Paraty – Brazil’s finest coastal colonial town.
Paraty is the jewel in the crown of the Costa Verde, possibly Brazil’s most spectacular stretch of coastline. The colourful town nestles below the mountains of the Serra da Bocaina National Park, a beautiful range covered with some of the most extensive Atlantic Rainforest remaining in Brazil. The mountains give rise to waterfalls which tumble down the steep slopes to join the waters of the Bay of Angra dos Reis. Paraty sits in a sheltered corner of the bay, with tropical islands dotting the azure and golden beaches lining the shores.
The town itself is perhaps the best preserved colonial town along Brazil’s 8,000km of coastline. Originally the port used to ship gold from the newly-discovered deposits of Minas Gerais inland, Paraty is the start (or the end) of The Gold Trail, which was hand-built to connect the gold mines to the coast. The region is steeped in colonial history, and with Paraty having lost its importance after the gold-rush died out around 1850, the centre of town was left untouched and undeveloped. The harbour, churches, cobbled streets and town houses remain the same as they were centuries ago, and the colourful colonial buildings retain the character of the town.
Paraty is a charming town day and night, with a very relaxed atmosphere. The cobbled streets of the historic centre are lined with fascinating shops, outdoor bars and cosy restaurants, although the streets around the harbour can be tricky to negotiate if a very high tide leaves them full of seawater!
Daytime in Paraty can be filled with an exploration of the historic areas of town to learn about the colonial and slavery periods. The harbour sees a whole fleet of colourful boats, yachts and schooners leaving the pier every morning, most for day trips around the hidden beaches and islands of the bay, with passengers invariably returning happily in the afternoon. The boat tours are probably the most popular option, but there are plenty more in Paraty. The Old Gold Trail can be visited along with the waterfalls and natural rock slides that run down the steep valleys alongside it. These waterfalls also helped to power the original alambiques, which produced cachaça, the sugar-cane spirit. There are still alambiques in the area to visit too.
The beaches around Paraty and the Costa Verde are as spectacular as the town and the mountain scenery. Soft sands backed with palm trees and washed by gentle waves, some are visible from the main road, others are only possible to reach by hiking trails over headlands. Trails to beaches such as Praia do Sono and Antigos can be walked in a day trip from Paraty. The remote fishing villages of Paraty-Mirim and Trindade can also make a day out from the town, or can make a destination in themselves.
Activities in Paraty can be either with a guide or with a map. The hills and trails are also excellent for mountain biking, horse-riding and longer treks, usually with refreshing waterfalls, pools and beaches along the way for a swim. You can also swim while enjoying some of the best sailing conditions in Brazil, or snorkelling and scuba diving around the bay. Returning to the town after a day ‘on the hoof’ feels almost like returning home, and dining on the cobbles, under the stars or a special Costa Verde moon helps to finish every day immersed in the unique charm of Paraty.
Suitable Destination For: Those who like the combination of a little scenery, tranquility and history.
Best Time to Visit: Paraty lies just inside the Tropic Of Capricorn, so has a generally even climate. Any time of year can be good to visit, and the town and surrounding mountains and rainforest can still be a pleasure to visit even if the weather is not perfect.
Essential Sights & Activities: The historic part of town; the harbour; the Bay of Angra dos Reis; The Old Gold Trail; Boat or Kayak trips around the bay; Tasting the various flavours of Cachaça and the finest Caipirinhas in Brazil!