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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea, is a dramatic example how the landscape has been used and shaped. This city of great beauty reaches from the mountains to the sea.

Rio’s natural landscape started to be altered in the 17th and 18th centuries to allow sugar and coffee growing. Its parks and gardens later became protected, and as such attributed to the outdoor living culture of the city.

The designated area consists of the following parts:

• Tijuca National Park, including Corcovado peak and its Christ the Redeemer statue

• Botanic Garden

• Flamengo Park

• The mouth of the Guanabara Bay, including the Sugar Loaf

• Copacabana Beach Front

Map of Rio de Janeiro


  • Cultural

Visit October 2004

My visit to Rio de Janeiro was a short one, and I was rained out during the first day.

The next morning it was more or less dry. By bus I went to the Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf). This is the most prominent hill in the landscape of Rio. You get to the top via two cable cars. There may have been 75 people inside and it was pretty busy. The halfway stop I found the most beautiful: the views of the beaches and the Sugarloaf itself.

October 2004

A day later the sun was shining again. So a quick taxi ride brought me to the Corcovado, the mountain with the well-known Christ statue. It is reached by a little train, a tourist attraction by itself in Rio. What I found striking were the number of people engaged in the train. It looked like an employment project for the local youth. The train ride took about 20 minutes, passing through the Atlantic rainforest of the Tijuca National Park. A beautiful ride. Up near the statue there's a beautiful view over the city.

Back at the bottom again I visited the Museum of Naive Art. Definitely worth it, with paintings on Rio and the history of Brazil on show.

Community Reviews

Michael Turtle Australia 06.11.16

Rio de Janeiro by Michael Turtle

The issue I have with this site is that it's never really clear when you're actually in a World Heritage area - the designated spots are not distinct enough from the rest of the city. You don't really need to do anything special to see the WHS areas - any normal tourist will go to at least a couple of them. And I don't really see their significance.

Still, Rio is a fascinating city and certainly worth visiting. You'll never regret going if you haven't been before!

Read more from Michael Turtle here.

Ian Cade England 19.07.15

Rio de Janeiro by Ian Cade

As far as arrivals go, not many places are going to top Rio. Our morning flight from Belo Horrizonte brought us over Rio’s incredible cityscape , nestled in amongst rainforest clad rounded peaks. My wife and I were clamouring over the window for our first glimpse of Christ the Redeemer, the Maracana, and Copacabana beach. Our descent into Santos Dumont airport was completed by a dramatic turn in front of Sugar Loaf Mountain. It was an incredible introduction to a unique city.

The world heritage site boundary is actually pretty limited. It excludes the majority of Rio’s built environment, which is covered separately by the four tentative sites that are scattered over a small area in the city centre. As such the outstanding universal value of this cultural landscape lies mainly in its natural features.

Given the limited boundary, it wasn't until late on our second day of touring that we entered the core part of the world heritage site. This was when we went for an evening stroll around the pleasant suburb of Urca, which is tucked up against Sugar Loaf Mountain. The seafront wall provided a nice place to join the locals while watching the sunset, the planes circle, and kids play beach football.

The unique urban landscape meant there were endless times when the best thing to do was gawp at the magnificent views. The best are from Copacabana Fort, from Niemeyer's Niteroi art centre back across the bay, the brooding monoliths that dominate the beaches of Botafogo and Ipanema, and of course the vista from the base of Christ the Redeemer statue. The latter is one of those places that lives up to its reputation and overexposure in 'must see' lists.

Rio turned out to be a welcoming and friendly place, though we never quite found the sort of neighbourhood atmosphere that has made many other large cities we’ve been to so enjoyable. Botafogo and Santa Theresa both seemed pleasant, but we happened to be in these areas on quieter nights and so perhaps not seeing them at their best.

As die-hard urbanites, we felt that Rio as a city left us wanting more. However, the spectacular natural setting and welcoming population make this world famous city an extremely enjoyable place to spend four very full days.

Site 7: Experience 7

Jarek Pokrzywnicki Poland 29.03.13

Just visited (March 2013). I have some mixed feelings connected with Rio's nomination. First of all it is one of those places that don't need UNESCO status to be visited. There are not many other big cities in the world with so remarkable lanscape / location. Truely one of world wonders.

But if we see what was really iscribed these are just parts of the city mostly rainforest located inside the town but inscribed as cultural landscape. Little bit strange. Of course Christ on the top of Corcovado is amazing together with Sugar Loaf (in this case is just a huge rock) and less known Botanical Garden (one of the best I have ever been) but other areas were a little bit dissapointing (dirty Copacabana surrounded by modern buildings, similar Botafogo beach - part of Guanabara Bay). Apart from those top atractions there are just modern buildings although perfectly located

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Site Info

Full name: Rio de Janeiro, Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea

Unesco ID: 1100

Inscribed: 2012

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 5   6  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2012 - Advisory Body overruled ICOMOS advised referral
  • 2012 - Inscribed 
  • 2003 - Rejected On natural criteria
  • 2003 - Deferred On cultural criteria, to undertake an appraisal of the cultural values of Rio's setting


The site has 4 locations.

  • Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Mountaion range - Tijuca National Park and Botanic Gardens
  • Rio de Janeiro: Mouth of Guanabara Bay and Manmade Shorelines
  • Rio de Janeiro: Pedra Bonita and Pedra da Gávea - Tijuca National Park
  • Rio de Janeiro: Tijuca Forest, Pretos Forros and Covanca


119 community members have visited Rio de Janeiro.