Paraty: a Colonial Gem and Photographer’s Paradise

We visited Paraty on our way to Rio de Janeiro. Paraty is around 250 kilometres south of Rio, but still in the state of Rio de Janeiro . We didn’t expect Paraty to be such a photogenic little colonial gem – by far the prettiest town we’ve been to in a long time! Of course we had read and heard about it (sometimes it’s spelled Parati) but not really enough to arrive with any particular expectations.

Almost every house is accentuated with its individual colour scheme for window frames and doors, which overall makes Paraty a very colourful town.

Almost every house is accentuated with its individual colour scheme for window frames and doors, which overall makes Paraty a very colourful town.

Because we knew so little about this town, it left room for us to be positively surprised. Paraty has become a popular destination for Brazilians from both Rio and São Paulo, as it is roughly half way between the two. Nowadays it’s more easily accessible and receives a lot of weekend visitors, so we decided to arrive on a Monday.

The vista up the same street, towards the church of 'Nossa Senhora do Rosário'.

The vista up the same street, towards the church of ‘Nossa Senhora do Rosário’.

The History of Paraty

Learning a little about Paraty’s history is quite interesting. It explains the signs of the former wealth and provides an explanation for the town’s well preserved historical centre.

The first Portuguese settlement was recorded in 1667. Before this there was a small Guarani village in that place. The Portuguese town flourished quickly as it became the main port to export gold from the state of Minas Gerais to Portugal. The Caminho do Ouro (Gold Road) connected it with Diamantina, over 1,200 kilometres away. Many of the large boulders, which pave Paraty’s streets, were ballast from Portuguese ships, which transported Brazil’s plundered riches to Europe.

After the gold rush ended Paraty had its second boom period as one of the main regions to grow sugar cane. ‘Cachaça’, the rum like liquor to make the famous Brazilian ‘Caipirinha’, was once known as ‘Parati’.

Later, as coffee became more fashionable in the western world, this valuable crop replaced some of the sugar cane. But most of the profits relied heavily on the cheap workforce of black slaves.

Once slavery was banned, in 1888, the productivity of the farms declined and so did the significance of the port. Around the same time, a railway was built to connect São Paulo with Rio de Janeiro, giving Rio’s port more importance. In the first half of the 20th century Paraty was almost a ghost town, with less than 500 residents remaining. It fell into a long slumber until the region was finally connected by a new road to Rio. That’s when tourists and expatriates started slowly to arrive and discover the attractions of the town and its environment.

It’s not only the historic centre, which draws visitors. The subtropical beaches of this part of Brazil are famous. There are also hundreds of islands offshore – often uninhabited. Boating, snorkelling, and diving are popular water activities. The mountains inland from town are still covered by large remnants of the Atlantic Rainforest, with walking tracks and hidden waterfalls.

In the Atlantic forest, outside Paraty, you find some amazing waterfalls.

In the Atlantic forest, outside Paraty, you find some amazing waterfalls.

Paraty is the most photogenic colonial town we have visited in a long time!

We chose well to arrive at the beginning of the week as the town was quiet – almost deserted. A friend commented on one of our photos, asking whether there are any people living in Paraty… Let me assure you that there are, though the majority live in the newer parts surrounding the historical centre.

Tip for Photographers:
visit out-of-season and during the week to find a much quieter town!

The historical centre is fairly small, only five by six blocks in size, and best explored by foot. Vehicles aren’t allowed in, except for early morning deliveries (some by handcart) and horse driven coaches. This gives Paraty a more relaxed feel. You can stand in the middle of the road and wait for the perfect opportunity for the next photo, without the danger of being run over.

There are photo motifs on every corner. Most houses are white washed with colourful trim around their doors and windows. All windows and doors are painted in bright primary colours, which gives the place a vibrant appearance overall. Old fashioned light fittings and balcony balustrades complete this picture.

We posted a number of photos on Instagram . It doesn’t surprise us that nearly all of those pictures from Paraty are among our most ‘liked’ Instagrams…

The small shops are mostly geared towards visitors and sell a smorgasbord of quirky things, often adding to the colourful appearance. Many coffee houses, ice cream parlours, and restaurants invite you to take a rest, so you can spend full days there without getting tired.

