Paraty is the jewel of Rio de Janeiro's Green Coast. This beautiful colonial town has a rich history, and was once second only to Rio in importance. The port of Paraty was used to export gold and gems mined in neighboring State of Minas Gerais. Powerful sugarcane and coffee barons later called Paraty home, with their farms, slaves and cachaça distilleries.
The gold was eventually depleted, and farms moved farther to São Paulo. Away from major roads and railways, Paraty was almost forgotten for decades. It was rediscovered only in the 1970's, with the opening of Rio-Santos road that connects the coast of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
The city was recognized as part of the Brazilian Cultural Heritage, with 400 listed houses, historical churches, and preserved cobblestone streets. Many of the houses have been turned into restaurants, shops and inns, keeping the original façades intact. Paraty has been used as setting for period films like Jorge Amado's Gabriela, with actress Sonia Braga.
Paraty is a favorite weekend getaway, attracting everybody from history buffs to beach lovers, divers, ecotourists, and adventure seekers. This region was named Green Coast after the thick carpet of preserved Mata Atlantica, the rain forest that originally covered most of the Brazilian coastline. It is close to Rio, with quick access to international visitors. Paraty keeps keeps a calendar with special events, and cultural festivals throughout the year.
Paraty could not be without the sea. Going on a boat ride while in town is a must. The standard deal usually includes lunch, fresh fruit snacks, and stops at beaches and islands. Everybody has a chance to go for a dip in the deep blue.
Paraty shares with Angra dos Reis the large Bay of Ilha Grande, South of Rio de Janeiro. This is a diver's paradise, with crystal clear water, and countless diving spots. Dotted by hundreds of islands and beaches, it would take you months to explore every little corner.
There's lots to keep you busy in Paraty. Plan to stay for at least couple of days to enjoy some of the possibilities. Horseback riding, visits to the historical sugar farms (cachaça tasting included), kayak tours, snorkeling, diving, trekking, rappelling, beach, island and church hopping are some of the options.
And since you are in the area, take your time to explore the surroundings. Trindade is one of the worse-kept secrets. This once sleepy fishermen's village used to be home to a flourishing hippie community. Visitors had to be brave to face the steep downhill slope of Deus me Livre. If it rained it would get so muddy you were really stuck, maybe for days...
Now the road has been paved, and the four beautiful beaches are much easier to reach. Pontal do Cepilho is the favorite with surfers. The main star, though, is Caixadaço. This is a large natural pool in the sea, surrounded by dramatic volcanic rocks, and wild Mata Atlantica. From the beach it's an easy half-hour trek through the rain forest. If you can do without the nature walk, hop on one of the boats. For a few bucks in 5 minutes you reach paradise!