Historical Town Paraty And Unspoilt Nature In Ilha Grande

From São Paulo to Paraty

My last post I wrote about my impressions of São Paulo– my first stop in Brazil. Soon enough, I realized it was time for a new taste and I was tired of being in a big city and wanted to escape from it. Two places on my travel list: Paraty and Ilha Grande.

Ilha Grande

From one day to the other I booked my ticket on the internet website called Busca Ônibus from São Paulo to Paraty for 26$.

Spoiled by the unlimited speed of the German highways (Autobahn) I expected the bus to arrive within 3 or 4 hours in Paraty.
Though the way was 205 miles (330 km) the bus took 7 hours!! I mean come on, I really didn’t expect 7 hours. After 4-5 hours I got a queasy feeling of boarding on the wrong bus. We stopped two times with thirty minutes break each, but still the bus was just lame. Extremely lame.
My first bus ride probably gave me a great foretaste of my upcoming future travels in South America. Slow bus rides and living quarter of my travels on a bus. My gosh, do I look forward to it.
Guess what? – Today I just booked a bus ride from São Paulo to Cuiabá and the ride will take me 27! hours. Lucky me, right?
At least the buses are not killing me with their air conditioners like in South East Asia. Better I hold my tongue, I predict worse bus rides to come. For sure…

Paraty- A Colonial Town

Paraty is less expensive than São Paulo. I stayed in a hostel for 8$ per night, not a bad one plus I could make a lot friends from Argentina.
Wonderful and somehow a little bit crazy people, too.

Paraty, RJ
Reminds me somehow of Greece.

Renowned as a colonial town, therefore it is no wonder that many folks are drawn to Paraty with all the nearby outdoor activities. Plenty of beaches can be accessed within a short time by boat or buses.
Some bohemian vibes are run through the city center once you encounter the galleries and shops opened by a large number of artists and chefs, both Brazilians and foreigners, who have settled there and opened shops, galleries and restaurants.
Besides strolling through the well-preserved cobblestone streets of the historic center there are heaps of jeep tours
(25-30$ for a full day tour), which bring you to the waterfalls and a distillery of cachaça– alcohol made from sugar crane, the most infamous and important ingredient for Caipirinhas.

Paraty, RJ
Paraty City Center
City Center

Paraty, Rio de Janeiro

Going out for dinner in the center is undoubtedly expensive. So I took the options of street food or supermarkets, what else? Bread and cheese were devoured happily by me for 2.50$. It is better to save your money either for the tours or going out at night to Paraty 33 with live Bossa Nova. Some hostels are throwing their own parties, just ask around, the folks there are very helpful.

Paraty, RJ

Once you arrive in Paraty, I would suggest you to grab a map at the tourist information, all the points where to go and what to do are marked on this map. In the town center there is a historical museum
“Paraty Museum” which explains the importance of Paraty, when gold traveled overland to Paraty and was shipped to Portugal.

Paraty City Centre
One of many galleries in Paraty city center


I stayed 4 days in Paraty which was great to explore the surroundings.
Moreover, Paraty is pretty safe to walk around at night plus friendly locals, what do you want more?

My highlights: Forte Defensor Perpetuo is a place to relax and a tranquil getaway from all the tourists in the city center. Jabaquara Beach is only 20-30 minutes walk far away from the center. And from the bus station you can take the bus to Trindade Beach (Praia do Cachadaco) and
Cachoeira Toboga (waterfall).

Paraty, RJ

Ilha Grande – A Paradise Island

How to get from Paraty to Ilha Grande?

Easy-peasy, don’t worry. I was pretty worried to miss the bus to Angra dos Reis, but my concerns were baseless. So every 30 minutes during the week there is a bus to Angra dos Reis from the Paraty bus station.
The bus ticket costs 14 Reais, which is like 4,5 US$.
The bus ride takes 2 hours. Get off at the last station and you will be at the harbour of Angra dos Reis. The cheapest option to Ilha Grande?
Catch the ferry of the company CCR Barcas at “Cais da Lapa“for
16.60 Reias (5,30$) to Ilha Grande, a 90 minutes ride.
During the week the ferry leaves at 3.30 pm. Therefore, if you are planning to say goodbye to Paraty at 12 am, it won’t be too late to catch the ferry.
The best thing? Travel like the locals – Plenty of them are on this ferry, observe their way of living and talking – I could even catch up some portuguese words. Muito obrigado.

Ilha Grande – Accomodation

I didn’t book anything when I arrived in Ilha Grande. I was checking out the hostels before I found this gem: Marlin Hostel.
This might be the cleanest hostel I will ever experienced in South America, another prediction of mine I guess. Maybe. Who knows.
Anyway, the rooms and bathrooms were extraordinarily clean. I met wonderful people at this hostel who became my friends and the owners-
Mario and Luis made sure everyone feels comfortable at their home.
It was more an atmosphere of staying at my home and friends coming over to visit than a hostel or whatever you want to call it.

