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The Blue Coast starts just across Guanabara Bay in Niterói, whose ancient forts stand in stark contrast to its ultramodern Museu de Arte Contemporânea. Farther east is Cabo Frio, one of the country's oldest settlements. Nearby Búzios, with its 23 beaches, temperate climate, and vibrant nightlife, is a popular weekend holiday destination for wealthy cariocas as well as foreign visitors to Rio.
Northeast of Rio de Janeiro lies Petrópolis, whose opulent imperial palace was once the emperor's summer home. A twisting road through the mountains takes you to Teresópolis, named for Empress Teresa Christina. Nestled between these two towns is Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos, famous for its unique rock formations.
West of Rio de Janeiro, Angra dos Reis is the jumping-off point for 365 islands that pepper a picturesque bay. The largest, Ilha Grande, is a short ferry ride from Angra dos Reis and is still somewhat unspoiled. Paraty, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a well-preserved imperial town. Its 18th-century Portuguese architecture and proximity to secluded beaches make it the region's highlight.