Paraty was a major port for shipping gold and gemstones to Portugal by the 17th and 18th centuries. The city’s decline at the end of the gold cycle and its lack of proper roads eventually preserved the historic center, which was designated a national heritage site by 1958. Paraty remained with precarious access until 1972, when the coastal road between Rio de Janeiro and Santos, in São Paulo, was built. Rich out-of-towners, mainly from São Paulo, started to buy and restore old houses. Artists followed suit. A town was reborn.
In Paraty, unlike other Brazilian historic towns, you won’t find the masterpieces sculptor Aleijadinho erected in Ouro Preto, nor the dazzling golden altars of Salvador and Olinda. Its charm lies instead in its simple layout, the masonic symbols inscribed on the cornerstones of houses, the sea that invades the streets near the pier at high tide (creating a Brazilian acqua alta), the mountains dazzlingly close to the coast — and, why not, the town’s flat topography, so rare in Portuguese colonial towns.
Paraty may not have slopes but it has a surefire way to slow down pedestrians: the uneven cobblestone paving known as pé-de-moleque (the name of a traditional peanut & molasses cookie), enemy to high heels and which should be treaded with caution. Thanks to the paving, you will have no choice but to follow the best advice to explore the historic district: to leisurely wander around.
On the first sunny day, take a boat and visit the islands and its tiny beaches. If it’s cloudy, don’t fret: this sleeping beauty of a town is delightful no matter the weather.
Why include Paraty in your trip
- It’s the closest preserved historic town to Rio de Janeiro
- Great for boat tours
- Exciting foodie scene
Keep in mind:
- The best beaches are out of town
- It is consistently rainier than Rio de Janeiro
When to go to Paraty
The rainforest-covered mountains are responsible for warm, rainy summers in the region. The best time for taking boat tours is from June to September, when it’s drier. However, the occasional cold front may cause the temperature to drop below 15C (60F).
Regardless of the season, Paraty is more pleasant if you don’t visit it during long holidays or school breaks. The city is especially magical on weekdays, when there are fewer visitors and you’ll feel more comfortable wandering through the historic center and discovering its secrets.
The city crawls with writers and readers during flip, the Paraty International Literary Festival. It also pays off braving the crowds during the centuries-old Catholic festivities – especially Easter, Festa do Divino (50 days after Easter Sunday), and Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter Sunday). On Corpus Christi (always celebrated on a Thursday), colorful carpets made of sawdust and sand are laid out in the streets for the liturgical procession.
When is beach season in Paraty?
Driest season: June | July | August
It may get cold: June | July | August
Possibly rainy: September
Likely rainy: January | February | March | April | October | November
Definitely rainy: December
Getting to Paraty
The closest airport is Galeão (GIG), in Rio de Janeiro, 240 km (150 miles) away. The distance between Paraty and Guarulhos airport (GRU), in São Paulo, is about 280 km (170 miles).
Costa Verde is the company operating on the Rio-Paraty route and it offers 13 departures a day. The trip lasts between 4.30 to 5 hours and costs R$ 77.50 (September/2016). All buses make a stop at Angra dos Reis.
Buses leave from Novo Rio bus station (to get there, take the subway to Cinelândia station and then the VLT tram to Rodoviária).
You’ll get off at Paraty bus station, which is located outside the historic district. There’s a taxi rank in the bus station. The flat fare is R$ 20.00 to anywhere in town (if you’re staying in a fancy place, the driver will try to squeeze an extra 5 bucks out of you).
ParatyTours operates shuttle transfers between Rio (from both airports and from hotels in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon) and Paraty. They must be booked two days in advance and need at least two passengers. One-way tickets cost R$ 210 per person (September/2016). Your hostel can also arrange a transfer.
The fixed fare for a Cootramo premium taxi from Galeão to Paraty is R$ 1,036 (September/2016).
The regular taxi cab (Aerocoop is the operator) from Galeão to Paraty costs R$ 872 (September/2016).
