Paraty is a place unlike any other in Brazil.
Formerly populated by an indigenous group called the Guaianás, the name “Paraty” means “river of fish” in the Tupi language. It’s a National Historic Landmark, rich in a history that includes the gold trade, the lucrative coffee boom, and cachaça production. Today, the lush green of the mountains and the deep blues of the water make it an excellent tourist destination.
Paraty is located on the photo-worthy coastline of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Get there by following the BR101 highway past rolling green mountains and countless islands, including our favorite, Ilha Grande.
Whether you’re going for a cultural festival, or stopping by on a road trip from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo (it’s four hours from Rio and just two from São Paulo), Paraty is the quintessential sleepy town that will charm your socks off.
Here are the 11 best things to do in Paraty, and they’re all dog-friendly!
1. Take A Free Walking Tour
Free Walker Tours offers pay-what-you-wish walking tours of Paraty. It’s a great way to learn the history of the town and explore the area.
They offer tours in English and Portuguese daily, except for Wednesdays, at 10:30am and 5:00pm. Tours meet at Praça da Matriz and last about two hours. There’s no booking required, just show up.
2. Go On A Boat Ride
During the high season (Christmas to Carnaval), you’ll want to book a boat trip in advance. You can get your tickets from travel agencies or at the boats themselves.
Since we visited in the off season, we went to the pier day of. Boats set sail at around 11:00am, coming back around 4:oopm. We got there at 10:45am, picked a boat, and paid R$30 a person for the trip.
The trip was fantastic, with three different stops and spectacular views. There was live music on board, as well as a photographer, snorkel gear and pool noodles for floating. We bought food and drinks on board, and were given complimentary coffee and fruit on the way back.
In addition to visiting various islands and beaches, we learned the names and history of some of the other islands surrounding Paraty, like Ilha do Cachorro (Dog Island), named for when a heartless mayor had all of the city’s dogs collected and abandoned on the island.
3. See The Mangroves
Stunning mangroves have been preserved in Paraty’s waters and are definitely worth seeing.
They’re best accessed by kayak or canoe, which makes for a great excursion on the water.
It also makes for excellent wildlife encounters. You can enjoy bird watching and spy fish and even turtles.
Guided tours leave from Praia do Pontal, or you can rent a kayak at the beach and go yourself. It takes roughly 30 minutes to reach the mangroves.
Continue through the mangroves until you reach Saquinho do Corumbê, a small sea bay with crystal-clear water. Stop at Jabaquara beach on the way back for a natural mud bath.
4. Enjoy The Nightlife
Paraty comes alive at night when the sun goes down and the air gets cool and sweet from the nearby water.
Restaurants are packed with people spilling out onto the streets. There’s live music and couples and families wandering the cobblestoned streets. The praças fill up with people socializing over drinks. You might even stumble upon a night mass at one of the churches.
All of the shops stay open into the evening, and there are vendors selling sweets, jewelry and handmade goods everywhere.
5. Drink A Jorge Amado
Famous Brazilian writer Jorge Amado has a drink named after him!
He wrote his popular novel Gabriela, cravo e canela (or Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon) in 1958. It inspired the creation of Gabriela cachaça, a cachaça infused with cinnamon and clove, like the title of the book.
The Jorge Amado drink was invented in 1988, when the Gabriela movie was being filmed in Paraty. It pays homage to the writer and his beautiful novel.
The drink is made with Gabriela cachaça, lime and passion fruit.
Jorge Amado’s are hard to find outside of Paraty, so drink your fill while in town. We had ours at a bar called Cachaçaria Cana Da Praça, located on the corner of Praça da Matriz. They have a great 2-for-1 special during happy hour.
You can also make your own once you leave. Here’s the recipe, if you care to try:
1 Passion Fruit
50ml of Gabriela cachaça
Cut the lime into quarters and scoop out the passion fruit (leave the seeds!).
Mix the passion fruit, lime and Gabriela together in cocktail mixer.
Serve over ice.
6. Walk To The Fort
Forte Defensor Perpétuo was built in 1703. Today it’s a museum, with ruins of the old rock defense areas and cannons still intact.
The museum is often closed, but go for the cannons and the pleasant views.
Getting to Forte Defensor from the historical center is easy. It’s a quick, 20 minute walk over the bridge and along the Praia do Pontal beach. When you get to the park, there’s a quick turn right as you walk up the tree and bamboo-lined path.
Bring a canga (beach towels) and lay on the grass to hang out. You can also climb down from the fort to a large rock clearing with spectacular views of the bay, islands and town. It’s a great place to set up a picnic. If you’re lucky, you’ll see monkeys!
7. Go To The Beach
Paraty has 82 continental beaches and 65 islands! It all amounts to about 300 beaches.
Beach life here is more than just about suntanning and swimming. There are events, plenty of restaurants to choose from, and many fun activities. Water enthusiasts can indulge in things like sailing, canoeing, sport fishing, surfing, diving, stand up paddle and boat trips.
