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Destination Wednesday: Paraty, Brazil

A two and a half hour bus ride west of Rio sits one of Brazil’s little treasures. Paraty (pronounced Pah-dah-CHI) sits on a tranquil little cove bedecked with fishing boats and squat colonial-style houses as colorful as a national flag.

History of Paraty

First settled in the mid 16th century by Portuguese explorers, the town officially gained its independence from the neighboring state of Angra dos Reis after a complicated series of battles and subsequent treaties. It continued its rise with the utility of the Gold Road, a key starting point from locally mined gold on route back to Portugal in the 17th and 18th centuries. The town maintained its importance as a sleep-over point on the coast route between Rio and Sao Paolo, but with the opening of the inner road between the two cities, traffic effectively ceased, freezing it in time and untouched by development. It wasn’t until 1950 that Paraty was linked by road to the rest of the country and the modern world was let back in. In the late 70s it was rediscovered as a fascinating destination for tourists and history buffs alike where it remains today, well-preserved and stunning in its rich beauty.

Getting there

It’s possible to reach the town quite cheaply these days from both Rio and Sao Paulo. Busses take 4 and 6 hours respectively and cost between 30 and 50 reals ($20 and $25) each way. Very much worth it for an escape back in time to this open-book piece of history.

The old town is now closed to vehicles by antique iron chains and is quite compact, making a warm evening stroll just about as close to perfect as you could want. The streets themselves are heavily cobbled (high-heel wearers be warned) but littered with café tables, bars and restaurants. An introduction to Cachaça is recommended with some establishments having a multitude of local batches lining their walls.

There’s a variety of pousadas, hostels and guest houses available in and around the town as well as a few more upscale hotels, each decorated in colonial period style. Cheaper options can be had outside the historic center.

To beat the heat, get to one of the beaches.

And don’t worry, with about 50 in the area you won’t be at a loss for choices. Rent a bike in town for about 10 reals and pedal over to the beach at Corumbe. It’s about a 20 minute jaunt (with a hill) but comes with a reward of a mile-long stretch of bathwater-warm water and a knee-high sandbar allowing you to sit no less than 200 yards out from land.

For adventure seekers there are loads of choices in and around the town

Diving, horse-back riding, rafting, hiking etc. Just make sure you come prepared for the heat. Drink lots of water and apply sunscreen as if it were vital to your own survival.

Overall, Paraty is an enchanting town and certainly worth a visit either on its own or along a southern Brazilian itinerary. If you don’t get on a boat, stroll aimlessly through the town or catch up on the region’s history you still won’t be disappointed. And keep your camera at the ready—photo ops are colorful and wait around each corner.

See Paraty’s tourism site for more information.

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