by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

(Virtually) visit Rio de Janeiro

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Surrounded by tropical mountain landscapes and white sand beaches, this city of over six million people enjoys views known the world over and a joie de vivre that's hard to match.

The Art Deco "Christ the Redeemer" statue, designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, towers over the city and ranks as one of Brazil’s most iconic and immediately recognizable attractions.

Even if it weren't for the statue, Corcovado would still be a major attraction thanks to its spectacular views over the city below from the peak around 2,300 feet.

Rio has no shortage of scenic viewpoints, and the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) provides one of the best. Two cable cars take visitors to the summit.

Pedra da Gávea is Brazil’s largest coastal monolith, with a summit at 2,769 feet. Those who make the challenging hike to the top will be rewarded with one of the city’s best views and photo ops.

Rio has the world’s largest urban rainforest on the planet right at its doorstep. Tijuca National Park covers some 8,300 acres of forest, granite peaks, waterfalls and more than 350 animal species.

Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Botânico was founded in 1808 and remains one of the world’s great botanical gardens and arboretums. This green space is known for its bromeliads, orchids and old trees.

Parque Lage is comprised of English-style gardens, ponds and an old mansion that houses free art exhibitions. Since it’s a bit off the typical tourist route, it’s often quiet.

Among Rio’s many beaches, none is quite as famous as Copacabana. The 2.5-mile stretch of sand attracts cariocas and visitors alike to swim, surf, sun or play soccer or beach volleyball in the sand.

Perhaps equally famous is Ipanema (captured in song by Antonio Carlos Jobim). Each section of sand, demarcated by posts, serves as a meeting spot for one of the city’s many subcultures.

For an escape from the crowds of Rio’s more iconic beaches, pull up a beach chair on the 11-mile stretch of sand known as Barra da Tijuca Beach, or Barra for short — the longest beach in the city.

Somewhere around 100,000 people live in Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favela.  Built on a steep hillside overlooking the city, the colorful neighborhood shows a less-polished but equally vibrant side of Rio.

The city of Rio is not only blessed with beautiful beaches but a scenic lagoon as well. A walking and cycling path encircles Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, while the calm waters host paddle boats and stand-up paddleboards.

The hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa ranks among the most charming in the city, thanks in large part to its cobbled streets, collection of artists studios and overall bohemian vibe.

Santa Teresa is also home to one of Rio’s most photographed attractions, the Escadaria Selarón. This iconic flight of stairs is the work of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, who covered them in bright mosaic tiles.

Bordering Santa Teresa is the downtown neighborhood of Lapa, where colonial buildings house live music venues with sounds of samba spilling out onto the streets.

The 18th century Lapa Arches serve as a gateway to historic downtown Rio. The structure originally served as an aqueduct to bring water from the Carioca River to downtown residents.

Some two million people take to the streets each day during Rio’s biggest street festival, Carnival. The city is home to more than 200 samba schools who come together during this annual event.

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