The charming city of Paraty luxuriates in its four hundred years of history. The irregular cobblestone streets are witnesses of times gone by. Walking there one feels the instant enchantement: with traditional white façades and doors and windows in every color – yellow, red, green… turquoise, and black iron street lamps. This harmonious collection of colonial houses in historic downtown has been designated a Heritage Site by the Brazilian National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) and is hoping to soon become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Girded by the Atlantic Forest behind it and the Ilha Grande Bay in front of it, Paraty’s architecture is perhaps the city’s greatest treasure, but it is not the only one. Waterfalls and beaches beckon the weary. And nobody can visit Paraty without going out carefree on the sea in a wooden boat (and later buying miniatures of the boats that are the most common souvenirs produced in the city’s artisan workshops).
And throw into the magic ambience the sought-after events and festivals that have already become part of city life. The most beloved, anticipated and famous is the Paraty International Literary Festival (FLIP), which brings together the greatest writers of Brazil and the world, including some Nobel Prize recipients. But it’s always good to keep an eye on the city’s calendar so as not to miss the International Photography Festival (Paraty em Foco) in September; the International Jazz Festival (Bourbon) in May; the Mimo (www.mimo.art.br) in October; the sacred Festival of the Divine in May or June; and Carnival with traditional songs.
Since Paraty is visited and inhabited by many foreigners, dozens of languages can be heard in the gourmet restaurants and the tables set out on the sidewalks, perfect for enjoying typical local cachaça (distilled spirit made from sugarcane). Outside of festival weeks, day to day life along the city’s cobblestone streets is as relaxed as if we still lived during the time of the Brazilian Gold Rush. It is still possible to run into horse carriages, carts of sweets and the occasional canoe when the famous high tides flood the downtown, creating imposing reflections of the Portuguese mansions in the temporal pools of water. Bucolic, romantic, nostalgic, poetic: the atmosphere in Paraty is like no other.