From São Paulo
Reunidas Paulista is the bus company operating the São Paulo-Paraty route and it offers 5 departures a day. The trip lasts 6 hours. Each tickets cost from R$ 65 (regular, ‘convencional’) to R$ 76 (luxury, ‘executivo’) (September/2016).
Buses leave from the Tietê bus terminal; to get there, take the subway line 1 (blue) to the Portuguesa-Tietê station. You’ll get off at the Paraty bus station, which is located outside the historic district. There’s a taxi rank in the bus station and the flat fare is R$ 20.00 to anywhere in town (if you’re staying in a fancy place, the driver will try to squeeze an extra 5 bucks).
From Ilha Grande
Take any boat bound to Angra dos Reis. The bus station is near the disembarking area. Colitur is the bus company and it charges R$ 9.50 to Paraty (September/2016). It takes about 2 hours to cover the 60-mile distance.
Getting to Trindade
The most beautiful Paraty beaches can be found at Trindade, 25 km (15 miles) from the town center. Buses to Trindade leave almost hourly from the bus station. The trip takes one hour and costs R$ 3 (September/2016).
Where to Stay in Paraty
Make sure to stay in the historic downtown area. Going to sleep and waking up in the colonial center of Paraty is unforgettable. But it’s undeniably more expensive than staying outside the old town and, in many cases, you won’t get a bang for your buck. Keep in mind that you’ll always get better value if you plan a weekday stay (inns’ rates are cheaper from Sunday to Wednesday). You can also snatch a good deal if you come the week before any long holiday, when Brazilians refrain to travel in order to save for a longer trip.
The Best Pousadas
The pousada (inn) with the best amenities in Paraty is Pousada Literária, where you’ll feel as if you’re staying at a swanky beach house in Angra dos Reis. The hotel common areas do not obey the typical Paraty rustic decor; contemporary furniture make for elegant laid-back environments. As a homage to Flip (the Paraty literary festival), the inn has books in every room and a beautiful library as the focal point of the living room. Literária offers one of the few swimming pools in the historic center, good enough to make you skip boat trips for at least one day. There’s also a spa (Poesia) on the premises, and an exclusive entrance to the restaurant Quintal das Letras, which is open to the public but is part of the inn. The people responsible for restoring the inn also bought Fazenda Murycana, an old cachaça mill which is currently under renovation; the concierge organizes picnics at Murycana where you can relax taking a river bath and bird-watching.
Casa Turquesa is a veritable signature inn; Tetê Etrusco, the owner, has lived in Paraty since 1994 and devised the loveliest of the pousadas that operate in colonial houses (bonus: it’s located in one of the most beautiful spots in town, near the pier and closest to the Santa Rita church.) The very comfy bedrooms have tasteful good-humored decor. Tetê provides the hosts with a travel guide she wrote herself with restaurant tips and the best tours.
Another inn built in the artisanal-chic style is Casa Colonial XII. It is comprised of two separate houses, one with 5 bedrooms and the other with 3, and it should please those who prefer sleek decor.
Pousada Pardieiro was one of the first inns to offer fancy lodging in Paraty. It has been operating since the 70s and it was once a member of the Relais & Châteaux, but even in its heydays it never lost its rustic touch. Pardieiro is a rosary of colonial houses with a tropical garden as a common area. The pool is not bad and the inn usually offers the best value in the midscale category.
The lovely Pousada Arte Urquijo is another inn with a special place in the hearts of Paraty visitors. Its trademarks are the art gallery on the ground floor, the straw slippers offered to guests so they can walk around the premises (shoes are kept in the lobby), and a honesty bar located in the lodging anteroom, where guests can open a tab and serve their own drinks. The bedrooms are not big but have beautiful views.
The highlight of Pousada do Ouro is its bar, garden and pool area, where you’ll be able to imagine the lifestyle of the lucky (and well-off) people have second homes in Paraty. The apartments are located in the main house or in a wing across the street (choose the main house).
