The Historic Port Town of Paraty

Looking down the cobblestone street we saw a long row of white homes with colourful rounded door and window frames. This charming view continued throughout the entire historic port town of Paraty making it one of Brazil’s colonial gems.

Paraty’s position on the edge of Baia da Ilha Grande on Costa Verde led to its fascinating history as a port town. It began in the early 1600s as a fishing village, but when gold started to be taken from the mines in Ouro Preto, Paraty was found to be the perfect harbour to ship gold to Portugal. The precious mineral was brought down from Ouro Preto following trails that had already been made by the indigenous Guaianá. The trails earned the nickname ‘Rota do Ouro’ (Gold Route). The vast amount of gold brought pirates who lurked in neighbouring coves waiting for the ships to leave. Continuous pirate raids eventually led the Portuguese to find another port to transport their gold.

When gold exports stopped, Paraty’s port was used to ship sugarcane to Portugal. At that time the area also became known for its production of high quality Cachaça; a spirit made from sugarcane. This reputation continues today. When sugarcane became less profitable, the port was used to export coffee. Each iteration meant another growth spurt to this small community. Eventually a railroad was built from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo and Paraty’s harbour was no longer ideal. By the late 1800s the town was abandoned and sat relatively empty and alone in the Atlantic Rainforest. In the 1970s a highway was built along Costa Verde that connected Paraty to the rest of the country. This resulted in the town being rediscovered and revitalized. This time however, its history is its gold.

Today that abandonment means that many of the heritage buildings remained untouched and unlike many heritage centres, no modern city was built up around them. Every street in Old Town is decorated with well preserved one and two-story white-washed buildings attached to each other in rows. Many have antique style address signs that add to their charm. Colourful door and window frames have distinctive rounded tops. The windows can open sliding up or down giving them even more character.

Horse drawn carriages match the surroundings as they take tourists up and down the old streets. The cobblestones are very picturesque but they were not made of typical stones. Instead these were made with large, rounded river stones that make it very difficult to walk. Most of the area is blocked off from cars so you can take your time navigating the stones without worrying about traffic.

Of the many colonial churches in the heritage centre, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios is often the first one you will see. The church was the first one in town and was built right in front of the harbour. We preferred the small Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário which seemed to blend in with the neighbouring homes. Another pretty one is Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Dores which has a lovely setting on the water’s edge.

One very interesting design component to this low lying town is their unusual way to clean the streets. Open gutters on the seawalls allow the high tidal waters to flood the streets and wash away debris. Centuries ago it likely cleaned sewage off the streets but today it provides a light cleaning of the dust and dirt. When we were there the sea water didn’t go too far into the Old Town. At the highest tides though, sea water covers all of the streets in Old Town. Because of this all of the doors were built a little more off the ground than usual. The heritage centre in Paraty is worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage status.

Today some of these original homes are still lived in by families but many have been converted to tourist stores, ice-cream shops and restaurants. Outdoor cafes are created with tables and chairs put on the cobble stone roads making this area very lively at night.

In our Ilhabela post we mentioned our difficulties learning Portuguese. Paraty is a good example of how pronunciation isn’t as we expected. It is pronounced paa raa chee.

Today the boats in the harbour are mostly used for fishing and day tours. From the harbour we looked out to the beautiful Baia da Ilha Grande and were enticed to explore it by boat. As we pulled out of the harbour we looked back for a view of Paraty on the edge of the water. Behind it the jungle covered Serra do Mar Mountains were always covered by a layer of clouds by mid afternoon.

Our boat took us to many coves that can only be accessed by boat. Then we motored out to visit a few of the small islands in the bay. We stopped to swim at a few beaches and others were admired from the boat. It is such a beautiful area and a great way to spend the day.

Getting to Paraty

The drive from Rio to Paraty follows a beautiful coastal highway. One option is to take a Costa Verde Bus between Rodoviária Novo Rio and Paraty. If you have stopped to visit Ilha Grande, you have your choice between public and tourist buses that travel between Angra dos Reis and Paraty. Buses also travel between Paratay and Rodoviário Tietê in São Paulo and to many towns on the southern end of Costa Verde. There are also many tour agencies that provide private transfers.

Where to stay in Paraty

Even though Paraty is not a large city, it’s probably best to stay at one of the many hotels in or near the historic centre. There are also a lot of excellent restaurants in the Old City, many with outdoor seating.

Best time to visit Paraty

The ideal weather is between April and September. It will be cooler, but there is less rain. Between December and March it is much hotter, but also much rainier.


On the other side of the peninsula from Paraty is the popular beach town, Trindade. In the heyday of gold exports in Paraty, pirates used this small cove to hide out. It was close enough to Paraty to catch ships laden with gold, but also kept pirates tucked away so as to not be seen. It still is a bit of a rustic, backwoods town with one main street covered in wooden buildings that are now almost exclusively tourist nicknack shops and pubs.

Trindade’s stunning beaches that are walking distance from town, is what draws the crowds. We visited three of its beaches on a cloudy day. The clouds and the crowds put a damper on our love for Trindade but on a sunny mid-week day, I bet it’s awesome. Praia dos Ranchos is a long beach directly in front of town. There are a few umbrellas and kiosks but despite its easy access, it is not too busy. It can have high waves that draws surfers but deters most families. At the far end it becomes Praia do Cepilho and then Praia de Fora. Large boulders in the sand on Cephilho are very picturesque and made it our favourite spot in Trindade.

If you walk the other way you’ll soon reach Praia Meio. A large rocky outcrop in the middle of the cove splits it into two. The water is calm so most people prefer this beach. When we were there both sides were very busy, spoiling the natural setting. The third beach, Praia do Cachadaço, requires a bit of hiking on a trail that climbs up and over a small hill. On the other side of the hill you reach a a quiet, long sandy beach backsided by a thick jungle. At the far end a trail leaves the beach and travels through the forest to a natural pool. On the weekend this pool is very busy.

Getting to Trindade

A local bus leaves Paraty bus station every hour. It takes two buses to reach Trindade. The first one takes you on the highway toward Trindade. After 30 min you have to change to a smaller bus that goes up and down the hills between the highway and the beach town. The buses can be very busy on weekends especially at the beginning and end of the day. It was standing room only for our return trip. The cost is R$ 5. You pay the first bus you get on and the fee is covered for both.

Coming Next – Hiking on Florianopolis

For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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