We rocked up to Paraty at sunset, just as the party was beginning. Blue and white bunting flew across cobbled colonial streets that were packed with both Brazilian and foreign tourists. On one side of the river there was a marquee with bars and restaurants and a main music stage. The whole town had a festival atmosphere and not really knowing what we were celebrating but not wanting to miss out we headed straight to the colonial centre where the local restaurants and bars were beginning to fill up.
Paraty is located between São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro and can be reached from Ilhabela in three hours on the bus. (There are normally two main buses a day except on a Saturday where you have to travel on four local buses which is considerably cheaper but takes a lifetime). There are two parts to the town, the colonial centre with old churches and more traditional architecture and then the modern side with clothes shops, chain restaurants and banks. Outside of the town there are some lovely beaches, all with the backdrop of the hills and rainforest.
In the 1800’s Paraty was a key stop over on the gold exportation route. However by the early twentieth century, in a similar way to other former prosperous colonial towns we have visited in South America, alternative quicker routes became available leaving Paraty to be gradually abandoned to become a ghost of its former self.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s when surfers, artists and hippies rediscovered the beauty of the city and began to make it more of a holiday destination. This was aided by the local production of cachaça, the sugar-cane spirit used in Brazil’s famous cocktail, the Caipirinha.
Being party night and all we both got involved in the Caipirhinas and bloody hell they were strong! However, they did give me my dancing feet and when the whole marquee was led in a samba/conga/hokey cokey style dance off by the band I found myself being twirled and twizzled by multiple Brazilians whilst Jamie laughed at my two left feet from a distance.
The next day, we donned our sunglasses and tiptoed out into the exceedingly bright light of they day with the aim of going to the Trinidad beach which is a quick bus journey away. However, it appeared that most of Paraty had made the same decision and not quite being able to face the craziness of a super packed beach we about about turned and headed on a gentle walk to Paraty’s local beach Jabaquara.
A much quieter affair we wandered across the two main beaches, the second which has a number of restaurants offering much cheaper food than is available in the main town. Throughout our few days in Paraty we had enjoyed the festive atmosphere and felt completely safe. However, I would encourage anyone who visits to remain vigilant as we have subsequently met a group of four Dutch girls, one with a black eye who were mugged and hit in the face by man with a gun on Jabaquara beach. I think with everything it is often down to luck and timing but our advice would be once the sun has set, head back to the town where there are lots of other people.