While the two biggest draws on Brazil’s southern coast are also among South America’s biggest cities—wonderful Rio and business-savvy Sao Paolo—travelers may find themselves eager to escape the urban jungle. Happily, there are still several quaint Colonial towns with walkable streets and uncrowded beaches that await along the Atlantic Coast. One of the best is Paraty.
Pretty Paraty (or Parati) was founded in 1667, when its cobbled streets, whitewashed homes, and attractive old churches were first built along quiet Ilha Grande Bay. The quiet town came of age in the 1800s, when it became an important port for shipping gold, lumber, and other products from the Brazilian rainforests back to Portugal. Today, it is a popular weekend getaway for Brazilians (four hours from Rio, six from Sao Paolo), and destination for international travelers hoping to enjoy the old Brazil.
Take a Walking Tour
Simply stroll the cobbled streets on your own, or join a walking tour to learn more about the art, history, architecture, and adventure of this fascinating town. The city center is closed off to automobile traffic, allowing pedestrians to linger at their leisure.
Step Back in Time
Paraty’s ever-flowing shipments of gold attracted British pirates like flies. The Forte Defensor Perpetua (Fortress of Perpetual Defense) was built in the 1700s specifically to repel the privateers.
Visit the Islands
With more than 300 islands scattered about just offshore, it’s easy to hire a boat and find your own almost-pristine beach paradise.
Snorkel and Dive
Several outfitters offer snorkeling and diving excursions. Isla dos Meros is one of the most popular dive spots, but there’s plenty to see beneath the sea in this usually calm, protected bay.
Back on dry land, there’s plenty of wilderness to explore, much of it protected by Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina. Several operators offer guided hikes into the mountains, along wild beaches, or to area waterfalls.
Dine and Dance
Though small and unassuming, Paraty is a tourist destination and has everything you need to feel like you’re on vacation. Fine shops sell everything from local handicrafts to high fashion, and excellent restaurants cater to travelers on any budget. And, this being Brazil, there’s a small but festive selection of bars and clubs where you can dance the night away.