Paraty is a beautiful little colonial town about 4 hours south of Rio de Janeiro, on the Costa Verde, the Green Coast. While the whole coast is full of beautiful little spots, Paraty is something special. It was founded by the Portuguese in 1667 and rose to importance after the world's richest gold mines were discovered in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais. Paraty became the port of choice for the gold trade:
The ensuing gold rush led to the construction of the "Caminho do Ouro" or "Gold Trail", a 1200 kilometer road, paved in steep areas with large stones, which connected Paraty to Diamantina via Ouro Preto and Tiradentes. Not only was it was used to transport gold to Paraty, but it was also used to convey supplies, miners and African slaves by mule train over the mountains to and from the gold mining areas.
The Gold Trail fell into disuse because of attacks on the gold laden ships bound for Rio de Janeiro by pirates who frequented the islands and coves of the Bay of Angra dos Reis. Eventually a safer overland route from Minas Gerais to Rio de Janeiro was created because of these pirate raids. Finally, the gold itself began to run out in the late 1700s, and Paraty declined.
This decline was actually a good thing for today's travelers, because it meant that the town stayed the way it was back then, with the colonial churces and other buildings intact. The town center is closed to cars and we felt very fortunate to enjoy this beautifully preserved gem.
We (me, boyfriend, and two friends) spent five days in Paraty. We took a taxi from Rio (my former backpacker self is cringing, but it wasn't too expensive) to get the most out of the day, and had a grand ole time chatting with our taxi driver Nairton, who spoke Portuguese, good English, and good Spanish! It turned out to be a rather polyglot day, as we had five nationalities and languages in the little car: Brazilian, Norwegian, American, Colombian, and French! When we got to Paraty, we left the men at a bar and strolled around town looking for a nice place to stay. There were some guys at the entrance to the town that had given us flyers from a particularly nice-looking pousada, but unfortunately they only had rooms for one night. After checking a bunch of different places, we settled on a nice one overlooking the water: Hotel Pousada de Forte. The funny thing was that we negotiated with the guy in Portuguese, thinking he was Brazilian - turned out he was German. Oh well!
After settling in to the hotel, where we got neighbouring rooms with hot water, AC, and balconies with hammocks, we headed to town for a nice dinner at a small French place.
The rest of the week we spent on the beach, on boats, in a river, in restaurant, and just hanging out enjoying this quaint little town. One of our most fun experiences were hanging out with some Brazilians we met in our hotel. They were so much fun and so nice, and we ended up spending three meals and many beers with them. In my next post I will write about the beaches!