Paraty and Ilha Grande

Paraty and Ilha Grande
Photo by Els Slots.

Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity is a forested coastal area that was the scene of early encounters between Europeans and natives.

The area contains cultural assets that testify to the occupation of the area by indigenous inhabitants and, from the 16th century onwards, by European settlers and enslaved Africans. Most of the landscape is covered by Atlantic rainforest of great biological diversity and with a high number of endemics. The area has 450 species of birds and 150 mammal species, of which the Southern Muriqui is the flagship species.

Community Perspective: the picturesque colonial town of Paraty is the main attraction here. Merging it into a cultural landscape ánd a mixed site with some more Atlantic Forest seems perhaps to have been ‘unwise’ – more about that in Solivagant’s review.

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Shandos Cleaver

Australia - 07-Sep-22 -

Paraty and Ilha Grande by Shandos Cleaver

There's a lot of options for how to visit the Paraty WHS, which is not surprising considering it is a Mixed site and consists of a number of different locations, including the offshore island of Ilha Grande.

Like previous visitors, our main base for our visit was the town of Paraty. We stayed for three nights just outside the historic centre in one of the many guesthouses. The town is a popular getaway spot for the nearby cities of Rio and Sao Paulo. The weekend after we visited, despite being late winter, nearly everything was booked out for a cachaca festival.

We found the historic centre charming, although there's not that much to see other than cafes and souvenir shops (although some had great local handmade handicrafts). Two of the most interesting spots were the Casa da Cultura (with a variety of exhibits, and a few details of the WHS listing) and the Church of Sacred Art at Igreja de Santa Rita, both with free entry. It's easy to cover this part of the site in a couple of hours.

The next location in the listing is the Morro da Vila Velha, on the northern side of the town, containing the Forte Defensor Perpetuo. It's a short stroll along a path from near the end of Alameda Princessa Isabel, although the fort and its museum was closing for siesta just as we arrived, so I'm not sure how interesting it is. There's not much to see outside. When walking back down to the main beach, you'll spot a small sign about the WHS, the closest thing to a plaque.

Probably the most interesting natural side of the site is Ilha Grande and the two reserves on it (which also contain some cultural remains). The island seems a very popular destination for getaways from Rio. Ferries to the island depart from the town immediately to the north, although there are also some longer transfers from Paraty. There are no cars on the island despite it being quite sizeable - a hike around the entire island takes almost a week, although you can also get boat transfers to the various beaches.

We considered visiting Ilha Grande but didn't have enough time to make a visit worthwhile. Instead, we took one of the many boat day trips that leave Paraty to the nearby beaches and islands, just touching on the Environmental Protection Area of Cairuçu location. The boat trips are cheap, with most of the profits probably coming from serving lunch and the inevitable cocktails onboard. There's also beaches right in Paraty, but not as clean.
Two of the other popular day trips from Paraty are to Trinidad Beach, 30km south on the other side of the Protection Area of Cairuçu. Plus jeep rides into the Serra da Bocaina National Park with some stops at waterfalls and a local cachaca distillery.

Overall, it's a lovely area to visit, with plenty of options for easily visiting the various components of the site. However, it's hard to see the OUV - no wonder it took so many submissions to get this added to the list! It'd be interesting to hear from someone who visits Ilha Grande.

In Rio, there's multiple buses per day to Paraty with Costa Verde, whose office is tucked away downstairs at the bus terminal. There's two bus companies that travel the longer journey to Sao Paulo.

Jarek Pokrzywnicki

Polska - 25-Mar-13 -

Just visited the site (March 2013). Unesco status or not it is certainly one of those places in Brazil that you just have to see anyway. Paraty is easly located between Rio (4 hours by bus) and Sao Paulo (6 hours by bus) with some frequent buses going both ways.

Historical nucleus of the town is almost intact. Its cobblestone streets and white mostly one-storey houses are just like in the towns of XVIII-XIX centuries. Currently a little bit touristic place with majority of houses changed into shops, pousadas still remained its own colonial old-fashioned character. Some streets especially during high tide resemble Venice thanks to flow of sea water into the town. Keep fingers crossed for Paraty's future inscription but who knows ...


UK - 30-May-09 -

Paraty and Ilha Grande by Solivagant

After a flourish of 8 successful inscriptions in 3 years (1999-2001) Brazil hasn’t had a lot of luck recently. In 2003 Rio was rejected/deferred and in 2008 São Cristóvão was deferred - neither, as yet, to reappear. I wonder if its 2009 proposal of Parati (aka Paraty) will fare any better? I hope so – Latin America already has a lot of (too many?) inscribed “colonial” towns but Paraty is a gem. Not perhaps for the excellence of any individual buildings but as an undeveloped and architecturally very harmonious ensemble in a fine coastal setting.

We visited in 1999, driving in down through the Atlantic Coast forests off the plateau of Minas Gerais and then out to Rio along the fine coast road. The town’s history has resulted in almost complete preservation as it was in the 18th century. Originally of great importance for the export of gold from the hinterland on what was then the only route down from the mining towns, its significance declined rapidly with the opening of new routes and new economic imperatives following independence. Its location left it cut off geographically – only accessible by sea or rough track until a road down the escarpment was built in 1954.

