Set within the Tijuca National Park's Serra da Carioca is Paineiras, an area oft spoken of for its tranquility and waterfalls but singularly hard to place on a map. It is in fact part of the Estrada Redentor, the roadway up to Christ the Redeemer, named after the centuries old Paineiras tree (Ceiba in English) even though today the area is Atlantic Rainforest. Closed to traffic at the weekends, it is a literal breath of fresh air for those wanting to escape the stifling heat below.
Cross the barrier and head towards the climbing school and a set of rusted old workout equipment awaits anybody for whom the trecking isn't enough exercise for one day. Beyond them are the 'waterfalls' of pure, very cold, water from the top of the hill to cleanse the soul. Opposite the main source is a viewpoint out towards the Lagoa and Gávea, and a second, smaller outlet offers a clean refill of water bottles for the trip back down.
Access to Paineiras is possible until 5pm, but allow plenty of time to get up and out again to avoid the wrath of the forest guards. Rua Almirante Alexandrino, running all the way from Santa Teresa and Cosme Velho to the top, is the best access point, or take Rua Amado Nervo off Rua Boa Vista and hit Estrada Redentor from the West. It can also be reached by van or taxi from Cristo Redentor itself for anyone who has taken the tram uphill, and the occasional runner and cyclist can always be seen admiring the route through gritted teeth.