Hostel Ilha grande
The hostel owner Mario and I
General Information & Short History

Most people are staying in Vila do Abraão, the biggest town on Ilha Grande. From there you get the best accesses to the restaurants, tour operators, trekking routes, pristine tropical beaches, picturesque landscapes, night life etc.
Please do me a favour, if you are a claustrophobic person avoid the high season in Ilha Grande, you might get a heart attack in Abraão.
In handsight, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
Oh before I forget, prepare yourself for a few dirty roads in Ilha Grande, please don’t imagine yourself a super luxury island.
By the way – cars are not allowed in town. I enjoyed the walks and bicycling as the only transportation options, while for someone who is extremely unsportsmanlike it might be a nightmare.
Short history of Ilha Grande: At the beginning a pirates’ lair, then a place for leper and at the end a prison island where political prisoners were put together and should become best friends with some of Brazil’s most violent criminals.
Back in the days, Vila do Abraão was just a sleepy fishing village until the middle of the 90’s, when the penitentiary was destroyed and tourism started. Nowadays one of the most touristy spot in Southeast of Brazil.

Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande nowadays
Activities in Ilha Grande

On my first day in Ilha Grande I made friends with two Brazilian girls from the hostel: Patricia and Jessica. The next day we trekked together to Praia Lopes Mendes, a 3 hours trek.  It was more fun than exhausting, even though don’t let yourself be fooled by me – it is not the easiest trek. We made friends with some folks from England and decided to spend the rest of the day together.
Unfortunately the day was not hot enough to convince me going on a swim. Most people order a taxi boat to get back to Abraão, the price for each person is between 15 and 20 Reais.
At night we went out for Festa Junina (June Festival, it was July but whatever – there is no reason not to party for Brazilians) and they taught me a little bit forró (brazilian dance). Or we would go to Aquario, actually a hostel but they accommodate great parties there.

Ilha Grande
Taxi Boat
Trekking Way
Trekking to Praia Lopes Mendes

Ilha Grande, RJ

Trek to Lopes Mendes
Second stop on the trek to Lopes Mendes
Ilha Grande
Praia Lopes Mendes
Ilha Grande
First Stop on the trek to Lopes Mendes

The third day I hiked with Mark (my roommate back then and now my friend from Chile) and his friends to Dois Rios and the beach is better than Lopes Mendes, but no one was at the beach except the four of us!? We were speechless, sun was shining and we had the beach for us all alone!!
The trek is 5 miles long and an easy one.

Ilha Grande
Trekking to Dois Rios
Trekking Dois Rios
5 miles hike to Dois Rios
Ilha Grande Beach
The beauty of Dois Rios is hidden in this picture. I swear.

The fourth day I went on an island tour with Vila Nova Tour .
We were 8 people and two children on the flex boat.
Our guide was in a great and contagious positive mood. The service was beyond my expectations, therefore I can highly recommend them.
Moreover, I made friends with a girl named Natalia.
Thank you for taking all the pictures for me ;).
I couldn’t have a better day in Ilha Grande. You will stop at two lagoons called Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde. For lunch we stayed one hour at Saco do Ceu, while you eating comida and watch the blue sea in front of you- what a dream! After that, Camiranga and Feiticeira are waiting to get explored, two places for sunbathing at the beach, strolling around or swimming in the refreshing cold water of the sea. The day can be finished by sitting with your friends at a beach bar with live music in Abraão, like I did with Marc on that evening.
Hey, guess what? And then we made new friends again. What a surprise!

Tour Ilha Grande
Tour Ilha Grande
I smiled throughout the whole day.
Lagoa Verde
Lagoa Verde

Lagoa Ilha Grande
Snorkeling at Lagoa Azul
Cute Brazilian Boy
This cute boy also attended the boat tour. Natalia and I became immediately friends with him.
Beach Bar Ilha Grande
With Marc at a beach bar in Ilha Grande.
Leaving Ilha Grande

For me the hardest part is always to say goodbye to all the friends and bonds I make during traveling. But deep down in my heart, I know with some of them a reunion is out of question – it is just a matter of time.
The memories are forever, therefore I don’t want to live in the past.
Moreover, I do look forward with all curiosity and optimism to new days in my life, to new adventures and people I will meet. I do look back, but only to remind myself how great and frigging great life can be.

My next stop: Rio de Janeiro.
I took an EasyTransfer, they organized the boat and a private van to bring me to my hostel in Rio. I prefer this option, because I didn’t want to arrive in Rio at the bus station and carry my backpack around and wait for my Uber etc.
The EasyTransfer transfers you for 95 Reais (30$) directly and safely to your accommodation, hence it is the most convenient way to travel to Rio or vice versa.

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