Getting There: Located four hours south of Rio de Janeiro and six hours from Sao Paulo, Paraty can be reached by bus. Comfortable air-conditioned carriers leave either city multiple times a day, making for flexible travel to and from the town. Alternatively, Paraty can be reached by boat from Ilha Grande, but unless you plan to overnight on the island the bus route is preferable.
Where to Stay: Staying inside the Old Town is a bit pricier than finding accommodations outside, however those hotels within the historic center retain the old world charm of their surroundings. Regardless of where you spend the night, Paraty is a small town so everything is within walking distance.
Since the decline of its gold rush, Paraty began producing cachaça. Made from distilled sugarcane, cachaça is the main ingredient and liquor in the iconic Brazilian cocktail, the caipirinha. Visiting one of the local distilleries is a great way to spend the day and a bottle of this potent liquor is a classic souvenir. If you can’t make it to a distillery, cachaça emporiums can be found throughout the old town and a caipirinha can be ordered at any restaurant. August marks the annual “Festival da Cachaça,” showcasing the importance this beverage plays in Paraty’s history and Brazilian culture.
Treat Your Tastebuds
When it comes to food, Paraty does not disappoint. Since its rise as a tourist destination, restaurants have sprung up serving everything from local favourites to international eats. Quality Italian, French and seafood dominate the menu in the Old Town. And for dessert, Gelato is a popular choice; self-serve Gelaterias complete with confectionary garnishes can be found on nearly every corner.
Surprisingly, one culinary gem is actually located near the bus station in Istanbul, where made-to-order healthy Turkish food can be found. Fresh lemonades, bright salads and hearty mains make for a delectable and satisfying meal, especially before departing or arriving by bus. Live music is also a common mealtime accompaniment. Whether it's a musical parade dancing through the square or an acoustic guitar duo romancing you with Brazilian classics, music makes for an enchanting dining experience.
The Beaches of Paraty
Brazil’s South Coast is perhaps most noted for its abundance of beautiful beaches and Paraty’s surroundings are no exception. Whether by boat, bus or hiking trail, there are beaches in every direction.
By bus you can reach the fishing village of Trindade, where a beautiful beaches are waiting to be explored. The easily reached Praia do Meio (Middle Beach) is family friendly. Framed by rocky hills on either side, the beach itself is sheltered from aggressive ocean waves, which creates a safe swimming pool for beach goers. Two casual restaurants offer lunch and drinks, while a handful of vendors sell local wares.
Follow a nearby trail from Praia do Meio to Praia Cachadaço. The beach here is quieter and typically less busy, however the waves are larger and the current is stronger – caution is advised if you're going to swim.
To escape the battering waves completely, carry on from Praia Cachadaço along a second trail leading to the Cachadaço Natural Pools. Separated from the open-ocean by large rocks, the waters here are warmer, clearer and calmer.
Hiking and Biking
The Gold Road hiking trail offers outdoor enjoyment in a historical setting. The gold rush of the late 17th century put Paraty on the map as an export port, ferrying gold to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Portugal. Nowadays, all that remains of this infamous past is this aptly named trail that once carried supplies through the jungle. Visitors can wander along the stone-paved path and enjoy some spectacular views of the rolling green hills surrounding them.
If you prefer biking to hiking, the two-hour ride to the natural rock waterslide Cachoeira Toboga is well worth it. Once off the road, a small jungle path leads to the falls where years of rushing water have buffed the stone into a smooth slide for daring locals and visitors alike to enjoy. This magical oasis is also accessible by bus or taxi from the town center.
Step Into The Past
Free from cars and paved in oversized cobblestones, the picturesque Old Town delights with its ornate architecture and colourful storefronts. Wander through the quaint town center and enjoy the mixture of history and luxury that line the streets. Four baroque churches speak to the town’s traditional roots while upscale boutiques touting local designers and ample restaurants cater to contemporary desires. This contrast between the old and the new draws visitors from Brazil and beyond.
Brazil's Paraty is a tropical paradise with old-world charm
A historical treasure tucked away within a tropical paradise, Paraty offers a diverse blend of vacation activities. Eat, shop and explore the charming Old Town, which remains one of the most well-preserved colonial centers in the region. Venture outside the city limits where the landscape opens up to reveal mountainous hiking and bike trails, waterfall swimming holes and secluded beaches.
So whether lazing on a beach, seeing the sites or hitting the trails, Paraty has something to please every vacationing style.
Former intern turned contributing writer, Natalie Walters covers a range of topics for BC Living, with a special interest in travel, style and all things edible. She loves exploring food and far off places, preferably at the same time, and hopes to continue adventuring her way around the world as an international journalist.