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Rio de Janeiro

Brief History
Rio de Janeiro was discovered by Portuguese conquistadors on January 1, 1502. They mistook the large Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river, thus the name River of January, which has remained ever since despite the misnomer. The French began scouting out the area in search of brazil wood, so the Portuguese decided to establish the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro on March 1, 1565, to resist French occupation. *brazil wood was valued for its red dye*

The country's first capital city of Salvador da Bahia was transferred to Rio in 1763. In 1808, Napoleon's army began the invasion of Portugal and the King Joao VI decided to move the monarchy to the 'Marvelous City', Rio de Janeiro. The city had its colonial status elevated to the United Kingdom of Portugal at that time. Brazil's independence from Portugal anointed Rio de Janeiro as the official capital of Brazil in 1822, allowing Rio to grow to one of the world's largest cities by 1891 with 500,000 inhabitants. This brought in huge  growth, with mountains removed, waterfront reclaimed and skyscrapers being built. One can easily understand the need to expand after seeing the distinctly abrupt scenery of Rio de Janeiro, sandwiched between steep escarpments of mountain and sea.

In 1960, the world's premier planned city of Brasilia formally opened up in the interior of the country, thus officially dethroning Rio de Janeiro as the national capital of Brazil. Rio continues today to be the cultural and emotional capital in many aspects of Brazilian culture. Lots of the federal politicians still scurry back for weekends.

Exquisite Brazilian Beauty
Where do you start to describe a city with such great natural beauty? Lush tropical mountains meet a crystal green sea and golden sand beaches line the coast, making it difficult to know where to begin.

These tropical mountains divide Rio de Janeiro into distinct areas. There is a significant difference between the zones, with all the majority of the good stuff in the southern and newer western zone. This should become quite apparent to you as you arrive in Galeão International Airport on Governador island, 30 km from downtown in the industrial northern zone. The route to the beaches in the zona sul is made through a series of tunnels that have been blasted through the solid crystalline Serra do Mar.

Upon leaving the airport, you will immediately see the mouth of the Bay of Guanabara on your left side. It won't be till you get through the second tunnel that you will enter the zona sul and the Lagoa de Freitos area, with the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer above, and minutes from Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Your mood will change instantly from ho-hum to one of 'Wow, I can't believe the spectacular beauty of this place'

Hotels in Rio
Copacabana possesses the majority of the hotels, with the better ones on the beach walk, Avenida Atlantica, with it's famous mosaic black and white stones. Ipanema beach is a neighbor to Copacabana beach, and one that makes a definite Brazilian fashion statement. Ipanema beach also has a stunning view of the prominent rock formations known as Dois Irmaos (two brothers) that look like torpedoes, and Pedra de Gavea which stands alone with its pronounced flat top. This is the neighbor rock to Pedra Bonita where the hang gliders launch their wings, landing on Praia Pepino in Sao Conrado, home of the prestigious Sheraton Rio Resort and Golf Club. The famous Copacabana Palace has entertained well known celebrities and dignitaries since its beginning in 1923. Barra da Tijuca, in the western part of the city, has many luxurious properties to accommodate guests, as well as excellent restaurants and shopping.

Rio Attractions
There is so many attractions and things to do in Rio de Janeiro that you can easily spend your entire three week vacation here alone and never feel as if you missed anything. The beaches would be on the top of the list with excursions to Corcovado and
Pão-de-Açúcar,  both with stunning views of the city. Corcovado is where the famous statue of Christ Redeemer stands, further up the ridge from Pão-de-Açúcar, which drops off into the sea at the end of the line, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay.                           

Sugarloaf Mountain
This is where you will find the cable cars which take you to the top of the two peaks. It's hard to imagine a more stunning setting. If you go up on a Friday afternoon, you will be treated to a free samba show. Anytime is a good time to visit with morning light ideal. If you like to hike, you will find some nice trails below the first hill. To find these trails, take the steps down below the second lift, which takes you to the top peak. The second hill is routinely scaled by those satisfying their adrenalin fetish.

Christ Statue/Corcovado
Corcovado is also better visited in the early morning hours. Due to its steepness and height, the peak lies at the cloud line and tends to be covered later in the afternoon. Even shrouded in clouds it's a mystical experience. The steady breeze embraces you as the sky dances and swirls about, inspiring an inner essence.

