Virtuoso Life - May/June 2017 - 114
Out & About
VEN DURING A TROPICAL CLOUD-
managing partner of São Paulo-based tour
company Matueté. "Paraty is also rich in
many other ways: It has become a hub for artists and other creative types who have chosen to live outside the main urban centers. As
a result, despite being a small town, it has a
unique flavor and vibe, which so many tourist towns lack."
Exquisitely preserved centuries-old architecture fills the town's colonial center,
from churches to warehouses and the homes
of Portuguese colonists. Beyond the town,
a backdrop of steep, jungled mountains reveals a wealth of enticements.
"The importance of Paraty
cachaça in the eighteenth
century was so great that the
city became synonymous with
the drink. Paraty once had more
than 100 distilleries, but now just
seven are operating. It's possible
to taste cachaça at shops in
town, but visiting one of the
stills allows you to learn about
the distillation process."
- Flávio Géo, Virtuoso travel
advisor, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
About 20 minutes outside town, the 700mile-long Gold Road (Caminho do Ouro) was
built by slaves during the area's gold days in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to
connect Minas Gerais to Paraty's port. Walking in the filtered, emerald light of the jungle,
I'm initially surprised to see that the trail is
more than merely a clearing among the trees.
Neatly placed moss-covered stones form a
green path that leads into the shadows. Bromeliads and orchids drip from trees, and an
occasional flash of blue in the jungle is the
seven-colored saíra, a bird that resembles a
6-year-old's coloring project, with turquoise,
ultramarine, pale blue, bright blue, dark blue,
orange, and black plumage.
A guided Jeep tour (your travel advisor can
arrange one) is another good way to get to
the Gold Road - and to visit waterfalls that
lie only about 15 minutes east of Paraty. At the
Pedra Branca waterfalls, twin cascades that
From left: The Pedra Branca waterfalls,
Santa Rita church and Paraty's harbor,
and eye-catching facades.
burst, Paraty's beauty prevails.
The rain pools in the cobblestoned
streets, reflecting elegant white
buildings with fanciful, multihued borders.
Amid this architectural beauty, set between
lush jungle and white-sand beaches fronting
the island-dotted turquoise ocean, residents
mix with visitors in two-story shops, cafés,
restaurants, and pousadas (locally owned
boutique hotels). The town of about 36,000
feels intimate and laid-back - as if everyone
has all the time in the world.
Tucked along the Atlantic coast between
Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Paraty flourished as a port at the end of the seventeenth
century with the discovery of gold in the
mountains of nearby Minas Gerais. After the
gold ran out, the town fell into decline. More
recently, though, Paraty has developed a
dedicated following among Brazilians - during the Rio Olympics last year, its lodgings
clocked a bustling 95 percent occupancy rate
as city-dwellers skipped town for a beach
break. Yet it still remains off the radar of most
"Nowhere else in the country do you find
such a perfect match of history and culture,
with fantastic boating, beaches, and forest
all in one place," says Martin Frankenberg,
V I RT U O S O L I F E