Set amid jutting peninsulas and secluded beaches, with a backdrop of steep, jungled mountains plunging into an island-studded bay, Paraty is one of Brazil’s most appealing and exquisitely preserved historical gems.
Paraty’s colonial center is remarkable for its centuries-old architecture. Elegant white buildings adorned with fanciful multihued borders and latticed windows blend harmoniously with the natural beauty that envelops the town.
Founded in the late 1600s, Paraty became a rich port city, transporting the gold of South America back to Portugal. The wealth of the gold trade produced many grand colonial homes as well as a central district with cobblestone-paved streets. Today the streets are pedestrian-only and many of the old colonial mansions have become cute boutique hotels.
An amazing feature of this old port city is the fact that is was designed so that the tide would wash up on the streets to clean out the trash.
Dozens of pristine beaches are within a couple of hours of Paraty by boat or bus, while inland, the Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina provides protection for a lush remnant of Mata Atlântica (Atlantic rainforest). The Brazilian government has recognized Paraty as a National Historic Site since 1966.
Paraty is crowded and lively throughout the summer holidays, brimming with Brazilian and European vacationers. The town’s cosmopolitan flavor is further enhanced by the large number of artists, writers and chefs, both Brazilian and foreign, who have settled here and opened shops, galleries and restaurants.
The whole center of Paraty has been declared a historic monument by the Brazilian government due to the very well preserved colonial architecture. The reason for the city’s great preservation is mainly due to the sudden and complete end to the gold rush in this area. The gold was still flowing out of Brazil but thanks to a new road and a quicker route to Rio, Paraty’s port was no longer needed. With a lack of money and work, Paraty became stuck in a bit of a time warp with very little new construction occurring until the 1970s or so when the city was “rediscovered” as a tourist destination and the restoration of the buildings began.