You can take a cab to and from Copacabana for about $30 while the cabbie waits. Request that he pass by the Vista Dona Marta, which has one of the best views of Rio. It sits alongside the heliport which operates those non-stop runs between the two famous landmarks, under a $100 for a 15 minute flight.

The other option is get to the statue of Christ is to take the tram. Estrada de Ferro do Corcovado was originally built in 1882 by Emperor Dom Pedro II. This trip winds its way through the tropical Tijuca jungle. To get there, you have to take a cab to Rua Cosmo Velho 513.                >>www.corcovado.com.br

Downtown Rio - O Centro
The downtown area of Rio is very nice and has some historic buildings that are well worth the visit. Taxis are moderately priced considering the high cost of petroleum in Brazil. The Metrô subway system is quite modern and reasonably easy to use. To get to the downtown area, you have to get on the first or second stops of Cantagalo and Siqueira Campos in Copacabana. This is the first line to and from the zona sul. You then can get off at Cinelandia to see the Teatro Municipal  and the Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil - Brazil National Library. Here's a link to the Metrô  >>

The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens
O Jardim Botanico de Rio de Janeiro is conveniently located near Copacabana and Ipanema and is an excellent option to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It's hard to even imagine that you haven't been transported to a tropical jungle. And that just happens to be the case, as Tijuca forest is tropical and actually the largest urban park of any city in the world.(32 sq. miles) The gardens (8000 acres) reside in the Floresta da Tijuca and were founded on June 13, 1808 by Dom João VI, who was Prince Regent of the Kingdom of Brazil and Portugal at the time. The tropical gardens are well-stocked and labeled with a large variety of plants, including a very nice orchid house, a Victoria Amazonica lily pond and a spice garden. The gigantic royal palms that line the pathways will give you a feeling of the true soul of Rio.

Rio de Janeiro on the Town
Rio is never short on night life, but other than the a few mainstay bar and clubs, the majority come and go through the trend cycle fairly quickly. Pick up the Friday's weekly entertainment guide. One infamous local party area is Lapa, where you will find the Carioca da Gema, an old house converted into a intimate and animated bar with live Brazilian music. >>-

Another suggestion is Barra da Tijuca, a ritzy and modern suburb on the west end of the city, where you will find a nice variety of higher-end clubs, restaurants and shopping. The malls here are enormous and luxurious. Barra as it's commonly known, has beautiful scenery as well, with lakes on one side and beach on the other. The beach is 11 miles long and has some good waves for surfing. The only downside of Barra is that it's a bit far from the hotel districts of Copacabana and Ipanema. It will cost about $30 for round trip cab fare. Avoid the rush hour traffic.

Mountain Living - Teresópolis and Petrópolis
Within a couple hours drive from Rio, you can arrive at the mountain cities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Novo Friburgo, in the Serra das Órgãos mountain range. You will instantly begin to fill the relief of leaving the hot and hectic metropolis on initial ascent, about an hour out of Rio. Within an hour you will arrive in Petrópolis, the Imperial City of Brazil. This was due to the fact that the city was named after Brazil's first emperor Pedro I, after he declared independence of Brazil from Portugal. He visited the area in 1830 and liked the climate so much that he had his summer residence built here. The summer in Rio heats up to about 100F/40C with extreme humidity. If you have experienced it first-hand, you will understand why many wealthy families in Rio have a summer home here as well. The main attraction is the climate and the Imperial Palace, as well as some colonial churches built by Brazil's royalty. There are some excellent trails in the area for those interested in hiking in the great outdoors.

Now the question is, where is the end to all the wonder associated with this tropical jewel, Rio de Janeiro?

The fact is, Mother Earth took her sweet time when she sat down to create Rio de Janeiro. Cariocas (Rio natives) are extremely blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. The list could inevitably cause this text to run well off the page, and there should be some things left for you to discover on your own. With that thought in mind, know that Rio de Janeiro is waiting on your beckoned call.

So, what are you waiting for?

Pack your bags so that you can experience one of the beautiful cosmopolitan cites in the world.




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