The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro

Graphic depicting The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro.One of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Harbor at Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful inlet of water surrounded by a thriving city and an array of stunning mountains. It’s also called Guanabara Bay. The city of Rio, known as the Marvelous City, was built along the coast of the harbor. The following information describes the history, geography, and surrounding attractions of the Harbor at Rio de Janeiro.

History of The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro

Sailing from Lisbon, Portugal, explorer Concalo Coelho discovered the harbor in January 1502 while he and a fleet of three ships were exploring the outer coastline of South America. Thinking they were coming into the opening of a river, the explorers named the area January River, or Rio de Janeiro. This island-studded body of water was called Guanabara by the native people, meaning arm of the sea.

The landscape was incredibly rugged when the Europeans first attempted to settle the area. There was virtually no land flat enough along the edge of the water. The area was eventually colonized by both the Portuguese and the French and by the mid-1560s sugarcane farming became a large industry in the surrounding area, ultimately filling the harbor with ships. By the 18th century gold was discovered inland and Rio de Janeiro, as well as the harbor, became a bustling metropolis for commerce. When these exports declined, coffee became the new item of trade. In 1960 the harbor lost its status as having the capital city when it was moved inland to Brasilia.


The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro runs approximately 20 miles inland and is the largest deep-water harbor in the world that is natural. The bay is over 85 miles long and has at least 50 miles of beaches. There are a variety of islands in the harbor including Snakes Island and Governor’s Island. One of the interesting aspects of the harbor is that the body of water looks different, depending upon where a person is when looking at it. The harbor is best enjoyed at the top of various mountains, taking in a variety of views.

The summer temperatures reach between 95 and 100 degrees in December through March. The mountains that surround the harbor are made of a combination of hard, granite rocks, and softer, gneiss rocks. These stunning peaks are part of a chain of mountains that stretch approximately 1500 miles across the South American coast. With such gorgeous geography and unique features, it’s no surprise that the Harbor is one of the natural wonders of the world.


The statue of Christ the Redeemer stands with outstretched arms on the top of the peak of Corcovado. This statue weighs over 600 tons and stands 130 feet high. Cable cars take visitors to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain which offers spectacular views of the city, the bay, and the surrounding mountains. The water of the bay flows up along several beautiful beaches including the famous Ipanema and the Copacabana. The area is also famous for the five-day carnival that ends every year 40 days before Easter on Fat Tuesday.

Luxury cruises fill the harbor with visitors year-round as well as during carnival. The weather in the harbor is the most hospitable in September and October. December through March is considered summer and the hottest, most humid time of the year. June through September is winter in the southern hemisphere.

Of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Harbor at Rio de Janeiro provides magnificent natural beauty as well as a surrounding urban area rich in culture. With the 2016 Summer Olympics hosted in Brazil, travelers from all over the world came to enjoy one of the natural wonders of the world along with world-famous athletic competition.

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