On the far side of the Lagoa (across from [node"79613 link Ipanema]) is the lush upscale neighborhood of Jardim Botânico. While wealthy residents may lack sea views, they are handsomely rewarded by being in between the jungly slopes of Corcovado and the exotic flora of one of the world’s best botanical gardens.
Aside from possessing some of the city’s chicest restaurants and bars, Jardim Botânico is where the Globo television network has its Rio headquarters, ensuring the presence of lots of celebs (and paparazzi).
A 138-hectare (340-acre) urban oasis (it’s been scientifically proven that the temperature is always a bit cooler here than elsewhere in this often humid city), Rio’s botanical garden, also called Jardim Botânico (Rua Jardim Botânico 1008, Jardim Botânico, tel. 21/3874-1808, www.jbrj.gov.br, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, R$4), offers an unparalleled green mix of native Atlantic forest, lagoons covered with giant lily pads, and over 8,000 plant species. Many of them—pineapples, cinnamon, and tea among them—were introduced here prior to their cultivation in the rest of Brazil.
Created by Dom João I, who planted the park’s signature double row of imperial palms, the Jardim Botânico is a wonderfully tranquil refuge during the week (on weekends, it fills up with Cariocas and their kids). Highlights include the scent garden, the cactus garden, and the fabulous orquidário, featuring over 1,000 species of wild orchids. Kids (and adults) with a fondness for the mildly gruesome will enjoy the carnivorous plant collection. Near the entrance is a pretty café and a great gift shop with lots of eco-souvenirs.
Adjacent to the Jardim Botânico is the Parque Lage (Rua Jardim Botânico 414, Jardim Botânico, tel. 21/2527-2397, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, free), designed by 19th-century English landscaper John Tyndale. Its winding paths snake around small ponds and through the lush tropical landscape that covers the lower slopes of Corcovado.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition