This gorgeous town with its cobbled streets and fascinating architecture have hardly changed since the wealthy gold merchants left in the 18th century when the mines dried up and it wasn’t until the roads improved in the 1970s that the town and area became easily accessible to visitors, and also became a firm favourite with Brazil’s artists and artisans. The arts and craft culture is still going strong which together with the annual literary festival and weekly puppet shows all help keep the place a thriving destination.
Although the place is small we’d highly recommend taking a walking guided tour where you can really get to the heart of the place’s history. From the unique street cleaning system, where the tide floods the cobbles twice a day, to the suspected Masonic secret symbols on the larger buildings it’s all fascinating stuff.
The starting-off point for any Amazon adventure is likely to be the strangely wonderful city of Manaus. A creation of the 1850s rubber boom, this jungle metropolis has only recently been connected to the rest of the country by road, and for decades its life has revolved around the Amazon river that flows past the city. Ocean-going ships can sail right up to Manaus, and so as you set sail on the Amazon yourself you will weave in-between everything from wooden canoes to massive container ships.
If you don’t have your own transport, then the easiest way to reach many of the beaches is to head down to the harbour in Paraty and get a boatman to take you out for the day. You just arrange the time with him, and he will come back to pick you up (and get paid) later that day. It’s a fantastic way of having your very own (brief!) Robinson Crusoe experience.
Other Activities in Paraty
Another great way of exploring the coast is to take a schooner trip from Paraty. Schooners sail out to beautiful beaches and islands every day and they’re a fantastic way to see the incredible coastline and get a bit of snorkelling in. And if you'd like to see some of the interior, then you can explore many of the old mining trails on foot, but a rather different way to see the rainforest and lovely nearby waterfalls is on horseback so you really get back to nature.
Back in town, twice a week the Contadores de Historias (storytellers) group put on puppet shows on at the Espaco Cultural in the old town. Forget Punch and Judy these are funny and moving tales told with incredible skill and the complete lack of words ensure they have universal appeal.
Getting to and from Paraty
Paraty is about 250km south of Rio and it takes about 3.5hrs to get here by private transfer or a little longer by public coach. There is a small airport but it’s only big enough for private planes and helicopter so unless you’re really pushing the boat out or fancy a long swim you’ll have to get here by road.
The old town is only around six by six blocks so it really is easily walkable, it’s a good idea to take your sensible shoes though as the cobbles are a bit tricky in heels and they can get a bit slippy after the tide has washed the roads. Taxis in the surrounding area are often un-metered so make sure you arrange a price before starting your journey.