Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is the country's culture hub, offering an incredible skyline and panoramic views due to its picturesque location between the mountains and the sea. In the evenings, the city comes alive with the beat of Brazilian samba, its streets always filled with parties and celebrations. The annual Carnival is the most popular event on the Brazilian calendar. It brings together all its citizens (Cariocas), from all the very rich to the very poor, who to take to the streets for the world's largest samba parade.
Rio's strongest advantages are their beaches, especially the famous Ipanema and Copacabana.
The city also contains Tijuca Forest, the biggest urban forest in the world, which complements the wooded mountains that surround the metropolis. The 150 districts of Rio are all unique, with the most intriguing, Santa Teresa, 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, history buffs will love the multitude of historic monuments and public buildings such as 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 seems to keep presenting new surprises.
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, Arraial 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.