Curitiba is on the Paraná Plateau, at an elevation of 2,800 feet. It owes its name to the Paraná pinecones, which were called kur-ity-ba by the native Guaranis. In a region that already differs considerably from the rest of the country, this city of 1.8 million is unique for its temperate climate (with a mean temperature of 16°C/61°F) and the 50% of its population that is of non-Iberian European ancestry.
With one of the highest densities of urban green space in the world, Curitiba is known as the environmental capital of Brazil. This is not only because of its array of parks but also because since the 1980s it has had progressive city governments that have been innovative in their urban planning. The emphasis on protecting the environment has produced an efficient public transportation system and a comprehensive recycling program that are being used as models for cities around the globe.