Even though Rio de Janeiro is home to the world’s largest metropolitan forest and some of the most beautiful beaches on earth, it’s still nice to get out of the city every now and then.
Last week proved to be the perfect time for a small trip, since my parents were visiting from the United States.
We thought long and hard before their visit about where to escape to for four days. It would have to be a place worth exploring, one that was dog-friendly, and that wouldn’t require a plane ride.
The last time they visited we went to Salvador, Bahia, and while it was an amazing trip, we didn’t feel like dealing with domestic plane travel again this time around.
So, we opted for something a bit more local, and finally settled on Paraty.
Paraty is a small town in the State of Rio de Janeiro. It’s incredibly charming, with old cobblestone streets, colorful houses and historic churches. It’s located on the coast between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and a popular destination for Paulistas and Cariocas alike.
We rented a car from nearby Santos Dumont airport (it’s a 10 minute drive from our house!) and set off.
The four hour drive follows coastal highway BR 101. It’s a scenic route with beautiful landscapes and amazing islands in the distance. We passed through the city of Angra dos Reis and saw Ilha Grande, another popular destination that’s a favorite of ours, along the way.
We stayed in a charming three bedroom Airbnb nestled right behind a tiny historic church. Not only was our Airbnb sparkling clean and spacious, but it came with a nice sized patch of grass and an orange tree, the perfect outdoor spot for zoomies or late night bathroom trips. Each room had it’s own bathroom, complete with a shower, and our host welcomed us during check-in with coffee and cake.
Our Airbnb was just a few steps away from the historic center of Paraty, making it the perfect location for getting around. Once we arrived we unpacked, spent some time in the hammocks, and then went off to explore.
We spent that first day walking around town and getting acquainted. We popped our heads into the local shops, meandered around curved streets, and bought coconut sweets from a desserts cart.
All of the walking around worked up our appetites, so we settled in for dinner at a popular Italian restaurant called Vittorio Trattoria. We ate pasta and steak at an outdoor table paired with fresh juice, then headed back to the Airbnb to get some rest.
The next morning we ate breakfast at our place, and then went to Praça da Matriz for a free walking tour.
The company Free Walker Tours gives two hour walking tours of Paraty twice a day, every day except for Wednesdays, at 10:30am and 5:00pm. We met our tour guide Harry, as well as travelers from Austria, Canada, and Israel, and were led through the streets as he explained the history and architecture of Paraty. He was incredibly knowledgable, answering all of our questions about the town. The tour was fun, interesting and dog-friendly!
We had a quick lunch and then walked along Praia do Pontal (a local beach) to Forte Defensor Perpétuo.
Forte Defensor was built in 1703. Today it’s a museum, with ruins of the old rock defensive and cannons still intact.
Getting to Forte Defensor is easy. It’s a quick, 20 minute walk over the bridge and along the beach. When you get to the park, there’s a quick turn right as you walk up the tree and bamboo-lined path.
We brought cangas (beach towels) and laid 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 bring snacks or set up a picnic. If you’re lucky, you’ll see monkeys in the foliage.
Paraty really comes alive at night. Restaurants are packed with people spilling out onto the streets. There’s live music on some corners, and couples and families wandering. We even stumbled upon a night mass at one of the churches. All of the shops are open, and there are vendors selling sweets, jewelry and handmade goods everywhere.
We discovered over seven ice cream shops that sold a variety of styles and flavors. We found a Finnish ice cream shop, two Italian ones, and a Brazilian one! The Brazilian ice cream shop had unique flavors like cilantro and cardamom, and was located in a small art shop that was also home to an older Golden Retriever.
On our third day we went on a boat ride to some neighboring islands. We set sail on a medium-sized boat for a five hour excursion that went to four different islands. We swam, ate a great chicken lunch and even enjoyed live music onboard. The water was blue and clean, and you could see fish swimming close by.
On our last night we wandered around, exploring every corner of the historic center. Even though Paraty’s Centro Historico neighborhood is small, there is plenty to see and take in.
We admired colorful boats docked at the pier, visited an amazing bookstore (Livraria das Marés) and even a small theater (Teatro Espaço).
Skip the chachki souvenir shops and their generic Made-in-China magnets and mugs, and head to the handmade craft shops instead. We loved popping into different stores and browsing everything from local pottery, to small carved wooden boats to handmade jewelry.
We also made sure to try a Jorge Amado, a local cocktail named after the famous Brazilian writer. It’s made using Gabriela (cachaça infused with cloves and cinnamon), lime and passion fruit.
The next day we ate a good breakfast and begrudgingly said goodbye.
We loved Paraty! It was the perfect getaway, and we can’t wait to return. If you’re traveling through Brazil, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Read more about our Brazilian adventures here.
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