Between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Paraty is a small colonial town on Brazil’s unspoilt Costa Verde – the Emerald Coast – that’s popular with city dwellers seeking a coastal refuge as well as a handful of in-the-know tourists.
Hemmed in by jungle-clad mountains on one side and the coast on the other, Paraty is set amid secluded beaches, untouched peninsulas and island-studded bays. While many choose to stay in the more crowded beach resorts around Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo or Bahia, we’d recommend off-the-beaten-track Paraty holidays for its quiet, preserved town and unblemished natural beauty.
The town has a remarkably well-preserved colonial centre, with charming cobbled streets and a mix of 17th- and 18th-century buildings that date back to its time as a bustling port town. Due to its part in the Brazilian Gold Rush, the town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, and the Gold Trail which links Paraty to the world’s richest gold mines in the mountains of Minas Gerais can still be hiked today. Due to its paved streets, the centre of the town is closed to traffic, so getting around on foot or by horse and cart is the only way to explore the boutiques, galleries and landmarks, such as the whitewashed waterfront chapel of Capel de Santa Rita. During holiday season Brazilians flock here to enjoy the many fantastic restaurants and bars, or to simply stroll among the irregular cobbled streets lined with white houses accented by bright colours. Time your visit for the monthly full moon and you may get to see Paraty’s extraordinary tidal flood when the seawater rises above its usual levels and pours into the town’s historic centre. The effect is only temporary and usually only six inches deep, but makes for a curious spectacle.
All along the coast surrounding Paraty, there are plentiful beach resorts to discover, with small islands providing an even more laid-back example of life in Brazil. Take a short boat trip to the unspoilt island retreat of Ilha Grande, a speck of land off the Emerald Coast that has seen many incarnations over the years: as a pirate’s lair, a leper colony, and a political prison. Now the island is a lovely beach retreat and the only lasting physical memories of the island’s unsavoury past are a handful of stone foundations; its beautiful beaches, protected rainforest and sleepy fishing villages are the best reason to visit. Stay in a stylish hotel in the palm-fronted town of Vila do Abraão and enjoy the pedestrianised streets, dockside restaurants and hiking routes out of town and up into the hills.
For first-hand inspiration and more information on our holidays to Paraty, call our experienced Destination Experts for South America now.