Brasilia, Brazil

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Brazil’s inland futuristic capital Brasilia was carved out of nowhere in the 1950s, a stark, modernist and purpose-built city, and the only one in the world built in the 20th century that achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. That is a credit to master-architect Oscar Niemeyer whose master plan—in the shape of a huge bird—endowed the capital with: the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, a subterranean church awash in light while above ground the cathedral resembles a crown of thorns; a complex of government palaces (Palacio do Itamaraty housing the Foreign Ministry is the super-star); the Memorial JK, a beautiful architectural salute to former president Juscelino Kubitschek; the Museu Nacional, a hemisphere-shaped design with a long, grand ramp leading to its gaping entrance. For a birds-eye view of it all, take the elevator to the observation deck atop of TV Tower. Useful for sightseeing around the capital is Brasilia City Tour, a double-decker, hop-on/hop-off tourist bus that covers the main tourist destinations along the Eixo Monumental. City planners left room for leisure and green spaces, such as the Parque da Cidade, with jogging and cycling paths. Additionally, take a hike in the Jardim Botanico, go for a sail on Lake Paranoa, or dine overlooking the lake at the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada hotel. In a capital accustomed to hosting international visitors, there is no shortage of restaurants serving up cuisines of the world: Japanese at Original Shundi, Middle Eastern at Lagash, French at Alice Brasserie. But of course the Brazilians love their beef, and one of the best all-you-can-eat steak houses is Fogo de Chao. Nowadays, Delta’s international air service to Brasilia provides the perfect reason to venture beyond on domestic flights to Cuiaba, gateway to The Pantanal: the region of Amazonia that is not a forested jungle but a low-lying flood plain whose wildlife is just simply remarkable: giant river otters, capybaras, anteaters, marsh deer, tapirs and 650 species of birds—from jabiru storks to roseate spoonbills.