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Brasilia Travel Guide

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Brasilia Cathedral © Jose Eduardo Deboni

Situated on top of the Brazilian highlands, Brasilia is the country's purpose-built capital, its seat of government and fourth-largest city. Most visitors pass through Brasilia International Airport, one of the continent's major transport hubs, without bothering to view the city. Indeed, they'll find little to rival the allure of Brazil's more mainstream destinations.

Nevertheless, Brasilia is a major drawcard for architecture aficionados, who come to marvel at its artistic layout and monumental modernist buildings. The city is recognised as a World Heritage Site.

Designed in an attempt at a utopian city, Brasilia has been nicknamed 'ilha da fantasia' or 'Fantasy Island'. As such, the buildings serve as monuments to progress, technology, and the promise of the future. Against a backdrop of perpetually blue sky, their striking, bleached-white granite and concrete lines are wonderfully photogenic.

Among the most famous of Brasilia's modernist structures are the Cathedral of Santuario Dom Bosco, the monolithic Palácio do Itamaraty, and the TV tower, which, at 240 feet (72m), offers the best views in town.

The famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, designed all of the original city's buildings, while the urban planner, Lucio Costa, did the layout. The central city's intersecting Highway Axis makes it resemble an aeroplane when viewed from above. Getting around the city is easy and convenient, as there is excellent public transport. However, walking is not usually an option given the vast distances between the picturesque landmarks.

Brasilia is located 720 miles (1,160km) from Rio de Janeiro and 626 miles (1,007km) from Sao Paulo. As the only major inland city in this vast country, it is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Still, visitors will find some worthwhile excursions outside the capital. The long distances involved make these overnight trips. Itiquira Falls is a 550 foot-high (168m) waterfall 60 miles (100km) from the city, and Caldas Novas - the world's largest natural hot springs resort - can be found 220 miles (360km) southeast of Brasilia.

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