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Brazil: The most magical Rio spots

The Parque Lage is a jungle literally in the middle of the city. It's a park full of lush foliage that forms part of the Floresta da Tijuca, the largest protected environmental reserve in Rio state. Parque Lage was the subject of a short story by Clarice Lispector, one of Brazil's best-known modernist writers. Before you hike to the secret waterfall (ask the locals where it is), spend an hour lounging at the delicious and cheap café housed in a 19th-century mansion overlooking the entire jungle. The place is open-air and dramatic—the rapper Snoop Dogg shot a video there a few years ago. Then there's Santa Teresa, the artists' neighborhood (the Williamsburg of Rio). Santa Teresa is the only middle-class neighborhood in Rio that sits on a hill, and it offers breathtaking views. The rest of the hillside neighborhoods are shantytowns, but Santa Teresa was where the 19th-century gentry of Rio kept their mansions. Today, artists—sometimes 20 at a time—live in these amazing, moss-covered houses. The cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa wind all the way to the top of the hill, where you will find a helicopter launching pad and a beautiful waterfall. A bit farther from the beach and just above busy downtown (Centro), Santa Teresa is Rio's best-kept secret.
—Elizabeth Dwoskin, Brooklyn, New York

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