When you live in or even just visit a city like Rio de Janeiro, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Too many people, too much noise, too much traffic… luckily just 125 miles south lies one of Brazil’s most popular small towns – Paraty. In the summer it fills up with both Brazilians and foreign tourists, leaving it feeling almost as packed as Rio, but come visit during the week or in the off season and you’ll enjoy having the beautiful, old colonial city almost to yourself.
A National Historic Monument
One of the reasons for Paraty’s popularity is the beautifully preserved center of town. Founded in the late 1600s, Paraty became a rich port city, transporting the gold of South America back to Portugal. The wealth of the gold trade produced many grand colonial homes as well as a central district with cobblestone-paved streets. Today the streets are pedestrian-only and many of the old colonial mansions have become cute boutique hotels.
The whole center of Paraty has been declared a historic monument by the Brazilian government due to the very well preserved colonial architecture. The reason for the city’s great preservation is mainly due to the sudden and complete end to the gold rush in this area. The gold was still flowing out of Brazil but thanks to a new road and a quicker route to Rio, Paraty’s port was no longer needed. With a lack of money and work, Paraty became stuck in a bit of a time warp with very little new construction occurring until the 1970s or so when the city was “rediscovered” as a tourist destination and the restoration of the buildings began.
Outside of town, you can also still see the remains of the old “Gold Trail” which was the reason Paraty became so rich. THis 1200 kilometer road was entirely paved with large stones all the way back in the late 1600s and early 1700s. It was used to transport the gold from the mines back to the city’s port and to send miners and African slaves back up to the mines. Today you can visit two excavated and restored sections of the trail which make for a great hike.
What to Do Around Town
Besides marveling at all the well-preserved colonial architecture, there is plenty to do in and around Paraty for the less history loving traveler. The city has become a favorite vacation destination not only for the city but also for the area’s beaches. There are great beaches no matter which way you head out of town but one of the most popular is in the small village of Trindade, which you can reach by bus from Paraty.
Besides beaches, consider a hike along the Gold Trail or a visit to one of the organic farms in the area. There are also guides treks through the Atlantic rainforest, kayaking nearby through mangroves, diving courses, and even a stand-up-paddle-boarding school.
If you want to stay in town, Paraty offers some incredible shopping with boutique shops, high end designers, native crafts, and antiques from the town’s gold rush days.
Couple Travel Tips
- Paraty’s high season is during the summer months when more Brazilians have time off to visit but it has great temperatures and weather year round. Consider visiting in early Spring or Fall for the best experience.
- One of the best times to visit is early September when the annual Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios is held. This religious celebration is one of the city’s biggest and is beautiful to see.
- As a tourist destination, Paraty is very safe and the most common “crime” is probably overpaying for a taxi. The taxis in town are not metered and very expensive so be sure you negotiate a price before getting in.