Morro do Leme
Tropical Coastal Rainforest Trail
Overlooking Copacabana Beach
If you are staying in or visiting the Copacabana neighborhood, then Morro do Leme is a wonderful place to spend a couple hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. "Morro" means "hill" or a "small mountain" in Portuguese.
Morro do Leme is easily recognizable as the small 210 meter (700 ft) mountain that anchors Copacabana Beach up at the Leme neighborhood end. At its base, it has a well known pedestrian path that extends out into the bay. This area is enjoyed and used by fishermen and beach goers alike.
Less well traveled is the cobble stone road that winds its way through a small military installation and then up through 4 square hectares (10 square acres) of lush coastal tropical rain forest (Mata Atlântica). The morro has been heavily reforested since 1987 and now boasts 11,000 different types of plants and 90 animal species. Along the way, the visitor will see a wide variety of native tropical plants and trees, windows that open views towards Sugarloaf and Niteroi, birds, Sagui Monkeys (saw-gwee), Coatis (Qwa-tees), and other small animals.
As the lower part of Morro do Leme is an active military installation, this is one of the safest places to walk and explore in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Whether religious or not, everyone admires the 14 'Stations of the Cross' (Way of the Cross) which are beautifully depicted in bronze and copper sculptures along the cobbled road. The Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus and the devotion commemorating the Passion. On the first Friday of every month at 3pm, a priest leads the faithful in prayer through the 14 Stations of the Cross. For more information about the Stations of the Cross please read the Wikipedia entry or visit the Catholic Online website.
At the top of Morro do Leme, the traveler finds Forte do Vigia which was built in 1776. In 1935 it was renamed Forte Duque de Caxais. Today it is known as Forte do Leme. This fort helped guard the entry to Guanabara Bay on one side and Copacabana on the other side.
Excellent views are afforded of Copacabana Beach, Urca, Sugarloaf (Pao de Açucar), and across the Atlantic Ocean entrance of Guanabara Bay over to the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, in Niteroi.
Insider's Tip - If you will spend any time in Niteroi, plan to tour Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, which is reputed to be the second most popular tourist attraction on that side of Guanabara Bay. For more information, visit the Espaço Cultural website which we have had translated into English.
Quite a bit of the original Forte do Leme remains today, including the main entrance gate, the curtain walls which protected the fort from attack), and the central yard. Several early 20th century German Krupp howitzers (280 mm swivel cannons) are on display within the walls of the fort.
It's here at the top of Morro do Leme where you will see most of the Sagui (saw-gwee) monkeys that live here. They live and play in the trees near the top of the fort's curtain walls. Bring bananas or other fruit and you will make several new friends!
Insider's Tip - Observe that although the sign outside the entry states otherwise, the nature trail is only open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays from 9am - 4pm without interruption. Cost of entry is R$4 per person.
To reach the entrance simply walk up Copacabana Beach towards Leme until you can go no further. The entrance is just off the beach on the left at the Praça Almirante Júlio de Noronha. If you arrive by bus, hop off the Avenida Atlantica where it turns onto Avenida Princesa Isabel, and walk a short distance to the praça and Forte do Leme entrance.
It's a moderately strenuous 30 minute walk to the top on the well maintained road. Plan for 2 hours to enjoy this excursion, which makes is a nice outing on both sunny and cloudy days.
Insider's Tip - If you like old military forts, visit Forte de Copacabana and its famous Krupp cannons, which is located at the other end of Copacabana Beach.
Enjoy the Photos of Morro do Leme !
Morro do Leme seen from Leme beach near Posto 1. The flag pole marks the old fort on top left.
The cobbled brick nature trail which winds rather steeply up through the Mata Atlantica.
The Third Station of the Cross. (Christ falls for the first time)
The Twelfth Station. (Jesus dies on the cross)
Granite rock face of the mountain with crazy cacti growing on it.
A window opens up! To the left is the entry to Praia Vermelha, the small beach that is located between Morro do Leme and Sugarloaf Mountain.
Mr. Sagui Monkey, or perhaps Mrs. Monkey?
The old fort at the top
The entrance gate to the old Forte do Leme
Early 20th Century German Krupp 280mm Howitzers, used in the past to to fire upon unwanted intruders into Guanabara Bay.
A vulture takes in the view from the top, looking across the mouth of Guanabara Bay towards Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, the old fort that's located at the base Morro do Pico. See the city of Niteroi beyond the bay and hills.
We recommend against trying to feed these guys,as their beaks are razor sharp and they are "none too friendly".
The view back of Copacabana Beach and beyond on a cloudy day. See Pedra da Gavea and Dois Irmaos mountains in the distance beyond Ipanema Beach.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açucar) and it's cable car station seen from Forte do Leme.
Satellite Map of Leme Mountain
View Morro do Leme in a larger map
Go to Top of Page
Return to Sightseeing page from Morro do Leme page
Return to Urban Forests page