Rio de Janeiro’s natural landscapes have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Brazilian city, often known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City), is recognisable for the towering granite peaks that bookend golden sand beaches, and its statue of Christ the Redeemer – the largest Art Deco statue in the world.
Rio was one of eight new sites, four natural and four cultural, added to the UN’s list on Sunday.
In granting heritage status, UNESCO commended the key features that have shaped and inspired the city’s development, such as Guanabara Bay and the Tijuca National Park - a sprawling urban forest in the west that cloaks the Corcovado Mountain down to the sea.
The Corcovado and the Christ statue were also highlighted, as were the city’s 200-year-old botanical gardens, where you can find ornamental bridges, carnivorous plants, and giant lilies. The waterfront spaces of Copacabana Bay, home to the city’s most famous beach, were recognised too for their contribution to the culture of outdoor living that is a defining characteristic of the city.
"Rio de Janeiro is also recognised for the artistic inspiration it has provided to musicians, landscapers and urbanists," UNESCO added.
The city has always been popular with tourists and will soon be the centre of attention when it hosts the next football World Cup in 2014, followed by the Olympics in 2016. Plans are underway to clean up some of the city's more polluted beaches and improve public facilities and transport in time for the events.
The other sites recognised include four major mines in Walonia, Belgium; decorated farmhouses in Hälsingland, Sweden; the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük inTurkey; the Lakes of Ounianga in Chad; the parks of the Sangha Trinational in the north-western Congo Basin; the Chengjiang Fossil Site in China; and India's Western Ghats.