Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—sensuous, chaotic, sophisticated, open and friendly—is one of South America's gems. The Cidade Marvilhosa (Marvelous City), as Brazilians call it, displays a unique blend of contrasts: old and new, tremendous wealth amid crushing poverty, an urban metropolis nestled around mountains and a huge forest.
All of Rio de Janeiro is symbolically embraced in the outstretched arms of Cristo Redentor, the statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain.
The 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Rio, making it the first South American city to host the Olympic Games, and tourism to Brazil is has increased significantly.
Even with financial cutbacks and public skepticism, Rio undertook major infrastructure improvements at a blistering pace in efforts to upgrade its transportation system and adopt environmental initiatives in preparation for the Olympics. According to the Brazil Tour Operators Association, hotel capacity has more than doubled. Football (soccer) stadiums were rebuilt, world-class sports facilities have been designed, and the historic quarter and port area have been rejuvenated.
Rio de Janeiro plays host to what some call "the biggest party in the world" during the five-day holiday that is Carnival, which takes place just before Lent in February or early March. Street parties take place throughout the city, and the colorful samba schools parade through the city's Sambadrome to the sound of heavy drum beats.
But if the buzz of the city becomes too much—during Carnival or otherwise—there's always an easy escape to the beautiful coast or to the lush Tijuca Forest that surrounds Rio de Janeiro's mountainous slopes, where you can hike, bike or jump under a waterfall.
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