Parati is set on a peninsular and cars are not allowed into the central area of around 50 blocks where the streets are still “rough paved”. There may have been some, but I can’t remember any, “development” to spoil the harmony. Empty of cars it may be, but not, in season, of people. The Rio-Santos/Sao Paulo highway passes a few miles to the north and it is little more than a 3 or 5 hour drive from each. Wherever we went in Brazil, people told us we had to visit this “wonderful unknown little town”. It is thus in fact very popular and WHS inscription would make it even more so! A very large percentage of the buildings now play a tourism role as pousadas, cafés, agencies, souvenir shops and art galleries – but in this it is I guess little different from many European tourist traps. Beyond seeing the town, many visitors will be there for nearby beaches and trips out to the many islands in the bay. We just enjoyed wandering the town for its atmosphere - as the photo shows, in midweek, we did find it surprisingly empty and peaceful.

Brazil has, possibly unwisely, climbed on the “cultural landscape” bandwagon for Parati sensing, rightly or wrongly, that the colonial centre by itself is not enough to justify inscription – that of course raises the danger of extra complexity and opportunity for gaps in matters such as management plans and buffer zones! The T list description indicates that it is only looking for inscription on Cultural criteria – and then waxes lyrical about the neighbouring ecosystems whether coastal, marine or forest. And indeed both the surrounding area and the town itself are already inscribed as part of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere reserve. Does the inscription really need all this – after all parts of the Atlantic Forest are already WH inscribed? The description also doesn’t indicate what it is which justifies the title “Gold Route” for the landscape. No examples are given of any particular remains relating to the transport of gold beyond the town itself to justify this title. Certainly when we were there we saw no such remains and the guide books don’t refer to any beyond a trail to a nearby ranch/restaurant/zoo! Perhaps “metal routes” are also seen as a fashionable plus point to aid inscription in this same year in which Mexico is proposing a Silver and Mercury route!

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 18-Oct-04 -

Paraty and Ilha Grande by Els Slots

The Brazilian town of Paraty holds the record of having submitted an incomplete dossier: no less than 4 times! But finally, the Brazilians succeeded last year in putting everything together and Paraty will be brought forward as their WH nomination for 2019. Its new title ‘Paraty Culture and Biodiversity’ suggests a very broad approach.

As Gold Route in Parati and its landscape an earlier incarnation of this site was already Deferred in 2009: the main objection at the time was that only a small part of the Gold Route was included. The focus was on the town of Paraty, on which the verdict was “a 19th-century colonial town, although attractive, it is not exceptional and ICOMOS does not consider that Paraty on its own justifies inscription on the World Heritage List”. Possibilities were seen though to include a longer stretch of the Gold Route and/or to extend it to a mixed WHS or a cultural landscape “with high natural values”.

The new nomination called ‘Paraty Culture and Biodiversity’ is a mixed one indeed and a cultural landscape as well. The “Gold Route” has disappeared from the title, so we may assume that the natural setting will become more prominent than the historic route. But let’s be clear: in the end, it’s all about Paraty, a pretty coastal colonial town that is already well on the tourist trail. They might be wanting to attract even more international visitors.

For me, it was an exciting trip just getting to Paraty, which lies on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro. I left by plane from Iguacu (in the far west of Brazil) with a direct flight to Rio. From there it’s another 4 hours to Paraty. At the bus station in Rio however, I found out there was only one bus leaving, at 7.30 pm. Which meant a (very) late arrival in Paraty – something you always hope to avoid but just not always works out.

When the bus finally left, the fun lasted only briefly. After half an hour something obviously was wrong with the bus and the driver went outside to smoke a cigarette. Fortunately, we were stranded in a not-too-bad suburb of Rio. 45 minutes later a new bus picked us passengers up for the final stretch to Paraty. The road to get there winds along the coast, unfortunately it was already dark so I missed out on the views. The bus stopped pretty often, we even took a loop near a nuclear power plant. At half past twelve I arrived at the door of my pousada in Paraty where they had waited for me.

So what is there to see and do in Paraty? Well, actually nothing special at all. It is an old colonial port, which (in 2004) supported a modest form of tourism. There’s a good choice in restaurants, you can have a walk through the streets, sit on a bench and look at a church. However, I spent most of the days on the sunny terrace of my pousada.

Site Info

Full Name
Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity
Unesco ID
5 10
Cultural Landscape - Continuing Natural landscape - Forest

Site History

2019 Name change

Upon inscription, from "Paraty Culture and Biodiversity" to "Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity"

2019 Inscribed

2018 Incomplete - not examined

2016 Incomplete - not examined

As 'Paraty - Culture and Biodiversity'

2013 Incomplete - not examined

2012 Incomplete - not examined

2009 Deferred

"to revise its dimension and denomination as a mixed property" (WHC-09)


The site has 6 locations

Paraty and Ilha Grande: Serra da Bocaina National Park
Paraty and Ilha Grande: Ilha Grande State Park
Paraty and Ilha Grande: Praia do Sul Biological Reserve
Paraty and Ilha Grande: Environmental Protection Area of Cairuçu
Paraty and Ilha Grande: Paraty Historic Center
Paraty and Ilha Grande: Morro da Vila Velha


The site has

Art and Architecture
Human Activity
WHS Hotspots
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process