Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, and one of the largest cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Its name means "January River" in Portuguese, and was named on January 20, 1502, by explorer Gaspar de Lemos. It was capital of Brazil until 1960 and was the capital of Portuguese Empire from 1808-1821.
"Rio," as it is often referred to, is world famous for its magnificent vistas, its hotel-lined beaches and its famous statue - Christ the Redeemer (pictured), which rises on top of Corcavado Mountain. The statue is 130 feet high and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The statue was completed in 1931. Rio is also famous for its urban forests, including Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban forest and a Brazilian national park. The city is also a major telecommunications, oil, and research hub and is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2016, Rio de Janeiro will host the Summer Olympics, marking the first time a South American nation has hosted the event.