Surrounding Corcovado is the dense, tropical Tijuca Forest, also known as the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. Once part of a Brazilian nobleman's estate, it's studded with exotic trees and thick jungle vines and has several waterfalls, including the delightful Cascatinha de Taunay (Taunay Waterfall). About 180 meters (200 yards) beyond the waterfall is the small pink-and-purple Capela Mayrink (Mayrink Chapel), with painted panels by the 20th-century Brazilian artist Cândido Portinari.
The views are breathtaking from several points along this national park's 96 km (60 miles) of narrow winding roads. Some of the most spectacular are from Dona Marta, on the way up Corcovado; the Emperor's Table, supposedly where Brazil's last emperor, Pedro II, took his court for picnics; and, farther down the road, the Chinese View, the area where Portuguese king João VI allegedly settled the first Chinese immigrants to Brazil, who came in the early 19th century to develop tea plantations. A great way to see the forest is by Jeep or van; you can arrange tours through several agencies, among them Brazil Expedition (www.brazilexpedition.com) and Jeep Tour (021/2108–5800,www.jeeptour.com.br).