Paraty, Brazil is a gorgeous colonial town in Rio de Janeiro State, about 250 km down the coast from Rio de Janeiro city. Last October, we spent four days in Paraty during our month-long exploration of the Rio area and parts south. And we could have easily stayed longer: The breathtaking scenery, laid-back vibe, great restaurants, and deep sense of history make Paraty a perfect seaside escape, as evidenced by the hordes of Rio and São Paolo residents who flock there on the weekends.
Paraty is one of Brazil’s oldest towns, and its human footprint dates back well before the first Portuguese explorers arrived there in the late 16th century. The Guaianás indigenous people were the original inhabitants and gave the town its name, “Paraty” for “rivers of fish” in their Tupi language. The Portuguese turned up in 1597, but Paraty didn’t really thrive until the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais state a century later. The gold was carried overland to the port at Paraty for shipping to Europe over the famous Cominho do Ouro (Gold Trail). As such, Paraty became one of the most important ports in the Portuguese Empire. It’s still possible to hike the Gold Trail today; here’s a good article with more info.
Here’s how we spent four fun and active days in Paraty, Brazil! Photos are in galleries – just click the first to see larger versions.
Getting to Paraty
Paraty is easy to reach by bus from Rio de Janeiro. The journey takes about five hours and becomes more and more scenic as the road begins to follow the coastline. One of the stops is in Angra dos Rios, the jumping-off place for visiting scenic Ihla Grande.
Paraty was our next stop after spending four extremely chill and relaxing days on Ihla Grande, a must-visit if you’re traveling the coastline near Rio. From Angra dos Rios, we boarded a van operated by Paraty Tours for the 1.5-hour drive to Paraty. As we’ve mentioned before, Paraty Tours offers an economical and super-convenient alternative to public transit; their door-to-door service shaves hours off transport from city to city in this part of Brazil.
Strolling the Town
We could have spent weeks wandering the historic center of Paraty, with its cobblestoned streets and colonial architecture dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries. The historic district is closed to motor traffic on most days, and it bustles with shops, restaurants, galleries, and cozy cabarets.
Paraty isn’t just a wonderland of colonial architecture; its natural beauty is unparalleled. Backed by verdant, jungle-clad mountains, the town fronts a bay with more than 300 islands, many of which are easy to get to – just hire one of the many excursion boats on the waterfront. We signed on with Paraty Tours aboard the schooner Netuno II and enjoyed a day of snorkeling and relaxation with stops at several outer islands.
The jungle side of Paraty is laced with scenic rivers and waterfalls, just the ticket for cooling off on a warm day. Since we were carless, we signed on for a day-long jeep jungle excursion with Paraty Tours that took us to three waterfalls and also included a visit to the Pedra Branca distillery, a scenic cachaça crafter. (If you’ve followed our other Brazil posts, you know that cachaça is Brazil’s national firewater, similar to rum and a key ingredient in the national cocktail, the caipirinha).
Eating, Drinking, and Night Life
By far our favorite dining experience in Paraty was O Mercador, open on most days just for lunch. We loved the fabulous food, friendly service and scenic waterfront location so much that we lunched there twice. We also enjoyed Thai Paraty and the family-run Dolce Vita Tratoria and Pizzaria. Quintal Das Letras was our splurge meal in the swank Pousada Literária hotel. Finally, check out Casa Coupe for late-evening cocktails and live bossa nova music.
If you’re a fan of cachaça, Brazil’s national fire water, you’ll find numerous chachaça tasting rooms in Paraty.
Paraty offers the full range of lodging options, with the most expensive hotels located in the historic district. As usual, we opted for mid-range accommodations at Pousada Morro do Forte, whose hillside location offered panoramic views of the bay with just a short walk into town.
Next Up: Our Final Brazil Destination, Florianopolis!
Oh my looks just so picturesque, you’ve definitely piqued my interest about Brazil after reading this. It’s not on my list at all, will have to have a rethink. Great interesting potted history. We usually opt for mid range accommodation too.
