Paraty's well-preserved old town has a rich history: under threat from maritime marauders in the 1720s, Portuguese merchants altered their main shipping routes to avoid the area for fear of gold-seeking pirates, which meant the town's colonial architecture remained untouched for years. These days, Paraty, nestled within in the state of Rio de Janeiro, has colourful houses, cobbled streets and sandy beaches – making it a much-loved stop-off point for travellers to Brazil.
Some Paraty hostels have pools to cool off in, making for refreshing daytime dips in the heat of the day. Several hostels in the historical centre are set in 18th-century houses with authentic period features and grand facades. There are also smaller hostels in Paraty, with verdant gardens that offer respite from the heat. Brazilian morning meals are legendary, so it's worth looking out for a Paraty hostel that serves free breakfast, complete with local treats like pão de queijo (melt-in-the-mouth cheese rolls).
Paraty is compact enough to explore on foot, starting with the historical centre. Here, you'll find ice cream shops selling artisanal treats and seafood restaurants serving locally caught fish. Neighbourhoods on the outskirts, like Mangueira, are situated nearer the coast – offering easy access to pristine beaches. To stroll just a few metres from the sand, try the district of Jabaquara, located north of the city centre.
There are plenty of things to see in Paraty, including Matriz Square and the church of Capela de Santa Rita in the city centre. Scenic stretches of coastline can be easily reached by bus, including the tropical paradise of Praia do Sono and the natural pools of Praia do Cachadaço to the south. For swims in the jungle, wind your way to the waterfalls of Cachoeira do Tobogã and Poço das Andorinhas.
Taxis can be pricey in Paraty, so it's worth getting to grips with the bus system if you're on a budget. Most visitors travel to Paraty from Rio de Janeiro or Ilha Grande. From the latter, one of the easiest ways to get here is to jump on a ferry from Abraão to Angra dos Reis, before taking a bus from Santa Luzia pier. If you're coming from Rio, buses run from the Novo Rio Bus Terminal to Paraty – the ride takes around four hours.