Harbor of Rio de Janeiro Facts

The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is one of the largest bays on Earth and it has been voted one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The harbor is surrounded by mountains and contains numerous islands. It was discovered by Portuguese seafarers in 1502.

Harbor of Rio de Janeiro Facts for Kids

  • Rio de Janeiro translates as January River from Portuguese. When the Portuguese explorers arrived in the area, they mistakenly assumed that the bay was the mouth of a huge river.
  • The harbor is also known as Guanabara Bay which means Arm of the Sea in the area’s traditional language.
  • Rio de Janeiro, the second-largest city in Brazil, in South America is located on the bay’s southwest shore and the city of Niteroi on the southeast.
  • The naturally-formed harbor is well known for its great beauty, especially its beaches. The bay curves inland for almost 20 miles and contains over 130 islands.
  • The highest mountain around the harbor is Corcovado at 2,300 feet (700 meters) high, but the most famous is called Sugar Loaf Mountain, called so because of its unusual shape. Many of the islands in the bay are actually the tops of underwater hills.
  • The bay’s maximum length is 19 miles (31 km) with a maximum width of 17 miles (28 km).
  • The entrance to the bay is just under a mile wide (1.5 km), with defensive fortresses on each side, one to the west at the Sugar Loaf Mountain end and the other to the east on the Papagaio Peak side.
  • Villegagnon Island is located near to the bay’s entrance and was occupied by French soldiers between 1555 and 1560 whilst trying to create a French settlement. The island is now home to the Brazilian Naval School.
  • The Rio-Niteroi Bridge crosses over the bay, with a length of just over 8 miles (13 km). There are also numerous ferry routes that cross the bay.
  • Rio de Janeiro harbor has hugely varied marine life but this has suffered in recent years due to pollution, urbanization and mismanagement of sewage and natural resources. Three major oil spills in the bay have made the continued environmental damage even more severe


Question: Why is the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro a natural wonder?
Answer: The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is classed as a natural wonder because it is a unique and beautiful place. The combination of high mountains, the sea, and sandy beaches have made it an extremely popular place to visit.

As the bay is so large it can be viewed from many different places and can seem like a different place each time depending on the viewpoint. In short, its great natural beauty and varied landscape and marine life make this a wonder of nature.

Question: Why is Rio de Janeiro Harbor facing increasing environmental problems?
Answer: Like most modern cities, a huge number of people and their lifestyles can cause environmental problems. However, Rio de Janeiro Harbor is almost at a crisis point because half of the sewage released into the bay is untreated and the fact that only 1 in 3 people living in Rio’s center have access to the sewage system.

Many of the rivers that flow into the sea there have already been classed as biologically dead. A combination of rapid population growth, industrialization, and lack of public funds have added to the problem, and any progress being made is slow.

The bay has also been damaged by oil spills, pollution, and litter which have all added to a reduction in the variety of marine life that can be found in its waters.