By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite being only a short ferry-ride away from the city center, Ilha de Paquetá (Paquetá island) is one of Rio’s best kept secrets. Residents are able to live on the tranquil waters of Guanabara Bay on a strip of land just 1.2km in diameter and 8km in circumference, roughly the size of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
Whether it’s the lack of cars, which are forbidden on the island, the neatly painted colonial buildings, or the stunning views of Guanabara Bay, there’s something about Paquetá that is magical and timeless.
The island is well-renowned for being calm, safe and family friendly. With traditional horse and carts recently being banned, the best way to get around the island is by renting a bike, a golf buggy, or even just going by foot.
In Vira Canto, a welcoming and reasonably-priced restaurant situated just by the ferry terminal, there is a display of clocks showing different timezones on the wall, such as Paris and Tokyo. Finally, there is a clock for Paquetá, which has no hands, and simply reads, ‘Esqueça o tempo, você está em Paquetá.’ (Forget about time, you’re in Paquetá).
For more upscale dining, Casa da Noca is one of the highlights of the island. A truly unique place, it offers a bit of everything, from artisanal beer to excellent home-made Caipirinhas to evening meals with live music, and even a shop filled with gifts and ornaments. The service is friendly and relaxed and, like Vira Canto’s clock, perfectly epitomises the atmosphere of Paquetá.
Another vibrant feature of the island is the Casa de Artes, which offers a lively and eclectic host of events to fill Paquetá’s cultural calender, including regular performances by the island’s very own youth orchestra. It also plays a major role in hosting some of the island’s well-known festivities in June and July.
The island’s stunning park, ‘Darke de Mattos,’ which has some of the finest views of Guanabara bay, has also recently received funding to be revitalised.
Eduardo Lavrador, a part-time resident of Paquetá, explained how the island has had a pull on him since a very early age, “My connection with the island comes before my birth because I already frequented the island while still in my mother’s womb! This makes me have a very affectionate connection with the island because my best friends and childhood friends are all from Paquetá.”
When describing what makes the island so special he said, “The fact that you can be in such a different place and be so peaceful and yet at the same time stay so close to Rio is a real privilege!” He also recommended the upcoming festival, ‘Panelas Aberta de Paquetá,’ (Open Pans of Paquetá) which will be taking place from May 31st – June 3rd.
The festival will see some of the island’s best restaurants compete to create the best small dish based around the theme of seafood. Participants pay R$25 and are then able to tour the island sampling each delicacy.
While the island offers excellent beaches on which to unwind, the waters are not very clean. Many visitors and locals do swim, but it is best to exercise caution, as the Guanabara bay is often heavily polluted.
Transportation to the Ilha de Paquetá is by ferry, and one leaves from Praça XV in Centro, Rio de Janeiro, for R$5.60 each way, and takes just one hour. With less traffic jams or train hustle and bustle, its likely a shorter and more enjoyable commute than most neighborhoods.
Real estate in Paquetá is often hard to come by, with many houses staying in families for generations. However, small apartments are available for around R$250,000.
Renting is also few and far between, though it can be done. Currently there is a house on offer for R$20,000 per month, or, on the other end of the scale, a one-room apartment for just over R$1,000 per month.