By Nicole Eberhard, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Just four hours west from Rio de Janeiro, along the Costa Verde, is the picturesque town of Paraty. While easily worth spending more time here, Paraty is the perfect weekend getaway destination thanks to its laid-back vibe and proximity to both Rio and São Paulo.
To call it a charming colonial town would be to grossly undersell Paraty. Yet at the same time, it can hardly be considered undiscovered. With events like the International Literature Festival of Paraty (FLIP), a popular annual literary festival, and its inclusion as a filming location for the blockbuster film The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Paraty is increasingly in the limelight, and with good reason.
Founded in the 17th century, Paraty’s history is linked to the gold trade. During the peak of Brazil’s gold rush, gold mined in Minas Gerais was transported through the Atlantic Forest, along what became known as the Gold Path, to Paraty’s port to be exported. Today it is possible to walk parts of the Gold Path, along which some of Paraty’s many natural attractions and cachaça distilleries can be found.
More recently, the town has been sustained by fishing and the sugar cane industry, which have also left their mark on the town’s cultural heritage.
With its long history, Paraty’s status as a National Historical Monument is no surprise. The town’s history is embedded in its perfectly preserved colonial architecture. Take a stroll back in time along the cobblestone streets, passing by longstanding churches and white houses with colorful adornings. Delve deeper into the history and culture of the town on a guided city tour.
A visit to Casa da Cultura, an exhibition space in a colonial mansion, is also a must, as is the famed puppet show for adults at Teatro Espaço. At night, taste the famous cachaça and enjoy the local music scene at one of the town’s lively bars, such as Café Paraty or Porto da Pinga.
Paraty’s draw doesn’t lie just in its historical interest. The endless choice of sandy beaches and untouched islands, and the rich greenery of the Atlantic Forest makes Paraty a natural paradise and a rejuvenating hideaway from city living. One of the most popular outdoor activities is a boat tour visiting the surrounding islands. The clear water also makes it an ideal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Heading away from the Bay of Paraty, the surrounding forests offer great hikes to waterfalls and more unspoilt beaches. Toboga Waterfall is a favorite spot for its smooth rocks which locals like to surf and slide down.
For those tight on time looking to combine nature and culture, there is a Caiçara Cultural Tour. Visit Isla do Araújo’s cultural spaces and walk to spectacular hidden beaches, learning more about the local Caiçara people and their environment.
If you want to get to Paraty by car, you should take the BR101 highway from Rio, while by bus, Costa Verde runs multiple daily services to Paraty. Alternatively, book a shuttle service to or from Rio via Angra dos Reis, which includes a pickup/dropoff at hotels and airports.
When you arrive there is a variety of accommodation options to choose from, including high end hotels, pousadas (guesthouses) and hostels. The historical center can be loud, so don’t overlook accommodation further out. Walking is the best way to get around town, as cars are banned from the center. Outside this point there are taxis (which are not metered, so you will need to negotiate a price) and buses are available to popular spots like Trindade.
For a truly relaxing break, head to Paraty outside the peak summer season, when the crowds have dissipated. If this isn’t possible, rest assured that this attractive town, just a short journey away from Rio, remains enchanting year round.
*This is a Sponsored article written by Nicole Eberhard, English Content Editor for Rdj4u.com.