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"The diverse topography in the state of Rio is one of its main draws. The dazzling granite mountains descending to deep azul ocean, lined by sandy white beaches, Rio’s beauty is obvious to visitors and residents alike. And beyond the city, rivers and verdant valleys complete the hilly scenery.
Three extensive bays make up the coastline, elaborately carved with coves and spotted with small islands. Erosion over the years left soil at the foot of the coastal hills, and lowlands developed formed a wide stretch of land between the hills and the ocean. Sand banks, marshland, and lakes became part of the geography in the low-lying land in these areas.
The coast beyond the city of Rio includes a series of exquisite beaches, some facing the ocean and some with calmer water facing the bay, or on the other side of lakes behind the sand bars. Búzios, 190 km (115 miles) east of Rio on what is known as the Costa do Sol (the Sun Coast), has 27 cozy inlets around a notched peninsula, famous for its smooth clean water and gorgeous scenery. To Rio’s south, on the border of the state of Rio, is the gorgeous colonial gem, Paraty, replete with 18th century colonial buildings on the city’s waterfront.
Surrounding the town, hills covered with dense trees, and a breathtaking coastline are easily accessible. Waterfalls, flower plantations, including bromelias, are minutes away. Inland from the coastline, the Serra do Mar, a mountain range include the stunning shapes of the Serra dos Órgãos, named because their exotic shapes are reminiscent of organ pipe. The huge area, 11,000 hetares, was designated a national park in 1939, and is the second oldest in the country.
The most famous peak is 1692 meters high and is called the “Dedo de Deus,” or Finger of God. The tallest peak is the “Pedra do Sino,” the Rock of the Bell, at 2263 meters high, and has a steep winding 14 km path. The mountain’s west face is famous for being one of the most difficult ascents in the Brazil. Twenty-thirty meter high trees are not uncommon in this region of the Mata Atlantica ecosystem, or which the park is a part. Tree species in the paineiras (floss-silk tree), and the majestic ipês and cedros, rising above palms, bamboos and other smaller species.
Species of flower include begonias, bromeliads, orchids and quaresmeiras (glory bushes). The grey-winged caatinga found in the park is extremely rare and endemic to the region. Rare and various bird species make the park home, as well as monkeys, wild cats, deer and armadillo. Species of frog and toad in the sapo-pulga, or flea frog, which some scientists claim is the smallest amphibian in the world. Nestled in the Serra de Mar mountains, in Serra de Estrela range is the delightful and cultivate Cidade Imperial of Petrópolis, which is known for its gorgeous scenery and colorful flowers.
In the Serra de Maniqueira range, farther inland, the tallest mountains in the state of Rio are found, including the Pico das Agulhas Negras at 2,787 meters. Rivers, valleys, filled with colorful flowers complete the surrounding scenery. Located within the Mantiqueira range is the Itatiaia National Park, a primary bird-watching destination. Hiking trails and outdoor activity is plentiful in the arean. The Rio Paraiba do Sul runs between the two ranges, the Serra do Mar and the Serra da Mantiqueira, and forms the main valley in much of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The entire region was covered in by dense tropical forest at the beginning of the Portuguese colonialism, most of which has been decimated.
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