My name is Guilherme Pessanha but everyone calls me Pessanha due to my Instagram (@pessanha_g). I was born and raised in Rio – I’m what you call a typical suburban Carioca! I have never thought of living anywhere else because to me Rio is like a country within a city. The amount of diverse places to visit here is absurd, which made my life a lot easier as I work in the tourism industry as a Rio de Janeiro tour and photography guide.
I think this was always going to be my path in life. I never had anyone in my family who worked in this field and even received a few funny looks when I said I would continue with tourism. But there was no way I could stop. It was fate! The first time I heard about “being a guide” was when I was 8 years old. I was on vacation in a place that I always visited with my family and we had friends over from out of town. My parents were very tired, so I went alone to show them the city. Afterwards, our friends mentioned to us that I could potentially be a good tour guide. Then that idea stuck with me.
I have been a guide for 7 years now and have worked in a few areas: from city tours with buses, to hiking trails and adventure sports. Today, I run personalized tours around Cidade Maravilhosa with transport and photos included. Our reservations are made exclusively through Instagram where you can also find out a little bit more about us and our day-to-day activities, in addition to seeing the photos and videos we take during our tours.
It’s impossible not to love Rio! The nickname “Wonderful City” isn’t used for nothing. Everyday there is something new to surprise you: the incredible sky, the green mountains, the shimmering sea, the Carioca culture, etc. Many of my customers ask me if I ever get tired of seeing the same things, and I always answer that each new day gives me another reason to fall in love. There are so many amazing things to do here. If you are planning on visiting, and love leaving a vacation with stunning photos, then continue reading to learn about the best photography spots in Rio de Janeiro!
10 Best Photography Spots in Rio de Janeiro
1. Sugarloaf Mountain
The one part of Rio that is the most captivating to me is Sugarloaf Mountain. There you are afforded a magnificent view of the city. It’s also the easternmost point in the center, so the panoramas are complete – especially during sunset. Sugarloaf has sentimental value to me. It was at this mountain that I proposed to my wife in the middle of golden hour!
2. Christ the Redeemer
No trip to Rio is complete without heading up to Christ the Redeemer for views of the massive statue and sprawling city. This Art Deco masterpiece stands at an impressive 98 feet (30 meters) and can be seen from various points on the ground – like Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. But getting up close and personal is the best experience for sure, particularly on one of our Rio de Janeiro photography tours where we can capture you and your travel companions together with the Gentle Jesus in creative ways.
3. Mirante Dona Marta
Mirante Dona Marta is the top sunrise photography spot in all of Rio de Janeiro! The intimate view of Sugarloaf in the background combines with the orange glow of dawn to create a visual spectacle. As long as you are staying central, it’s easy to drive or order an Uber up to the parking lot from where you walk 5 minutes up a flight of stairs to reach Mirante Dona Marta. Again, this is the type of experience that screams out for a guided photography tour! We can take you to unique places around the viewpoint that hardly anyone knows about and snap some superb angles.
4. Vista Chinesa
Vista Chinesa is another fantastic lookout point in Rio, located 380 meters above sea level in the urban Tijuca National Park. It got its name from the oriental-style bamboo pavilion that was built there 100 years ago. Chinese immigrants played a major role in the history of Rio as they brought tea cultivation to Brazil back in the 19th century. From Vista Chinesa, you can see everything that lies between Corcovado and Dois Irmãos mountains.
5. Pedra da Gávea
Pedra da Gávea is 2,769 feet (844 meters) in height – making it the largest coastal monolith in all of Brazil. It rises up from the ocean in Tijuca National Park and is visible throughout Rio’s Zona Sul and Zona Oeste. The hike to the top is challenging but the rewards are worth it: views stretching across the entire city with several iconic landmarks to be spotted in the distance including Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, beaches of São Conrado, Copacabana and Ipanema, and the Serra dos Órgãos mountains.
6. Pedra do Telégrafo
You have probably seen many images of Pedra do Telégrafo on Instagram with people hanging off the edge of a cliff – giving the illusion of a massive drop. In reality though, it’s nowhere near as dangerous as it looks but the photography opportunities here are still some of the best in Rio de Janeiro. Standing at 345 meters Pedra do Telégrafo offers spectacular views of beaches, Tijuca forest, Barra da Tijuca and Restinga da Marambaia.
7. Escadaria Selarón
Escadaria Selarón is situated between the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro. The colorful staircase was created by the Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón as a tribute to the Brazilian people who welcomed him so affectionately after he settled. The staircase features green, yellow and blue tiles – all colors of the Brazilian flag – as well as red and white tiles. Jorge worked on the staircase for over 20 years and only stopped in 2013 when sadly he was found dead at the foot of the stairs. Sitting on the stairs and taking photos is definitely a must-do activity in Rio.
8. Pedra do Arpoador
Between Copacabana and Ipanema beaches sits Pedra do Arpoador – a rocky peninsula offering walking paths and sunset views. You can sit on the rock and soak up the city’s waterfront atmosphere anytime of the day, but dawn and dusk are regarded as the most special times. During the New Year’s Eve festivities, locals and visitors alike flock to the peninsula to take a dip in the sea as the sun rises on the first day of the year. Arpoador also boasts a beach which is popular for surfing in both the summer and winter.
9. Parque Lage
Parque Lage is another photography hotspot in Rio de Janeiro – known for its Roman-style palace that features a courtyard, pool and terrace. Travelers can take epic photos at the palace with Christ the Redeemer perched high in the background. The large public park also boasts caves, lakes, aquariums and more. It’s the kind of place that can be explored for hours, with an abundance of hidden gems lurking around every corner.
10. Jardim Botânico
Jardim Botânico is both a residential area with chic bars and dining, and a botanical garden with a flourishing orchid greenhouse, imperial palm trees and Amazonian water lilies. Not only is the garden home to a variety of Brazilian and foreign plant species, but also an array of animals coming from the neighboring Tijuca National Park. Everything from toucans to turtles can be found here. Give yourself at least three hours to wander around the different sites, and take photos of its colorful plants and wildlife.
Details of Our Photography Tours in Rio de Janeiro
On our photography tours of Rio de Janeiro we visit up to 4 points on the same day. We settled on that number after realizing it was the maximum amount possible without taking away from the experience. For us, it’s not about how many places you visit but rather how deeply you immerse yourself in the charm of the place. We want each trip to be unforgettable.
Photos are always part of our tours. This adds a lot to the excursion. We believe that a photo is worthless without knowing where you are, and the history and curiosities of the place. The goal is for you to look at your photos 2 or 3 years later, and think back and remember everything you learned – not just “this was a place that got me lots of likes on social media”.
Important Tips for Visiting Rio de Janeiro
The golden tip is to hire a guide. I’m not just saying that because I’m a guide – but rather since I live in this environment, I know that no one else outside has a better knowledge of the destinations, logistics, etc. Another thing to keep in mind is that Rio is huge, so be prepared for traffic and a busy vibe. Everything has its balance, as at the end of each road there is a beautiful landscape. I recommend coming to Rio for at least 10 days.
When it comes to photography, I use 3 lenses in my Canon camera kit and these are the ones I suggest bringing. My lenses are wide angle 16-40 mm – it’s the only one that can take photos of the entire Christ the Redeemer – 24-70 mm – a versatile and bright lens that performs well in low light – and 70-200 mm for some tele shots. So, what are you waiting for? Plan your Rio de Janeiro getaway and discover the most marvelous city on earth!