By: Rafaella Liaw, Sopha McManus, Anna Attuch, Maria Eduarda Ferreira
Paraty. A beautiful Brazilian treasure filled with a mixture of history, beaches and little overpriced souvenir shops that you will no doubt spend a few Reais on. We´ll admit that when we were introduced to the idea of visiting a small city with historical value and not much else (or so we thought!) we weren’t thrilled. However, after just a few hours of experiencing the true gem that is Paraty, we immediately changed our minds. What turned the tide on our views of Paraty, was seeing the colourful houses and the, slightly annoying, but regardless charming bumpy roads in person. It's one thing to hear about it and to see pictures, but witnessing the contrast between the white walls, sapphire blue doors and toepad yellow details is truly magical. Anyone that has visited Paraty would tell you that visiting the centre of the city is a unique and special experience you can only get in Paraty.
The Historical Centre of Paraty seems to have been frozen in time! It was considered "the most harmonious colonial architectural ensemble" by UNESCO. The architecture of the centre is based on old Portuguese-styled houses. This charming little place offers well-known shops (like Salinas, Havaianas etc.), souvenir shops, hotels, restaurants (like Margarida Café), bars, candy shops (like Kopenhagen), ice cream parlors (such as Gelateria Pistache) tourist establishments (offering historical tours, boat trips etc.) and residential houses. Maybe the pavement (called "pé de moleque") will be a small inconvenience. The highly uneven stones means accidents are more prone to happen. Running and without looking at the ground is almost impossible; I strongly recommend not going to the Historical Center in high heels!
One of the first activities we did upon arriving in Paraty was going on a boat trip. We arrived at the Paraty bay early, when it was still a bit chilly. We boarded this charming little boat and set off from the Paraty coastline. As the boat moved forward, we passed by many little islands, which the only inhabitants were the green trees. When we stopped, we were able to swim in the clear waters, together with a school of coloured fish. We all got back to the boat around lunchtime, when they served us a delicious stroganoff, or a fantastic grilled fish. Not to mention that they served brigadeiros after that, which is enough for anyone to love this outing automatically. Shortly after that, we went back to the bay, only to be greeted with this cart that sold coconut water straight from the coconut. We think you can imagine how pleasant this trip was, and if you don't, read this again.
The Gold Trail was truly the historic feature of the trip. Now hidden in the rebelling, overgrown forest, it is an echo of what it once was. Back in the 17th century, it was the heart of Brazilian trade and goods, pumping the economy into function. It is a strange sight to see, a path that was once so vital and that carried all sorts of people, now forgotten and buried along with its ghosts. In our own experience, the guide was extremely helpful and informative, very familiar with every stretch of the path, revealing a whole set of stories behind the smallest of details. The whole trip takes around two hours, despite being roughly 2 kilometres long, your guide will probably stop you every so often to point out characteristics of the path and explaining them. It would be best to go on this trip before exploring the Historic Centre, as it may clarify any curiosities you may have with its "trapped in time" quality.
From the first moment in Paraty, we saw it is too beautiful to describe in words. I feel that the activities we did only enhanced our positive view of the city even more. In my opinion, the perfect souvenirs to take a little piece of Paraty home with you are the ones that truly capture its essence, culture and uniqueness of the city: wooden boats, painted plates, magnets, sand bottles or just a simple picture. Anyway, Paraty is a city that can please people of all types of different tastes. If you love architecture, history, nature, geography and fun; Paraty is the place for you.