"One of the main attractions of state of Rio de Janeiro is its varied geography. Better known for its stunning granite mountains in the city of Rio plunging into clear blue seas lined with white sand beaches, the state of Rio is resplendent with not only a magnificent coastline but also superb mountainous scenery inland filled with rivers and numerous valleys.

The coast has three large bays, intricately carved with inlets and dotted with islands. Where erosion has deposited soils at the foot of the coastal mountains, lowlands (baixadas) have formed a wide belt between the mountains and the sea. In these lowlands there are sand banks, salt marshes (restingas) and lakes.

Another feature of the coast is the number of beautiful beaches, some on the open sea and others, which are calmer, in the bays or on the lakes behind the sand bars. Búzios, located 190 km (115 miles) east of Rio along the Costa do Sol, has 27 sandy coves around a jagged peninsula and is known for its calm unpolluted waters and beautiful scenery. South of the city of Rio, situated on the edge of Rio de Janeiro state, lies Paraty, an exquisite colonial gem lined with 18th century buildings along the waterfront.

The hills that surround the town are covered in tropical forest and the coastline has hundreds of beaches within easy reach. There are lots of waterfalls and tons of wonderful bromelia plantations. Just inland from the Atlantic litoral is the Serra do Mar, a range of mountains which includes, among other features, the striking shapes of the Serra dos Órgãos. The 11,000 hectares of the Serra is so called because their strange shapes are said to recall organ pipes. The vast area is a national park, created in 1939, the second oldest in the country.

The main attraction is the Dedo de Deus peak at 1,692m high. The highest point is the 2,263m Pedra do Sino (Bell Rock), which has a steep, winding 14km path; the west face of this mountain is known as one of the hardest climbs in Brazil. The park belongs to the Mata Atlântica ecosystem and has 20-30m high trees, such as paineiras (floss-silk tree), ipês and cedros, rising above palms, bamboos and other smaller trees.

Flowers include begonias, bromeliads, orchids and quaresmeiras (glory bushes). The park is also home to the vary rare and endemic grey-winged caatinga. Many other species of bird can be found, as well as monkeys, wild cats, deer and armadillo. There are also a number of frogs and toads, including the sapo-pulga, which some sources say is the smallest amphibian in the world. In the Serra da Estrela range of mountains in the Serra do Mar nestles the charming and civilized Cidade Imperial of Petrópolis. It is known for its beautiful flowers and hill scenery.

Further inland again is the Serra da Mantiqueira, where the highest mountain in the state is found, Pico das Agulhas Negras (2,787m). The surrounding scenery is beautiful with valleys, cold rivers and lots of flowers. The Itatiaia National Park is located within the Mantiqueira range of mountains and is a top bird-watching destination. There are many of opportunities for good walking and other outdoor activities in the region. Between the two mountain ranges of Serra do Mar and Serra da Mantiqueira runs the Rio Paraíba do Sul, creating the main valley of many in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Before the Portuguese conquest, the entire region was covered in tropical forest, hardly any of which now remains.

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