"Passionate" best captures the wild beauty and heady sensuality that is Rio de Janeiro. For Rio is the Cidade Maravilhosa - the "Marvelous City" that throbs to a samba beat and revels in the hedonism of Carnival. There is no place on Earth like Rio - as the city natives, the famed Cariocas, delight in telling you. The geographical facts read like dry dust: over five million souls live in the city, another four million live in the surrounding suburbs, the metropolis is the cultural center of Brazil. The reality is Rio: the white sand beaches of Copacabana, the swaying palm trees, the immense statue of Christ the Redeemer and always the never-ending rhythm of life lived with passionate intensity.
Founded in the early 16th century, Rio was once the capital of Brazil. The city remains the nation's cultural and spiritual center, an amalgam of Latin and African cultures.
More about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Points of Interest
One of Rio's iconic and internationally recognized symbols, Sugarloaf Mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the city and its dazzling white-sand beaches.
Christ the Redeemer
Corcovado Mountain, Rio's highest peak, is also known as the home of the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue. Headed by French sculptor Paul Landownsky, a team of artisans labored on the 125-foot tall concrete and soapstone figure.
Step back in time to the 19th century on a visit to Petropolis, the mountain retreat of Brazil's last emperor. Tour the Imperial Museum and view the imperial crown jewels as well as fine china and tapestries from the Imperial Court.
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral
This holy site boasts a unique pyramid design, and captures the visitor's attention with its energy and interior magnitude. The cathedral's four rectilinear stained glass windows soar more than 200 feet from floor to ceiling.
Copacabana, Ipanema & Leblon
Rio's famed white sand beachfront districts have long been celebrated in song - and have lured movie stars and jet setters to Rio since the 1930s.
Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca Forest is a mountainous hand-planted rainforest in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the world's largest urban forest, covering some 8,000 acres. The forest is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife.
The ultimate "stadium" of samba and the venue of the Samba Parade of Rio de Janeiro, the Sambodrome was built in 1984 by Brazil's celebrated architect Oscar Niemeyer. It is a concrete structure that comes alive as thousands of cheering spectators and special-effects lighting accompany the spectacular, eye-poppingly colorful parades.
More than 450,000 gallons of water pass over Iguazu Falls every second, earning this UNESCO World Heritage Site its name, which translates to "Mighty Waters." This unique national park, one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, straddles Brazil and Argentina and showcases a massive series of more than 275 waterfalls in an area where cliffs and islets are scattered in a half moon.