Located amidst the buzz of rua do Comércio, the Pousada do Sandi has a bar, two restaurants and a fitness center.
Pousada da Marquesa is one of the most chaming inns in town, and it’s generally not expensive. But it’s located in the noisy Praça da Matriz, so if you’re planning to stay there, do so from Sunday through Thursday.
On the outskirts of the historic district, Pousada Porto Imperial has a beautiful common area located in its main historical house, with windows also facing the Praça da Matriz. Most bedrooms, however, are located in a fake colonial-style wing in the back.
More Pousadas in the Historic District
Next to the Santa Rita church, the Pousada do Cais is also relatively traditional; the rooms are mostly plain. On the top floor of the Bartholomeu restaurant there’s an eponimous inn; the rooms are small but well-decorated and overlook the streets or the rooftops of Paraty.
The Casa de Paraty, with just three bedrooms, is perfect for those who like all-white decor.
And if you don’t want to splurge but still want to stay at the historic district, try the no-frills Pousada Arte Colonial.
Outside the Historic District
There’s a Che Lagarto (the Argentinian hostel chain) one block away from the historic center.
The Pousada Corsário makes up for being outside the historic center with a very pleasant view of the river.
Across the river, the Vivenda Paraty inn has three white cottages facing a patio with a pool. It has many fans so the rooms are in high demand. The inn next door is called Maris Paraty and offers a similar layout.
Where to Eat in Paraty
If you take a walk through the historic center from noon on, you’ll see more restaurants than stores or residences in some blocks of rua do Comércio (the official street name is Tenente Francisco Antônio). Come evening, many of them have live music shows – mostly a singer accompanied by acoustic guitar.
You’ll find most bars and botecos (Brazilians-style pubs) at the Praça da Matriz side street (rua da Cadeia).
Starting mid-afternoon, you may also find vendors and their tray-carts with cakes and pastries parked at strategic spots. That’s where I usually eat my dessert.
Paraty is excelent if you want to try out contemporary Brazilian cuisine made with locally grown (often organic) ingredients.
The most caiçara (typically local) restaurant is the acclaimed Banana da Terra, managed by chef Ana Bueno, who learned to cook when she lived at Caxadaço beach, close to Trindade village. Try the clay-pot fish stew with banana (Rua Samuel Costa, 198, tel. 24/3371-1725).
The Quintal das Letras restaurant, located in the Pousada Literária (open to the public) uses vegetables organically grown at Fazenda Murycana. Go with and appetite and try appetizers like the ceviche with mango or pork belly à pururuca (deep fried) with shoyu caramel and bean mousse, and finish it off with a trio of crèmes brûlées (chocolate, berries and cumari pepper). For the main course, try the beef medallion with cassava gâteau or sea bass in banana crust (R. do Comércio, 58, tel. 24/3371-2616).
Consider a visit to the recently renovated Bartholomeu, owned by chef Alexandre Righetti – especially if you’re fond of meat (Samuel Costa, 176, tel. 24/3371-5032).
Is Italian food your thing? Chef Pippo Muscara is from Sicily and has two restaurants. Punto Divino, at Praça da Matriz, specializes in pasta and pizza, and is a traditional meeting place for the locals (Marechal Deodoro, 129, tel. 24/3371-2100). His other restaurant is Pippo, located at Pousada do Sandi. It opens also for lunch and has a cute theme décor with classic Italian movie posters (Rua do Comércio, 224, tel. 24/3371-2100).
In Paraty you can also find one of the finest Thai restaurants in Brazil: Thai Brasil, now located at rua do Comércio. Its owners have chosen to keep it authentic, unlike many (fake) Thai restaurants elsewhere in the country (R. do Comércio, 308 tel. 24/3371-2760).
If you’re looking for something different for lunch, try Istanbul, a small Turkish bistro with great falafel and couscous. It always offers a light, healthy daily special (Rua Manuel Torres, across the bus station, tel. 24/999-597-285).