Praia do Pontal is a 5 minute walk over the bridge from the historic center. Other beaches close by include Praia do Jabaquara, famous for it’s natural mud used for epic mud baths, Barra Do Corumbê and Praia Grande.
Other, more pristine beaches, are just a car or boat ride away. Besides the mainland beaches, there are also many secluded island beaches just waiting to be explored. Make sure you pack a swimsuit!
8. Visit Trinidade
Located on the border of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, this former small fishing village has a lot to offer travelers. It’s well worth a day visit.
Part of Trindade belongs to the Serra da Bocaina National Park. It’s a picturesque and peaceful place to visit, with a charming small town and plenty of dense jungle and swimming holes to explore.
Check out the stunning waterfalls in the area, like this one, the famous Pedra que Engole (Rock That Swallows), that seems to suck people in and spit them out on the other side. Other popular waterfalls include Tarzan, Tobogã, Poços do Penha and Poço das Andorinhas. You can take a jeep tour to the waterfalls or rent a bike and cycle there.
Trinidade is only a 30-minute drive from Paraty by car. Buses leave from the Paraty bus terminal on the hour, every hour. The trip takes about 45 minutes and is cheap.
9. Enjoy Paraty’s Cultural Events
Paraty is home to some of the best events in all of Brazil. The town is small, but their events are mighty.
They have a full calendar of cultural fixings that are not to be missed. There is something for every month of the year. Some of the most popular ones include Corpus Christi, the Flip International Literary Festival, and the Festival da Cachaça.
Corpus Christi: During Corpus Christi, the streets of the Historic Center are adorned with carpets made of sawdust, lime, flowers and coffee. There are religious processions, usually happening on Thursdays, and thus giving people the chance to celebrate and then mingle through to the weekend.
FLIP: FLIP is the largest literary festival in the South America. Every year they put together an exciting program of literary events with featured guests that have included celebrated authors like Toni Morrison, Chico Buarque and Salman Rushdie. They also pay tribute to a different Brazilian author each festival as a way of preserving and appreciating the Portuguese language and Brazilian literature.
Festival da Cachaça, Cultura e Sabores de Paraty: Founded in 1983, the cachaça festival is one of the city’s most traditional and popular events. It takes place on Pontal Beach, runs from Thursday to Sunday, and admission is free. The festival celebrates cachaça, caiçara culture and local gastronomy, with plenty to eat, drink and learn.
The Paraty yearly calendar also includes:[one_half]
Viva Verão (music festival)
Viva Verão (music festival)
Aniversário de Paraty
Encontro de Ceramistas
Mini Maratona de Paraty
Festa do Divino Espírito Santo
Festa do Divino Espírito Santo
Corpus Christi, Festival do Camarão (Shrimp Festival)
Festa de São Pedro e São Paulo
FLIP – Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty
Festa de Santa Rita
Festival da Cachaça
Cultura e Sabores de Paraty
Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
Paraty em Foco
Festival Aves de Paraty
Encontro SESC de Cinema de Animação
Festa de São Benedito e Nossa Senhora do Rosário
AWA Festival SESC da Cultura Negra
Encontro de Cultura Negra
Réveillon (New Year’s)[/one_half_last]
10. Eat Your Heart Out
There are some good eats in Paraty. While the historic center is small, it’s jam packed with cozy, pocket-sized restaurants that sell everything from Thai, to Brazilian, to Italian cuisine. There’s also a variety of price ranges, from fine dining to cheap eats. Some of our favorites include:
- Vittorio Trattoria: There are a few Italian restaurants in Paraty, but this one is by far the best. This small Italian bistro offers up classic plates of tasty pasta, meats and seafood dishes. It very reasonably priced, and a great option for a nice dinner. (R. Santa Rita, 230)
- Ice Cream: We discovered many ice cream shops in Paraty, with multiples on the same block! With ice cream, you really can’t go wrong. There are a variety of styles and flavors, including a Finnish ice cream shop, two Italian ones, and a Brazilian one. Try one, or try them all.
- Van Gogh: This local burger joint has live music and the best burgers in Paraty. Try the burger with pineapple, and the caramelized onions with Gabriela. There are vegan and vegetarian dishes on the menu, and great drink options. (R. Dr. Samuel Costa, 22)
- Montanita Cafes Especiais: This cozy cafe roasts their own beans. They offer up delicious, quality cups of coffee. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the owner, a charming coffee lover who’s incredibly knowledgable and more than happy to chat. Their wide selection includes cold brew, shakerato, espresso and iced lattes. (R. da Matriz)
11. Try Some Cachaça
Paraty has a long history with cachaça, the popular Brazilian spirit made using sugarcane juice. In the late 19th century, the city was revived when they introduced the production of cachaça. The alcohol played an important role in Paraty’s economy and the creation of it’s local identity.
Today, you can tour local cachaça distilleries or sample cachaças at one several local shops. We recommend trying gabriela, a cachaça infused with cinnamon and cloves.
Armazém da Cachaça: R. do Comércio, 162 – Centro Histórico
Cachaçaria Cana Caiana: R. do Comércio, 100 – Centro Histórico
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