Thanks, Alison! The more we see of Brazil, the more we’re hooked. We’ve barely scratched the surface of this huge and varied country! Headed back there in July; can’t wait.
Photos look great. Love the architecture and scenery!
Thank you, Rebecca! 🙂
Another of our favoutie places in Brazil. The simple architecture, the beautiful islands and of course some of the best restaurants we found in all of Brazil. We didn’t visit the waterfalls because it wasn’t a good season so nice to see how nice they are. Maggie
That sums up everything we loved about Paraty, Maggie! Such a unique and gorgeous place. We wish we could go back, but there’s so much more to see in Brazil. Thanks!
I know. I’d definitely return to it, but there’s also so kuch more to see!!
It sounds like Paraty has it all! You two were extremely busy again those four days, packing in adventure and sightseeing! I really enjoyed reading about this versatile destination. Maybe we will follow in your footsteps in Brazil one day as well. The weather seems to be better than in Colombia! 🙂
We really hope you get to see this part of Brazil! Paraty was the town we mentioned that had a huge parking lot full of campers. It seems to be quite the Mecca for overlanders. And yes, a bit less rain when we were there 🙂
That looks like yet another fabulous destination. You are spoiled for choice. Mel
For sure, Mel – that sums up Brazil. There’s so much to see there that it’s hard to choose our next destinations. Cheers!
Three of the blogs we follow (including yours) have toured Brazil in the last few months and every single post across all three have just been beyond wonderful. It’s probably our most likely 2024 destination now.
We will be excited to read about your adventures in Brazil. We’re headed back there in July and can’t wait!
Wow it looks like an absolutely beautiful place, I’d love to spend some time here one day 🙂
Hope you can visit Brazil someday – it’s fantastic!
Oh, my goodness, ya’ll. Paraty looks like a perfect place to loll around for a few days, taking in the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and soaking in all the color! Sign us up! We would love to follow in your footsteps.
Thanks, Mike and Kellye. We hope you can visit Paraty and Brazil someday. Such an amazing country!
Great stuff, guys. We’re now confirmed for 6 nights in Paraty mid-April – but now I’ve read your post I’m wondering if that even leaves enough time! Loved the line, “you’ll find numerous cachaca tasting rooms…” I’m sure we will!
If anyone can find the cachaça tasting rooms, it’s you two 🙂 Be sure and visit the distillery, too – worth it. We know you’ll love Paraty as much as we did!
Brazil looks beautiful, hope to visit there one day! I love your pictures!
Thank you, Liz!
Paraty sounds, and looks fabulous! I’d love one of those snorkelling days about now 😂, and yeah, that art at the waterfront is definitely interesting.
Thanks, Alison! Paraty is a special place.
Oh how lovely! Every picture looks like a postcard! Putting Paraty on my list for the next trip to Brazil 🙂
You will love Paraty! It’s a postcard come to life 🙂
This post brings so many lovely memories of Paraty. We loved this place. The old town is so beautiful and atmospheric, particularly at night.
We did two boat trips with Paraty tours, they were both great. One of the trips was to visit the Brazilian fjord, I had no idea there was a tropical fjord there.
Sounds like you also did a Jeep tour?
Great post and photos 😀
Thanks, Gilda! We loved seeing Paraty through your eyes. Yes, the Jeep trip through Paraty Tours. They’re a great outfit!
Its a good thing you have these posts or you would look back at your travels and adventures and get them all mixed up when you are older. Ha, ha. Cheers, Muriel
Haha, that’s so true, Muriel! Actually, one of the primary objectives of this blog is to create a record of our travels for our own reference. Nothing else really matters, much! I wonder if we’ll be looking back over this someday and remembering things we would have otherwise forgotten.
What an amazing location! Paraty looks so relaxing and inviting. And love the history. Thank you so much for taking us on this virtual tour!
Thank you, Sue! Paraty really is a special place. It was hard to leave there!