Have we wetted your appetite?
When will you go and explore the colonial town of Paraty?

Paraty is a historic town in Brasil. The well preserved colonial houses, all white washed with colourful doors and window trim, make it a photographer's paradise. Founded by the Portuguese in 1667 Paraty had enormous wealth because it was the main shipping port for gold from Brazil to Europe. A boom followed later in sugar cane and coffee, before the town hit hard times. It spent the first half of the 20th century in a 'Sleeping Beauty' state until a new road connected it to Rio de Janeiro.

Paraty is a historic town in Brasil. The well preserved colonial houses, all white washed with colourful doors and window trim, make it a photographer’s paradise. Founded by the Portuguese in 1667 Paraty had enormous wealth because it was the main shipping port for gold from Brazil to Europe. A boom followed later in sugar cane and coffee, before the town hit hard times. It spent the first half of the 20th century in a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ state until a new road connected it to Rio de Janeiro.


Further reading: Wikitravel on Paraty


 
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Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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19 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    A gorgeous photo series, and some very interesting background information.

  2. Love the colors of all the doors and window frames. Indeed you are right, this is a photographers paradise, will definitely have to stop here if ever in the vicinity! ~ Jessica

  3. Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute says:

    Added yet another Brazilian place to our list, thanks Jurgen!

  4. Kathy Marris says:

    This place looks enchanting. Such vibrant colours. I would love to travel to South America. It is on the list.

    • Juergen says:

      I hope you are aware that you can’t do all of South America justice in just one trip! We are on the road since 2014, Brazil is only our forth country…

  5. Nancie says:

    What a pretty little town. The colorful trim around the doors and windows reminds me very much of Portugal. Reading your history of the town explains that perfectly! The rain forest area is also stunning. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    • Juergen says:

      It’s so long ago (35+ years?) that I was in Portugal that I have no recollection from there of colourful door and window frames.

  6. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) says:

    You certainly did whet our appetite! We have yet to visit Brazil, but the Must See list is getting long. I knew that Cachaca was sometimes referred to as Parati, but didn’t know why. Mystery solved! Now I feel a Caipirinha is in order! :) #WeekendWanderlust

  7. Marcelle says:

    Paraty is so colourful – Great for pictures, indeed. I just discovered your blog and I’m very interested in reading more of your travels as we are also ‘Grey World Nomads’ (I cheat!) and do travel slowly. We’ve been in Argentina and Ecuador, now in Europe for a few months.

    • Juergen says:

      Enjoy Europe and its history. We would really like to travel Europe extensively (also in an own RV) but the Schengen visa makes it so difficult…

  8. budget jan says:

    I would like to stay in one of those two storey colonial houses. It is a very quaint town and I can imagine how surprised and excited you were by the discovery.

    • Juergen says:

      Jan, the majority of those houses are Pousadas – so you can certainly stay right in the historic part of town in one of the colonial buildings. Although we heard it can be noisy on weekends and other peak season times. I guess it could be rather romantic on ordinary weekdays, out of season.

  9. Lolo says:

    Great pictures! It’s such a beautiful town! Reminds me of my visit as well to Rio and we made a trip to a small colonial town called Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. #WeekendWanderlust
    http://www.caliglobetrotter.wordpress.com

    • Juergen says:

      That sounds like a jetsetter holiday as there must be 2,000+ kilometres between the two. Although we like Colonia in Uruguay, Paraty is quite different. First of all there’s no traffic in the historic part of town. Then the houses are older, all similar in style, and adorned with those brightly coloured doors and windows.

  10. Ruth says:

    Oh my! I love Paraty so much. I should have spent more time in the town. The town itself is beautiful but the natural surroundings are magical. We had the opportunity to take an island hopping boat and a jeep tour around the rain forest.

    • Juergen says:

      Yes, in hindsight we should have spent more time as well! For us is was unfortunately a time of personal crisis (death of family member back home) and our minds were somewhat not quite present.

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