The ILHA DE PAQUETÁ is an island of one square kilometre in the north of Guanabara Bay, an easy day-trip that is very popular with cariocas at weekends. It was first occupied by the Portuguese in 1565 and later was a favourite resort of Dom João VI, who had the São Roque chapel built here in 1810. Nowadays, the island is almost entirely given over to tourism. About two thousand people live here, but at weekends that number is multiplied several times by visitors from the city, here for the tranquillity – the only motor vehicle allowed is an ambulance – and the beaches, which, sadly, are now heavily polluted. Still, the island makes a pleasant day’s excursion – with colonial-style buildings that retain a certain shabby charm – and the trip is an attraction in itself: if possible, time your return to catch the sunset over the city as you sail back. Weekdays are best if you want to avoid the crowds, or come in August for the wildly celebrated Festival de São Roque.
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