Even before you arrive in Rio , the word will be rolling around on your tongue: “Corcovado”—and not just because it’s the title of one of the best-known and most languorous bossa nova tunes of all times (penned by João Gilberto and sung, in English, by his then wife, Astrud Gilberto).
One of Rio’s most instantly recognizable and oft-visited icons, Corcovado (Hunchback—the English translation lacks the lyrical sonority of its Portuguese name) mountain rises straight up from the center of Rio to a lofty height of 700 meters (2,300 feet).
Equally iconic is the 30-meter (100-foot) art deco statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), his outstretched arms enveloping the surrounding city, that crowns Corcovado’s sheer granite face. The statue, a gift from France to commemorate 100 years of Brazilian independence in 1921, didn’t actually make it up to the top of the mountain until 1931.
Since then, however, Cristo Redentor has become a true beacon, visible from almost anywhere in the city. It is particularly striking at night when, due to a powerful illumination system, the Cristo glows like an otherworldly angel against the darkened sky.
Needless to say, the views from the top of Corcovado are utterly breathtaking. They’re even more impressive than those proffered from Pão de Açúcar  (which is half the size).
The most scenic—and most fun—way to get to the top of Corcovado is by taking the 19th-century cog-wheel train from the Estação Cosme Velho (Rua Cosme Velho 513, Cosme Velho, tel. 21/2558-1329, www.corcovado.com.br , R$36 round-trip fare including R$5 entrance fee). Trains depart every 30 minutes 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. daily.
The crazily steep ride takes 20 minutes and treats you to stunning views of the beaches of Zona Sul and the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas . Once you get off the train, you reach the Cristo by walking up a flight of 220 steep steps. If you’re feeling a little lazy, choose between the recently installed escalator or the panoramic elevator.
From Cosme Velho  station, you can also get a taxi to the top, which costs R$5, with an additional R$5 per passenger.
Avoid weekends, when the road becomes clogged with traffic and the lines for the trains are quite long. If possible, it’s best to beat the crowds by leaving early on a weekday morning when you’ll have the added privilege of seeing Rio  bathed in golden light. It goes without saying that you should choose a clear day for your visit.