Refúgio is the place to go if you’re looking for lunch out in the open with a great view of the quay (Praça do Porto, 1, tel. 24/3371-2447).
An excellent choice that combines gastronomy and nature is to make a reservation for a late lunch or early dinner at Le Gite d’Indaiatiba, 10 miles away; dip into the waterfall before the food arrives (Rio-Santos interstate km 562, Graúna, tel. 24/999-999-923). Book a taxi for the round trip.
Going out for a drink? There are many options at rua da Cadeia, but if they don’t strike your fancy, look for Café Paraty (R. do Comércio, 253, tel. 24/3371-0128) or Margarida Café (Praça do Chafariz, tel. 24/3371- 2441). At both places you’ll find superior live music (bands rather than voice & acoustic guitar); Margarida Café serves excellent cheese and ham mini-calzone appetizers. Paraty 33 also has live music everyday, and on Fridays and Saturdays there’s a DJ and dancing; check hours here (R. da Lapa, 357, tel. 23/3371-7308).
Things to Do in Paraty
In the Historic District
Roaming aimlessly and getting lost in the historic district is a permanent attraction in Paraty. The best time for taking pictures and making interesting discoveries is early in the morning, when the sun hasn’t risen too high and tourists haven’t arrived yet. If the town is crowded, all you have to do is get further away from the central corridor (a chunk from Rua do Comércio up to Praça da Matriz) and the amount of tourists drops perceptively. If you prefer a guided tour, the (Portuguese-speaking) horse-drawn cart riders act as guides during the 40-minute drive. They leave from Praça da Matriz (R$ 20 per passenger).
The biggest attraction behind closed doors is the Museum of Sacred Art in the Santa Rita Church (near the pier). Recently reopened (the church has been closed for seven years for renovation), it displays colonial relics collected in the region of Paraty. The other museum is Casa da Cultura, which helds temporary exhibits and musical performances.
Staying in Paraty for one night, on a Wednesday or Saturday? The acclaimed show at the Teatro Espaço is not to be missed. You won’t believe how a doll theater show for grown-ups could be so beautiful, delicate and gripping.
Museum of Sacred Art
- Largo de Santa Rita | Tel. 24/3371-8328 | Open Tue-Sun, 9am -12pm and 2pm – 5pm | Admission: R$ 2 (Tue free)
- Rua Dona Geralda, 177 | Tel. 24/3371-2325 | Open Wed-Mon, 10am – 6.30pm | Free
- Rua Dona Geralda, 327 | Tel. 24/3371-1575 | Shows Wed and Sat at 9pm (also Fri on holidays) | Admission: R$ 50
Before considering going to the beach, youi’ll want to take a boat trip. The bay of Paraty, with several tiny islets and some continental beaches accessible only by sea, invites you to take a long and slow trip through its calm waters (which are crystal-clear at the diving spots). Up to a few years ago there were several restaurants operating on the islands, but Ibama (the Brazilian Institute of Environment) closed down most of them; today the only restaurant on an island is Hiltinho on Algodão island (tel. 24/3371-1488). But there are restaurants that still operate on mainland beaches (there’s no road access, which makes you feel like you’re on an actual island).
There are three ways to take a boat tour in Paraty: by schooner, wooden fish boat or speedboat.
The schooner rides take up to 60 passengers in itineraries that last 5 to 6 hours, with stops for sea bathing and lunch (not included). The rides start at R$ 60 and fresh fruits (as well as loud music) are usually included.
The most traditional way of coast sightseeing is hiring a wooden fishing boat and skipper. The skippers take from couples to small groups and provide sunbathing matresses. Price is negotiable, but even off-season you’re expected to shell out between R$ 60 and R$ 80 per hour.
