Even those who know nothing else of Brazil will have heard of Rio, its Mardi Gras carnival and its spectacular beach and mountain scenery. What many do not realise is that Rio de Janeiro is a state as well as a city, and that this state boasts beaches, forests and mountains just as beautiful as those in its capital.
The southern coast, or Costa Verde, is fringed with emerald-green coves and bays that rise steeply to rainforest-covered hills pocked with national parks. Mountains swathed in coffee plantations sit behind Rio itself, with hill retreats once favoured by the imperial family dotted throughout their valleys and remnants of one of the world’s most biodiverse forests covering parts of their slopes. To the northeast of the city lies a string of surf beaches and little resorts, the most celebrated of which is Buzios, a fishing village put on the map by Brigitte Bardot in the late 1960s, which has grown to become a chic little retreat for the state’s middle classes.
According to Cariocas – the people of Rio de Janeiro – God made the world in six days and then spent the seventh lying on the beach in Ipanema . For in a city as beautiful as this, they say, only the philistine or the ungrateful would do anything else.