If there’s a place one instantly falls in love with, it’s Paraty. A good four-hour drive from either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, this adorable colonial town bursts with culture. From music festivals to photography, bourbon jazz and even shrimp festivals, Paraty is worth visiting all year round. Its most known event is FLIP, the Paraty International Literary Festival that takes place in July each year.
The town’s historic centre is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list along with the rest of the historic Estrada Real, the donkey path along which the gold which made the Portuguese empire rich was brought from the mines in Minas Gerais down to Rio throughout the eighteenth century. For most of the century, the town was the route’s terminus, the only point at which it was possible to descend the steep Serra do Mar mountain range to the sea. Once an alternative, more direct route to Rio was discovered, Paraty was forgotten, which explains why it seems lost in time. The charming cobbled streets make for beautiful photos, but are less practical for walking, especially in flip-flops. Since the town’s roads open into the sea, they easily flood at high tide. That doesn’t stop visitors from browsing through the town’s craft shops, restaurants and galleries, of which Paraty has many.
The colourful houses, the town’s hallmark, add to its charming appeal. To learn more about the town’s history, visit Casa da Cultura (Cultural House).
When the streets aren’t flooded by the seawater, you can visit the town’s numerous churches. During the day, the main square is full of food and craft vendors while in the evenings, it’s not uncommon for bands and singers to give free concerts. A wide array of bars around the main square buzz with life and make for a perfect place for an aperitif or an afternoon coffee.
Since we visited Paraty many times, we’ve made our selection of go-to restaurants. For a boutique dinner, visit Bistro Alquimia dos Sabores, out along the road towards Cunha. It’s worth making a reservation as the bistro only has a handful of tables. Located beside a small waterfall, you can indulge in creative Brazilian cuisine without distractions, as there is no phone signal in this area.
The lovers of all things fire will enjoy Casa do Fogo Paraty, where all the dishes are prepared with fire. Live music often accompanies tasty meals, in exchange for a small fee to be paid on top of the bill.
Those who enjoy good Italian cuisine with a Brazilian touch won’t be disappointed if they visit La Dolce Vita.
For a proper seaside feel, visit one of the beach stalls (quiosques), where you can enjoy your food and drinks with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
Last, but not least, Paraty has many local cachaça distilleries, of which Maria Izabel is absolutely a must.
On top of a hill with a view over a small bay, the mother & daughter team produces the best cachaça we’ve ever tasted, from their basic white or blue tangerine (traditional Paraty-style) to the gold (ouro) and aged editions. The six-year-old and reserve are the priciest bottles, but also the best ones.
They make cachaça without any shortcuts from their own organic sugar cane. Don’t miss their daily visits and tastings.
Because of its size, Paraty is perfect for a weekend trip, though the possibility of boat trips also makes for a pleasurable extended stay of a few days.