The Carioca Aqueduct holds not just water but generations of history. It is a vital part of the Rio de Janeiro landscape and is a testimony of Brazil's brilliance combined in engineering and colonial architecture. When in this, the most quirky and fascinating of Brazil's cities, you just have to experience Arcos da Lapa via a ride in its tram. The sight of the 42 monumental arches towering over the Santa Teresa neighborhood is simply astounding. These arches extend from Santo Antonio to Santa Teresa. All in all, the aqueduct stretches to 270 meters in length. Also, the highest of the arches soars at a height of 17.6 meters. Indeed, very impressive and a sight you will truly remember Rio de Janeiro by.
Also known as the Arcos da Lapa, the Carioca Aqueduct was built in the mid-18th century. It was used to provide fresh water to the city. Back then, water from the surrounding swamps were of bad quality so the aqueduct was built to transport water from Santa Teresa to San Sebastian. By the end of the 19th century, however, the aqueduct was discontinued as there were more sources of fresh water for the city. But what should a city do with so magnificent a monument? Well, the arcos was and is still in use as a connection linking the Santa Teresa neighborhood with the city center via a tram (known as the Bondinho de Santa Teresa). The aqueduct also sits it the Lapa region, which is known for its bohemian lifestyle.
The ride aboard the tram is as picturesque as the arches. The track passes through the hills of Santa Teresa and its neighborhood. The bondinho is also a quick and easy taste of history – it is also one great way to have a fun adventure without having to pay an arm and a leg for it. This bondhino, after all, is the only remaining tram that is still in use in the city. Most of the trams have been discontinued. It only costs BR$0.60 or US$0.35, one way. It is mainly used by locals but tourists have since discovered this 'attraction'. To ride the tram, proceed to the station near the Teatro Municipal and Cinelandia. The bondinho leaves every thirty minutes, beginning from 6:00 in the morning up until 11:00 in the evening.
The aqueduct itself was built in several stages. The first version made use of open tile conduits. This supplied fountains found across the city, such as those found in Cinelandia (Ajuda Square), Santo Antonio Square and the Terreiro do Paco, also know as Praca XV.. However, it fell into disrepair so that a new aqueduct had to be built. The second aqueduct was commissioned by then governor Gomes Freire de Andrade and was built by Jose Fernandes Pinto Alpoim, a military engineer. He patterned the aqueduct to Lisbon's Aguas Livres Aqueduct.
What is fascinating is that the Arcos de Lapa is said to be built using a mixture of lime and whale oil, since during that time, there was no cement to speak of.