About 300km from Rio on the BR-101 is the Costa Verde’s main attraction, the town of PARATY. Inhabited since 1650, the centre of Paraty (or, officially, Vila de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Paraty) has remained fundamentally unaltered since its heyday as a staging post for the eighteenth-century trade in Brazilian gold, passing from Minas Gerais to Portugal. Before Portuguese settlement, the land had been occupied by the Guaianá Indians, and the gold routes followed the old Indian trails down to Paraty and its sheltered harbour. Inland raids and pirate attacks necessitated the establishment of a new route linking Minas Gerais directly with Rio, and, as trade was diverted to the bigger city, Paraty’s fortunes declined. Apart from a short-lived boom in the nineteenth century of coffee shipping and the production of cachaça, Paraty remained hidden away off the beaten track, intact but quietly stagnating. Nowadays, however, Paraty is very much alive; UNESCO considers it one of the world’s most important examples of Portuguese colonial architecture, and the entire city has the status of a national monument.
Paraty is a perfect place simply to wander aimlessly, each turn of the corner bringing another picturesque view. The town’s small enough that there’s no danger of getting lost and, no matter what time of day or night, you can feel confident about your safety. Additionally, there are several buildings worth seeking out if you don’t happen to come across them.