Jardim Botânico de Rio de Janeiro – Top Ten Garden

Ornamental lake with Victoria lilies
Ornamental pond with Victoria lilies

Only a short distance from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema and the hustle and bustle of central Rio, there is a peaceful tropical garden with over 6,000 species of Brazilian and foreign flora and many species of birds and animals.

The Jardim Botânico de Rio de Janeiro dates back to 1808 and covers an area of 330 acres, however only 40% is cultivated the rest being Atlantic Forest rising up the slopes of Corcovado Mountain below the Christ the Redeemer statue, which can be seen from some parts of the garden.

Christ the Redeemer towering over the gardens
Christ the Redeemer towering over the gardens

The entrance to the garden passes through a 750 metre avenue of 134 tall royal palms, all descended from a single tree, with a central feature of a painted cast-iron Fountain of the Muses made in Derby, UK. Other features in the cultivated part of the garden are many sculptures, glass-houses containing orchids (600 different species) and carnivorous plants, a Japanese garden and, amid lush vegetation, an ornamental lake with giant Victoria lilies.

The uncultivated part includes a shaded walk where in addition to a wide range of birds, I also saw some tufted-eared marmosets.

The way that the well-managed formal gardens flow smoothly into the wild mountain slopes, in a similar manner to Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, is one of the main reasons that I include the Jardim Botânico in my list of  Top Ten Gardens.

Avenue of Royal Palms
Avenue of royal palms

Entry to the garden costs only about £2; entry is free for Seniors, provided you are South American!

Near the Visitors Centre, which includes a small gift shop, the Café Botânica provides coffee, cakes and light lunch options in an attractive setting.

So if you are thinking of visiting Rio, possibly for the football World Cup in 2014 or the Olympics in 2016, then in addition to visiting the beaches, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue, also take the short bus journey to Jardim Botânico. You won’t be disappointed.