shutterstock
Angra Dos Reis

Angra Dos Reis translates to “Creek of the Kings.” This amazing archipelago made up of 365 islands was discovered in 1502. Angra Dos Reis is located 168km to the south of Rio de Janeiro, at an altitude of 6m.

This amazing port makes a great destination for a day trip thanks to the abundant markets, churches, buildings, and gorgeous isolated beaches. There are endless opportunities for adventure in Angra Dos Reis. This city does not disappoint; you will feel like you’re in a totally different world.

You can either make a trip out to the sea or head inland to explore the beautiful treks and the towering waterfalls.

Available tour: Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande: Small-Group Fast-Boat Tour

7. Cabo Frio

Cabo Frio, BrazilSource: Tupungato / shutterstock
Cabo Frio, Brazil

Cabo Frio translates to “Cold Cape.” Cabo Frio is sandwiched between lagoons, sand dunes, and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. It was discovered on the 13th of November 1615 making it the 7th oldest city in Brazil.

This fairly large town is frequented by visitors who come to see the colonial houses and of course, the beaches. The main beach in Capo Frio is Praia do Forte which has a 7.5km coastline allowing plenty of space for holidaymakers. Other beaches include the Praia das Dunas, and Arraial do Cabo.

8. Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande, BrazilSource: ostill / shutterstock
Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande translates to “Bid Island.”

The underdeveloped Ilha Grande used to serve as a prison island until 20 years ago. Today, the area is fiercely protected. Ilha Grande is made up of hillsides, lush tropical forest, and breathtaking beaches with abundant wildlife. All these features make this island a must­go day trip for every tourist. Once you get to this tranquil island, you will find it very hard to leave.

Besides the fact that this island is home to some endangered species such as the brown howler monkeys and the maned sloth, it also boasts one of the top beaches in Brazil: Lopes Mendes.

Available tour: Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande: Small-Group Fast-Boat Tour

9. Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf Mountain, RioSource: Mihai Simonia / shutterstock
Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf is one of Rio’s best-known landmarks and one of the country’s top attractions. The peak of Sugarloaf Mountain towers at 396m above the harbor. Sugarloaf is known for its cableway which allows panoramic views of the city. This landmark was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

Sugarloaf got its name from its conical shape. It’s perched on a point on the shore that extends out into the ocean and surrounds the harbor. Sugarloaf is connected to Rio by a low-lying strip of land.

Recommended tour: Sugar Loaf Mountain Half Day Morning Tour

10. Paraty

Paraty, BrazilSource: Uwe Bergwitz / shutterstock

This small colonial town that is located 125 miles to the south of Rio is named after a local swamp fish. Paraty’s town center is full of well-preserved colonial buildings and historic monuments.

At the back of the city is the Bocaino Mountains, which are not only delightful to the eyes but also provide the perfect natural setting to explore the jungle.

Paraty is slightly further away (a 4-hour drive) from Rio compared to other day trip destinations, but you will fall in love with this beautiful city and its cobbled streets.

If you have extra time, make a stop by the sugarcane plantations.

11. Maracana

Maracana StadiumSource: Paolo Costa / shutterstock
Maracana Stadium

Any avid football fan must visit Brazil’s largest stadium which can accommodate more than 78,838 spectators. The stadium is used to hold matches as well as concerts.

The Maracana stadium is named after the River Maracana. The stadium includes an arena called the Maracanazinho which translates to “The Little Maracana.”

Suggested tour: Maracana Stadium 3-Hour Behind-the-Scenes Tour

12. Buzios

Buzios, BrazilSource: Catarina Belova / shutterstock

The culturally­rich village of Buzios is located just a few hours away from Rio. Once a fishing village, Buzios has now been transformed into a sophisticated place full of breathtaking beaches and an epic nightlife.

There are 23 beaches lining the peninsula, making it a popular spot for surfers, divers, and snorkelers. The Eastern side tends to be a bit windy while the Western side is calmer and more tranquil.

Buzios’ close proximity to Rio makes it a perfect day trip destination. The beaches are not the only attractions in the village. There is also the Emerencias Reserve which is home to the beautiful endangered golden monkeys.

13. Jardim Botanico

Jardim Botanico, Rio de JaneiroSource: Nessa Gnatoush / shutterstock
Jardim Botanico

This botanical garden is located at the coast of Corcovado and covers an area of 350 acres. This ecological sanctuary combines a scientific laboratory and show gardens.

At the Jardim Botanico, there is the Orchidarium which is a greenhouse made up of iron and glass. The greenhouse was built in the 1930s and has more than 2,000 species of orchids. Another highlight is the Japanese Garden that is listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The Japanese Garden is home to koi ponds, bonsai trees, wooden bridges, cherry trees, and over 8,000 species of birds and plants.

14. Quinta da Boa Vista

Quinta da Boa VistaSource: CP DC Press / shutterstock
Quinta Da Boa Vista

This public park contains gardens, villas, imperial palaces, and museums. The palace was a residence of the Emperor of Brazil between 1808 and 1889.

The park is of much historical importance and houses the National Museum which holds the largest collection of archeology, botanical, ethnographic and zoological collections in the country. The museum contains more than one million items.

Expect to see more than 2,000 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the park’s zoo.

15. Catedral De Sao Sebastiao

Catedral De Sao Sebastiao, RioSource: Matyas Rehak / shutterstock
Catedral De Sao Sebastiao

This cathedral is also referred to as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian.

The architect who designed this cathedral took his inspiration from the Mayan pyramids. The Cathedral De Sao Sebastiao was built between 1964 and 1979 and is commonly referred to as the “New Cathedral.”

This cathedral has a seating capacity of 5,000. From the floor of the church, there are 4 glass windows that go up to a height of 64m resulting in a brilliantly lit church. The interior is 94m high. At night, the church is lit from within using a bright beacon, which is visible in the central skyline.

15 Best Day Trips from Rio de Janeiro:

  • Cristo Redentor
  • Tijuca Forest National Park
  • Petropolis
  • Volta Redonda
  • Prainha Beach
  • Angra Dos Reis
  • Cabo Frio
  • Ilha Grande
  • Sugarloaf
  • Paraty
  • Maracana
  • Buzios
  • Jardim Botanico
  • Quinta da Boa Vista
  • Catedral De Sao Sebastiao