One of our favorite parts of traveling is getting to experience some of the iconic things, that we have only seen countless times in photos and movies. For us that was some of the colonial towns in South America with cobblestone roads and colorful painted doors. It’s a reminder of the European influence in South American history, but still there is something characteristically unique about the colonial towns of South America vs. Europe. There’s more of a combination of vibrance and color that stems from the indigenous people of the time, making for a charming blend of the two.
As soon as we set foot in Paraty we knew it was the South American colonial town of our dreams. Every block was filled with more cobblestone, flowers, and colorful doors than we could imagine. There was old jazz music playing on the corners, gas lamps flickering, and the subtle sounds of the ocean coming in through the streets, making it more magical than we could have imagined.
Paraty is along the coast south of Rio de Janeiro. Depending on where you are coming from, there are different options in how to get here.
From Rio De Janeiro:
Bus: There are 3-4 buses daily running routes to and from Rio. These can be larger buses or even 6-11 person semi-private vans. We opted for one of the semi-private vans as it seemed more comfortable and nimble in navigating the windy roads between Rio and Paraty (you are carving through the mountains so if you tend to get car sick you may opt for a semi-private van, and to sit near the front). We arranged this through the hotel we were staying, but there are also many sites where you can check times/ book in advance such as Easy Transfer (semi-private mini vans) and Brazil by Bus.
Special note: Snag a seat on the left for best views of the coast!
Car: For the most amount of flexibility you can also rent a car. There’s a lot of places to stop in between Rio and Paraty including Angra dos Reis, and waterfalls surrounding Paraty. If you want to explore these areas you might consider renting a car and driving yourself. We always use Avis as they have networks worldwide so we can use the same company anywhere we go. Though in Rio, you will want to be sure you have a safe place to park your car, as parking can be limited and you don’t want to leave your car in an unsafe area.
Ilha Grande Island:
Boat: You can take a boat directly from Ilha Grande to Paraty, though space is limited as this is a less regular route. This was one of the few we found online, but ended up being full when we tried to arrange so we ended up going with the Boat/ car option.
Boat + Car/Bus: This is probably the most accessible option as there are many boats going from Ilha Grande to Angra dos Reis every day. From there you can either arrange for a mini van through Easy Transfer or your own private car/taxi. Either you will need to arrange at least 1 day in advance, and your hotel will be able to help arrange, or you can go into one of the local tour offices nearby wherever you are staying.
Where to Stay
In Paraty we’d highly recommend staying either in the colonial town, or within walking distance of it, as that is where you’ll want to spend a bulk of your time. They have the boutique shops, restaurants, and picturesque streets to wander. Here’s a few we’d recommend:
Casa Turquesa - If your looking for an absolutely picturesque place to stay in the very heart of Paraty, you can’t beat Casa Turquesa. There’s only 9 rooms, and each room has a different theme to it so you can be sure that you’ll have an intimate and personalized stay.
Pousada Literaria de Paraty - Located in the Historic Center of Paraty, Pousada Literária invites its guests to enjoy its historical heritage with charm and sophistication in this restored colonial house. There’s a large pool, library, and countless nooks to relax in at any time of the day fine dine restaurant for dinner
Pousada do Ouro - Romantic gardens and pool complete with saunas and spas, this is an oasis in the midst of Paraty combining rustic elements with contemporary comfort.
Pousada da Marquesa - If you want a truly authentic colonial experience, check out Marquesa. It’s an old mansion that still holds true to it’s original character, as it was handed down from generation to generation, all in the same family.
Just outside old town
Casa Mar Paraty - If your looking to get outside the historic downtown, Casa Mar Paraty is a great place to relax and soak in the peace and quiet that this small Brazilian coastal town has to offer. Perched up on the hill, you’ll get an amazing view of the harbor, and a place to relax in comfort.
What to do
Paraty is a coastal town with a lot of history. It’s a small town so you can walk most of it within a day, but we’d still recommend staying at least 2-3 days so you can have some time to explore and even go out on a boat if the weather is nice.
