By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Paraty is a world heritage site, a beautiful cobbled colonial town, with a traffic-free historical center. Outside festival season at least, it appears to have stopped in time. The original inhabitants were Guaiana Indians, but the present town was founded in 1667.
First famous for its sugar mills and its cachaça (sugar cane liquor) production, Paraty really came of age during the gold cycle of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, when the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail) was built linking the state of Minas Gerais with the sea.
In the last 25 years local tourism has grown substantially, with Paraty playing host to a number of festivals, the most famous of which is the FLIP literary festival which this year takes place from July 6-10th.
Many of the original colonial buildings have been refurbished and now house craft shops, restaurants and bars, with live music in the evenings. There is no shortage of options to stay in and around Paraty, except during major holidays and festivals, and the number of pousadas now runs into hundreds, both inside the town itself and up in the mountains nearby
Just outside Paraty there are two well worth visiting: Hotel Spa Casinha Branca and Pousada Bromelias Bem Estar. Casinha Branca is a beautiful white mansion perched high up on the side of a mountain on 500,000 square meters of Atlantic forest, 10 kilometers from the historical center. It offers six super spacious suites, a large open sitting area, fabulous pool and bar, all overlooking the ocean with Paraty and the island of Ilha Grande in the distance.
Pousada Bromélias in turn effortlessly combines rustic chic luxury with easygoing informality, privacy and exclusivity with a totally relaxed atmosphere. The ten luxury bungalows here are all super spacious, boasting high ceilings and terraces looking out over the rainforest.
In Paraty itself there are also two pousadas just outside the historical center which have become very popular: Pousada Morro do Forte with its amazing views over the colonial rooftops out to sea, and Pousada Vivenda which once again has won the Trip Advisor accolade as one of the top ten pousadas in South America.
As far as things to do in Paraty are concerned, just walking around the historical center, taking in all the churches, museums, small arts and crafts shops and checking out the local bars and restaurants could easily keep you happy for a few days. However there are also beaches within walking distance and jeep trips on offer around the surrounding national park and over to the tiny fishing village of Trindade.
Paraty is always photogenic from any angle but one of the very best ways to appreciate the beauty of the town is taking a schooner trip round the bay. Looking back at an unspoiled colonial Paraty set against the backdrop of mountains covered with green Atlantic rainforest is an unforgettable image.
Getting to Paraty by bus or car from Rio de Janeiro is a straightforward four to five hour trip, and there are plenty of taxis at the bus station. Alternatively all pousadas will organize taxi transfers for guests. For more information on affordable pousadas in Brazil visit Hidden Pousadas Brazil or for travel advice send questions to Brazil Travel Clinic.