Rio de Janeiro's bay setting never fails to wow visitors. White sandy beaches fringe the city, while rainforest-clad mountains such as Sugar Loaf provide a backdrop. The year-round sunshine means Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are hard to leave, but the colonial churches of Glria and Lapa make a wander inland worthwhile.
Rio de Janeiro's most famous symbol, the Christ the Redeemer statue, commissioned for Brazil's 1922 centenary and located on the summit of Corcovado mountain, is a great place to get your bearings. To your south you'll see the Zona Sul, edged by the beaches of Leblon and Ipanema. To your east, Sugar Loaf is on a spit of land jutting out into Guanabara Bay and overlooking glamorous Copacabana. To the north is Centro, Rio's historic centre.
Spend the morning sunbathing and watching the girls go walking by on Rio's classiest beach, Ipanema. After lunching on caranguejos crabs, head up to Corcovado for great city views. Take the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf or hire a guide and climb, if you're feeling energetic. Watch the sunset and then enjoy dinner and a samba show at one of Rio's samba schools.
Tear yourself away from the beaches to explore the city centre, where traces of Rio's Portuguese colonial past can be found in the Outeiro da Glria Church and the vast collections of art and relics at the National History Museum. Walk along Atlantic rainforest trails in the Tijuca National Park on Rio's outskirts. Or catch a football game amid the frenetic atmosphere of the Maracan Stadium, which at 85,000 capacity is one of the world's biggest football stadiums.
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