Paraty, a coastal town about four hours south or Rio, has so much more to offer than beautiful beaches. From waterfalls and swimming holes in the rich Atlantic Forest, to cachaça distilleries or action and adventure at Paraty Sport & Aventura, there is so much in the surrounding area to visit and explore that you can easily spend a week or more in what initially seems to be a pretty small town.
But how best to get out there and explore? Until very recently, the only options for those who don’t have their own car (which would be most backpackers, of course) were to hire a bike, which still leaves many places inaccessible, or to enrol on one of the many jeep tours. Most backpackers are pretty averse to tours, which tend to be very rigid, dictating the length of time you can spend at each place and which places you visit, often taking you to the more expensive restaurants and alambiques (distilleries) as they receive a commission, and skipping lots of the less-popular attractions which are well worth visiting.
While we were in Paraty, Sam and I tried out a brand new company which aims to solve those problems and give a little more freedom to travellers who want to see more of the area. The new Paraty Tourist Bus is a hop-on, hop-off bus which runs to all the best attractions in the local area – including lots of waterfalls, the start of the Caminho do Ouro (the gold trail hike), a couple of alambiques, Paraty Sport & Aventura, and loads more. For a full breakdown of the stops and what you’ll find at them, check out this PDF of the company’s leaflet: Hop on Hop off Bus.
At just R$35 per adult (less than £10) for the day, the bus is much cheaper than a jeep tour, and has way more freedom. For example, Sam and I hopped on at the Historic Centre in Paraty and hopped off at Sport & Aventura, Alambique Paratiana, Poço do Ingles, and the Shambhala Lounge during one day, taking the last bus back into town at around 6pm. Alternativley, if you wanted to spend a day visiting all the waterfalls, you could take the bus to Poço do Tarza, then get back on and head to Poço do Ingles and Cachoeira da Usina, from which Pedra Branca and the 7 Quedas are both within walking distance – with a stop at somewhere like the Mini Estrada Real or at one of the alambiques for a quick cachaça tasting on the way home.
We really enjoyed our experience using this great new hop-on, hop-off bus. The buses are clean, modern minivans and our driver, Marcelo, was really friendly. The buses run approximately every 90 minutes during the busy season, and the times are clearly displayed at all the unmistakable blue-and-orange bus stop signs dotted around the countryside, so you know exactly what time the next bus will be. Since a lot of the attractions – like the alambiques and the Poço do Ingles – are pretty close together, you can easily visit a few places over a couple of hours before hopping on the bus again. If you do decide to rent a bike, but you don’t think you’ll make it all the way around, the bus also has a bike rack on the back – so you can mix and match throughout the day!
This new tourist company in Paraty is perfect for all travellers, especially backpackers on a budget ,and those who prefer to explore in total freedom, without the restrictions of a tour company.