The Rio de Janeiro coastline © Hank LeClair
Sultry street parades, golden beaches, forested
mountains, the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain,
it's not hard to see why Rio de Janeiro is known as Cidade
Maravilhosa or the Marvellous City. The exuberant cultural
capital of Brazil is tucked between the mountains and the sea,
creating an incredible skyline and sweeping views all round. Rio's
beaches, including the famous Ipanema and Copacabana, draw visitors
every day of the year thanks to the city's warm climate. The city
also contains the biggest urban forest in the world, the Tijuca
Forest, which was completely replanted during the second half of
the 19th century.
The city pulses to the infectious beat of Brazilian
music, with street parties all year round. However Rio's
ever-popular annual carnival held before Lent, draws together all
the city's inhabitants (known as Cariocas), from the very
rich to the very poor, to take to the streets for the world's
largest samba parade.
Rio is a sprawling city made up of 150 districts,
each characterised by unique features. One of the most intriguing,
Santa Teresa, is a winding maze of streets populated by artists and
musicians, which is reached by taking an old tram across an ancient
aqueduct called Arcos da Lapa. In the heart of Rio there are
historic monuments and public buildings like the Municipal Theatre,
the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National
History Museum, and the National Library. There are also beautiful
examples of religious architecture, such as the Sao Bento
Monastery. No matter how long you spend exploring the city, it will
always deliver new surprises.
To the north of the city is the Lakes region, which
has more than 62 miles (100km) of beaches and salt-water lagoons,
and is the site of the main tourist resorts of Búzios, Cabo
Frio, Arrial do Cabo, Rio das Ostras, Marica, and Saquarema. Many
other stunning natural areas and man-made attractions in Brazil are
easily reached from Rio, which makes a fabulous travel base.
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