Geography of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Geography of the State of Rio de Janeiro

The state of Rio de Janeiro has one of the strongest economies in Brazil, with great industrial and commercial strength, in addition to being an important tourist hub. Its capital, the city ​​of Rio de Janeiro , has a great international tourist profile and hosted in 2016 the Olympic Games.

Physical aspects

With an area of ​​43 696 km 2 , the state of Rio de Janeiro is limited to Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo (to the north); with the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and south; and with São Paulo and Minas Gerais to the west.

Landscape and climate

As for the landscape, it is subdivided into two main units: the plateau and the lowlands . In the higher areas, the tropical altitude climate prevails and, in the coastal areas, the tropical climate. On average, it has annual temperatures above 22 ° C and high rainfall.


The vegetation has undergone profound changes due to economic activities. Originally, the lands of Rio de Janeiro were occupied by extensive areas of tropical forests, while in the lowlands there was the presence of mangroves with their plants endowed with aerial roots.

However, there was intense devastation, mainly during the coffee cycle, which brought degradation to the soil and caused the appearance of numerous eroded areas.

Today, there are old areas of forest occupied by pastures, but there are also consistent projects for the recovery of the Atlantic Forest, especially in the Paraíba valley. The city of Rio de Janeiro is home to the largest urban forest in the world, with an area of ​​39.51 km 2 .


The relief is quite diversified: there is the presence of extensive rugged areas along the coast and also in the interior, with the formations called Mares de Morros . The culminating point of Rio de Janeiro is located in the Serra da Mantiqueira , a rugged area that also crosses the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais: it is the Pico das Agulhas Negras, with an altitude of 2787 m,

Another important area of ​​relief is the Serra do Mar , which receives different names in the state: Serra da Bocaina, Serra da Estrela and Serra dos Órgãos. In the latter is located the famous formation called “Dedo de Deus”.

Quite indented, the coast of Rio de Janeiro has different geomorphological formations, such as bays, lakes, rocky shores, dunes, sandbanks and flat beaches.


The main hydrographic basin is the Paraíba do Sul River, whose most important tributaries are Muriaé , Paraibuna and Piraí . The waters of this basin supply the state capital. In addition to these water courses, the Itabapoana, Macaé, Magé and Guandu rivers are worth mentioning.

The population of Rio de Janeiro

In 2017, the state of Rio de Janeiro had a total of 16.72 million inhabitants. The great population concentration is in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro: with more than 12,280,702 people, it is the second largest urban agglomeration in the country.

Ethnically, the population is made up of a great diversity of groups of European origin. Initially, the most significant presence was that of the Portuguese. The first group of immigrants to create nuclei in the lands of Rio de Janeiro was that of the Swiss, who founded the colony of Nova Friburgo in 1818, in the mountainous region.

The rugged relief of the area and the high incidence of malaria made this occupation extremely difficult. Other Europeans also settled in Rio de Janeiro, among them the Finns, established mainly in the region of Penedo, district of Itatiaia located in the south of the state.

It is also worth noting the important influx of Africans, brought for centuries as slaves. Until the middle of the 19th century, the majority of the population of Rio de Janeiro was black or mestizo.

Today, about 96% of the population of Rio de Janeiro lives in urban areas, the majority in the capital. The municipalities of Niterói, Campos de Goytacazes, Macaé, Barra de Pirai, Resende, Magé, Duque de Caxias, Angra dos Reis, Nova Iguaçu, Petrópolis, Parati and Teresópolis also stand out.

The slums

The high population concentration in the city of Rio de Janeiro would already be a sufficient factor to lead to the formation of areas of inadequate housing. Initially, the low-income population lived in tenements , but in the 19th century the government classified this type of housing as an “aggression to the moral and social order”, as such housing housed criminals and, due to unhealthy conditions, favored the transmission of diseases .

The Rio favelas originated in the occupation of the Santo Antônio and Providência hills, in the central area of ​​the city.

The tenements are considered the embryos of the favelas , not only because there were shacks and hovels in these buildings, but also because there is a direct relationship between the destruction of the tenements in the city center and the occupation of the hills by the low-income population. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, a new space for the reproduction of misery appeared in the so-called Morro da Favella. The name would later become the noun that calls this type of housing occupation.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of people live in the favelas that extend along the slopes of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Considered to be violent areas and dominated by drug trafficking, favelas expose their residents to a terrible situation of social exclusion and daily violence, whether due to the control exercised by traffickers or the violent action of the police. Rio is home to one of the largest slums in Latin America, Rocinha, which received its name because it was an old rural area, where there were subsistence gardens. About 130 thousand people live in this community.

The economy of Rio de Janeiro

The state of Rio de Janeiro has diversified production.

In the primary sector , agricultural, extractive-mineral and energy activities are important. Industrial activity is also strong in the state, as well as tourism and service provision. Although it remains important, agriculture is increasingly losing its prominent role in the state economy, as the sector has not undergone significant modernization. There are sugarcane crops in the municipality of Campos dos Goytacazes, as well as tomatoes, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, orange and bananas. Recently, the mountain region near the capital has been emerging in the production of horticultural products that supply the city. There is a predominance of small and medium-sized rural properties with intensive use of agricultural land.

The extractive sector plays an important role in the economy of Rio de Janeiro, with products ranging from sea salt to limestone, dolomite and marble. But it is oil that constitutes great wealth. Leading the national production, the Campos basin, located in the northeast of the state, holds the production of about 65% of the oil obtained in the national territory. Explored since 1974, its wells are called off-shore because they are located in deep underwater areas.

To exploit them, Brazil needed to develop special prospecting technology. Part of the production is exported to other countries.

The industry is the activity that generates more jobs and wages in the state. The most important sectors are metallurgical, steel, chemical, petrochemical and naval, which accounts for the production of 95% of the country’s ships. The food, paper and cellulose, editorial, graphic and extractive-mineral industries also stand out. This last segment is mainly concentrated in three areas of the state: the Grande Rio, the Paraíba do Sul valley and the mountain region, with emphasis on the municipalities of Duque de Caxias, Arraial do Cabo, Volta Redonda and Resende. The capital has been investing in the construction of an important port complex in the bay of Sepetiba.

The first stock exchange in the country, founded in 1845, operates in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Since 2002, it has only traded real estate securities and auctions. Control of stock trading was transferred to the São Paulo stock exchange.

Tourism and culture

Lush mountains and beautiful beaches make up the landscape of the state of Rio de Janeiro, whose capital remains the main gateway for national tourism.

Owner of a private urban site, nestled between the sea and the mountains, the city delights everyone who visits it. Part of the symbols of Rio de Janeiro are Christ the Redeemer, elected one of the seven current wonders of humanity, and the Sugarloaf Mountain, from the top of which it is possible to have a breathtaking view of the city.

There are also numerous important historical constructions, which represent different phases of Brazilian history, from the time of the colony to the republican period.

State of Rio de Janeiro