From June 12 through July 13, FIFA World Cup soccer takes over the country. Unless you're crazy for it, don't go then. But before or after, you may find an exhilarating country made slightly tidier and safer (www.visitbrasil.com), from the jaw-dropping geography of Rio de Janeiro to colonial Ouro Preto. Rio's beachside Copacabana Palace Hotel (born in 1923) got a big revamp in 2012. Affordable lodgings such as Z.bra Hostel and Leblon Spot can be found in the trendy Leblon neighborhood. Slums and crime will remain, but with the Olympics set for 2016, authorities intend a major cleanup. In November, police and Navy commandos apparently restored the rule of law in the city's largest slum, Rocinha, after 30 years of drug-gang rule. Pictured: The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg
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