If you’re flush – or want to go farther out – the best option is to rent a speedboat with skipper. It’s not as romantic as the wooden boat ride but there are more stops and the possibility of going to Saco do Mamanguá, the ‘Brazilian fjord’. The 5-hour ride starts at R$ 900 for four passengers. You can buy tickets at local travel agencies or through the inn you’re staying at (we recommend Palombeta speedboat, complete with English-speaking skippers).
If the fishing boat or speedboat is your transport of choice, best to leave early, around 9-ish, to avoid the schooners, which leave at 10 or 11.
The beach closest to the historic distric is Pontal: to get there, just cross the bridge at Matriz Square (at the end of rua do Comércio) and follow along the canal towards the sea. There are conventional beach kiosks; the most favored by locals (famous for its appetizers, such as small shrimp with farofa, toasted yucca flour) is the last one on the left, called Quiosque Lapinha (tel. 24/999-288-239).
In less than 10 minutes by car – a R$ 20 cab ride – or half an hour by bike (there’s a steep slope!), you’ll arrive at the Jabaquara beach, with crystal-clear and calm waters (perfect for practicing SUP) and hip food & drink kiosks such as Balacobacco, Rebordosa, and Casa Nossa da Praia.
The best beaches in Paraty are in the village of Trindade, 25 km (15 miles) to the south. You can easily reach it by car within 30 minutes (the road is paved; parking is the difficult part). You can also go by bus (they leave every 60 minutes from the Paraty bus station, 1-hour trip, R$ 3) or with a booked tour.
The first beach is Cepilho, a surfer spot, still far from the village, where the shoreline begins.
The village beach is called Ranchos and has restaurants to the right, such as the Sereia do Mar.
Walk inland by foot and you’ll find the trail to Praia do Meio beach, the loveliest in Trindade. Unless there’s an undertow warning, the waters are calm. Its kiosks were shut down because the beach is located in a conservation area; you’ll find food vendors working on the weekends, however.
A 5-minute trek leads to Cachadaço (or Caixa d’Aço) beach. It’s a large stretch of sand facing the open sea. After crossing the entire beach (a 10-minute walk, give or take), trekking for a further 25 minutes through the woods will lead you to the Cachadaço Natural Pool, where sea water is contained among stones which are similar to the ones found in Seychelles. It’s also possible to get there by boat (book the trip at Praia do Meio).
The Gold Trail, Distilleries, and Waterfalls
During colonial times there was a road through which the gold harvested in Minas Gerais was to be exported through Paraty, known as Caminho do Ouro (the Gold Trail). Built by slaves on top of indigenous trails, it has a preserved stretch surrounded by lush vegetation, which can be visited with an accredited guide. Book a visit through a local agency or your inn.
Paraty was once synonymous with cachaça, the famous Brazilian sugar-cane distilled spirit, and even nowadays the city stands out in the artisanal production of quality spirits. There are six distilleries (still) in operation; click on any name to book a visit. On the way to the town of Cunha, you will find the distilleries of Cachaça Paratiana, Cachaça Corisco, Pedra Branca and Engenho d’Ouro. On the Rio-Santos interstate you’ll find Cachaça Coqueiro (towards Ubatuba) and Cachaça Maria Izabel (towards Angra dos Reis). There is a map of the distilleries available on the Paraty Association of Producers and Friends of Cachaça website.
It is also possible to combine a waterfall bath with your visit to one of the distilleries. On the way to Cunha, the most sought-after waterfalls are Tobogã and Pedra Branca.
The Rio-Santos coastal road bypasses an entire peninsula to the southeast of Paraty, which remains gloriously inaccessible by car. This sparsely populated and still predominantly wild region – which includes the Saco do Mamanguá and the Joatinga Reserve – has become a trekking circuit that may last from one to four days, and lead to the Pico do Pão de Açúcar mountain peak (not to be confused with its namesake in Rio) and the beautiful Ponta Negra, Antigo & Antiguinhos, and Sono beaches. There’s accommodation on the way and likely boat crossings. Organize your trekking tour with a local agency or ask your concierge for an accredited guide.
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