We present a high-resolution pollen and charcoal record of a 218 cm long sediment core from the Serra dos Órgãos, a subrange of the coastal Serra do Mar, located at 2130 m altitude in campos de altitude (high elevation grass- and shrubland) vegetation near Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil to reconstruct past vegetation, climate and fire dynamics. Based on seven AMS 14C ages, the record represents at least the last 10 450 14C yr bp (12 380 cal years bp), The uppermost region was naturally covered by campos de altitude throughout the recorded period. Diverse montane Atlantic rain forest (ARF) occurred close to the studied peat bog at the end of the Late-glacial period. There is evidence of small Araucaria angustifolia populations in the study area as late as the early Holocene, after which point the species apparently became locally extinct. Between 10 380 and 10 170 14C yr bp (12 310–11 810 cal yr bp), the extent of campos de altitude was markedly reduced as montane ARF shifted rapidly upward to higher elevations, reflecting a very wet and warm period (temperatures similar to or warmer than present day) at the end of the Younger Dryas (YD) chronozone. This is in opposition to the broadly documented YD cooling in the northern Hemisphere. Reduced cross-equatorial heat transport and movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone over northeastern Brazil may explain the YD warming. Markedly extended campos de altitude vegetation indicates dry climatic conditions until about 4910 14C yr bp (5640 cal yr bp). Later, wetter conditions are indicated by reduced high elevation grassland and the extension of ARF into higher elevation. Fire frequency was high during the early Holocene but decreased markedly after about 7020 14C yr bp (7850 cal yr bp).