Rio de Janeiro (River of January) is one of the world’s most sensual cities, its urban landscape set between wave-kissed, sandy beaches and unusual, forest-covered granite mountains lorded over by the open embrace of Christ the Redeemer, the largest art deco sculpture on the planet.

Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is a summer blessing in Rio, with its steamy Christmas and New Year’s, known as Réveillon, and the world’s most famous celebration, Carnival.

The city’s beauty—man-made and natural—is most striking during these warm months, from its lush urban rain forest, Tijuca National Park, which rises up the cliffs of Corcovado Mountain, to the splendid miniature gardens edging the sidewalks all over town.

> Stay in Style:

With its own elite Carnival party, beach, and lovely pool for cooling off, the Copacabana Palace Hotel is an ideal place to set up base during the season.

First opened in 1923, it is one of the most luxurious hotels in South America, consistently winning awards from major travel publications. Overlooking the beach in Cocacabana, this has long been the stopping point for VIPs, from crowned heads to Hollywood royalty.

> Party Beachside:

Rio is a city of beach lovers, especially this time of year, from the urban paradise of crowded Copacabana to upscale, bossa-inflected Ipanema.

It is during the holiday season that samba beats heat up the swirly beachside Avenida Atlântica sidewalks and caipirinhas, the drink made from sugarcane-fermented cachaça, cool down the sun-worshippers as night falls.

Less famous beaches offer something, too, like Praia Vermelha (“red beach”), with its military base, allowing beachgoers to watch the regular surf-side drills. Or head to the suburbs’ very wealthy enclave Barra da Tijuca, with its unspoiled beaches and lakes.

> Celebrate Under the Sun and Sparks:

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