Paraty, on the coast of Brazil, used to be the capital of Brazil. It has a deep and calm harbour, well protected by several islands. Unfortunately these islands served as an ideal hiding place for pirates and much gold was lost. After some time the capital was moved to Río De Janeiro.
Paraty is another UNESCO protected town. The old part of town is one of the cutest places I have ever seen. All the buildings are covered in a white render, but the doorways, doors, window frames and shutters are all different colours. It’s absolutely beautiful to see. A number of the buildings also have cute or quirky features, like interesting lights, decorative features on the verandah railings, bizarre door knockers or painted decorative features on the building corners.
The town is on the coast, so it’s also lovely to stroll by the ocean and enjoy a drink on the beach.
Ihla Grande, Big Island, is off the coast of Rio De Janeiro. It is 193 m2 and is a popular tourist destination because of it’s scenery and chilled beaches. We enjoyed three nights on the island. The main town is Vila do Abraão and offers many hotels, hostels, restaurants and little shops to visit. The island doesn’t offer a great variety of activities as such, as they are all based around hiking and swimming, but those things are fabulous to do on the island.
Pico de Papagaio (Parrot’s Peak)
The hike up to parrots peak to the elevation of 982 metres, is quite a challenging one, particularly when you choose to do the sunrise hike. We met our guide Guillermo Farabollini at 2:30am in the town centre. He cut us some bamboo walking poles with his machete and off we went. We trekked up some crazy narrow, steep and slippery jungle path lit only by the light beams of our head torches. Throughout the hike we did also manage to spot some wildlife including a tarantula, snake (awesome black and orange striped tree snake) and some black howler monkeys. The hike is roughly 13km return from town. Even at 2:30 in the morning it is a hot and grueling hike. We made a few stops along the way to drink water and eat bananas.
We made it to the peak just as the sun started to peek out from behind the mountains and clouds. It was such an amazing view and absolutely worth the torture of such an epic morning hike. We spent between 30 to 60 minutes sitting at the peak, absorbing the amazing views. We could see the main town on the island, the popular beach Lopes Mendes and you could even almost see Rio de Janeiro in the distance. Once the sun rose, we also found out that we had a second guide, a local dog. The local dogs take it in shifts, each one accompanying a tour group up and down the mountain for their hike. It’s adorable!!
The hike back down was also quite challenging, but interesting to see where you had been and what you had missed along the way without daylight. It was a hard, but great hike. An activity I would recommend doing, and call Guillermo because he’s a great guide. He speaks English really well, is passionate about what he does and knows loads about the animals in the area.
Lopes Mendes Beach
Lopes Mendes beach is one of the top ten beaches in Brazil and it is a beach of very fine white sand, with a sweeping curve a few kilometres long. You can get there one of two ways, it’s approximately a two hour hike from the main town, or you can catch a water taxi which takes about 15-20 minutes. With a group of us we paid R$40 each, which I consider quite reasonable. If you take the boat, it’s still a 20-minute hike to get to Lopes Mendes from the drop off point.
Being from Tasmania, Australia where the beaches are pure, clean and uncrowded, I’m quite the beach snob. Despite my beach snobbery, I found Lopes Mendes to be a lovely beach, relaxing, clean and super chilled out. There weren’t any vendors hassling you to buy things. It was just a location purely for relaxing and I loved it!
Boat tours around the Island
Another popular activity is to join in a boat cruise around the island. You can opt for a 7 hour trip the whole way around the island or the shorter 4 hour trip ‘half way’ round the island. As a tour group we hired a speed boat for ourselves to do the half island trip and it was worth every penny!
We hired a 14 person boat, we bought all our snacks and drinks, stocked the boat eski and off we went. We first whizzed around to our furthest most destination, Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon). It offered some gorgeous, clear green/blue water in which to snorkel. The green colour of the lagoon is partly from the green coral I believe. There were heaps of gorgeous multi coloured fish here, and it was a brilliant spot to stop and soak up the sun and the snorkeling.
The second stop was Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), which was another fabulous spot to stop. Green Lagoon seemed like a bay, but Blue Lagoon seemed more like a lagoon set in between various little islands. There was less coral here and fewer fish, but it was nonetheless a fabulous location.
After this we stopped somewhere for lunch which was really tasty. Then our last stop was the bay of love, but by this time the clouds had covered the sun and it was quite cold. Also being closer to the main town on Ilha Grande, the water was dirtier and had poor visibility, so we actually decided to head back early.
After our time in the relaxed island destination of Ilha Grande was up, we jumped on a ferry and headed towards Rio de Janeiro, the final destination of our tour.