Old Colonial Town: It almost goes without saying that if you come to Paraty you have to take some time to wander through the old colonial town. It’s lined with streets of cobblestone, white houses and painted doors, and vines of greenery and flowers poking through the age worn cracks. Take a morning (or two) and wander the streets just after sunrise and you’ll have all the painted doors to yourself!
Head to the beaches: Of course as a coastal town, you would already assume that soaking up sun at a few of the surrounding beaches is a good idea. This is true of course, but we’d actually recommend heading down south about 40 mins to Praia do Meio or Praia do Cachadaço. Here you’ll find much less tourist, natural swimming pools, and white sand beaches (as the beaches of Paraty aren’t quite as pristine).
Take a boat tour: One way to make sure you get a chance to see some of the gorgeous coastline is to take a boat trip. here you can go down south to some of the beaches mentioned above, or even explore a bit more of the region. You’ll find as you start to get off the coast a bit more the water turned even more blue and picturesque, and some of the best spots in the area are best accessed by boat.
Hike up to Forte Defensor Perpétuo: There’s a fort you can hike up to on the hill above Paraty. It’s a short hike, maybe 10-15 minutes through bamboo forests and some lush greenery. The fort itself is, well, a fort. But the cliffs surrounding it were what we really found interesting. Take some time and hike down the rocks surrounding the fort. There you will get a great view of the whole port and even into Paraty itself.
Shop through the Little Boutiques: The charm isn’t just limited to the streets and facades of the city. Take some time to stroll through the small boutique stores filled with airy linen clothing, hand painted china, and smart looking decorating accessories. Each store is one of a kind and brings high quality trinkets and styles that you won’t want to miss. We found the boutiques here to carry much higher quality items than some of the other touristy beach towns.
Where to Eat
While it’s not a bad idea to just stroll down the street and follow your nose (or the crowds) into one of the cozy restaurants in old town, if your looking for a recommendation, here are a few found serving up really great, fresh and local foods where you can find many light but satisfying dishes. We tend to eat a lot of grilled veggies and salads while we travel, especially when the temperature rises, and these places had some great options:
Seven Seas Choperia: From the outside it looks like just your average restaurant, but this place served up fresh food and fire grilled entrees that were so good, we ended up going back again the two nights in a row. They offer fresh salads and will grill up anything you order if you ask. Also some nights they even have live jazz playing in the corner.
Dona Ondina: If your looking for a great view of the river while you eat, don’t miss this place. It fills up fast, especially on the balcony overlooking the river so if you don’t make a reservation, plan to eat either on the early or later end.
Banna da Terra: This was one that came highly recommended to us from our hotel. We didn’t end up eating here as it was full the nights we tried to get in, but definitely give it a look if you are in Paraty. It’s on the nicer end, so a bit more of a splurge, but we heard nothing but great reviews from folks that tried it.
What TO KNOW BEFORE COMING
Here are a few helpful tips to think about when planning your trip:
Paraty is easy to get to but does take some time from RIo, Don’t rush it with just a day. Take some time and enjoy a few of the surrounding places while you are here.
Consider luggage for the cobblestones - Some of the historic streets are blocked off to cars and all are covered in cobblestone, which is magical for pictures, but not for rolling suitcases. Check with the hotel on the best way to get your luggage in, and potentially consider packing bags that you can also pick up and carry if you have to.
If Paraty is the only place you visit south of Rio, you really want to find a way to get out and see the coast lines. Factor in some extra time for a day trip or two. If your going to make the time to come here, don’t miss out on some of the best parts.
If you visit in the summer time, the sun sets pretty late, and folks tend to eat later too. Usually you can snag a table early, but some restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 8 pm or later. if you have kids or like to get up at sunrise like us, consider this as the city tends to get more enchanting with live music and gas lanterns at night.
Paraty is an enchanting little town that we’re so happy we made the time for. It’s a perfect way to add some variety to any trip in Brazil. We found it to be not nearly as crowded as some of the larger tourist locations such as Rio or Salvador, so perfect for quiet mornings and wandering through the streets without the rush of people.
Have any questions for us, we’d love to help answer! Comment below or send us an email. That’s all for now.