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Paraty and Lençois – The charms of South American towns

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Paraty and Lençois are the two small towns where we passed by during our Brazil trip. Paraty is located 4 hours bus from Rio de Jainero, while Lençois is 6 hours bus from Salvador. Although far apart, they both are incredibly gorgeous and bear the apparent similarities of ancient Brazil. It is an ingenious combination between European architectural style dating back to the Portuguese colonial period and the characteristic brilliant colors of Latin America. We were amazed at the charming beauty of colorful houses, narrow cobbled streets and buzzing squares in late afternoon with lots of restaurants.

LENÇOIS

Arriving Lençois in a sunny afternoon, the town appeared sleeping in a small valley. The rugged, undulating paved road amplified the sound of our car, breaking that quiet atmosphere. Our guesthouse was on a high hill, where we could see the whole town with colorful houses overlapping one another.

paraty-va-lencois-ve-duyen-dang-cua-lang-que-nam-my-lencois-street
View of the town from our guesthouse

After taking a break to avoid the harsh sun, we started wandering around the town in a chilling afternoon. It seemed that everyone knows everyone in this small town. We were so excited to acknowledge the affectionate greeting of local people, as this is part of their daily habit. Instead of shaking hands courteously, they tap the shoulders or tightly embrace each other. As for tourists like us, they always say “Hello” with a warm smile.

In downtown, restaurants and shops are next to next, but each has its own decoration style with unique color. I was particularly impressed by the shop signboards as they all were so charming and elegant. During twilight, the restaurants started setting up tables & chairs on the street, it even blocked some small streets.

Music is indispensable in the life of this remote village. It is easy to observe an old resident walking on the road with a small speaker or a group of young people turning the volume up when driving cars. Restaurants also invite street artists to sing and make the atmosphere more pleasant and cheerful. We picked a restaurant with a very cool looking owner, enjoying our local food in the alluring and enamored voice of a street singer with romantic songs.

The town became majestic when it got darker. The main square with a old church was nicely decorated with colorful hanging flags. The empty market hall was lighted up and being the star of the town.

paraty-va-lencois-ve-duyen-dang-cua-lang-que-nam-my-lencois-atnight
Lencois at night

Get in Lençois:

  • By air: Azul airlines (www.voeazul.com.br) operates the Salvador/ Lençois/ Salvador route twice a week on Thursdays and Sundays, leaving Salvador at 13.33, arriving 14.40. Return flight leaves at 15.05 arriving Salvador at 16.06. Prices range from R$70,00 one way to R$700 one way. Transfer to Lençois from the airport costs an additional R$150,00.
  • By Bus: There are 4 buses a day from Salvador with Rapido Federal bus company. They leave at 7am, 1pm, 5pm and 11.30 pm, take between 6 and 7 hours and cost R$68 one way. The same buses return to Salvador at more or less the same hours, but it is always worth checking times with the guesthouse you are staying in. The bus is quite new and clean with a toilet on board. Book bus online via www.brazilbustravel.com. It is around 5 min taxi from bus station in Lencois to the town center.

Get around Lençois:

It is a small town, it’s lovely to wander around small streets/ alleys and explore it by your own. It’s pretty safe, however, if you go a bit out of the center, not every street has streetlight.

Where to stay:

There are not many proper hotels in Lencois, but lots of Pousada (guesthouse or hostel). Price may range from 40$-80$/ night and they prefer to use cash. We stayed at Lencois da Chapada Casas at 40$/ twin room (booked via agoda), very basic facilities, and not very clean though. The breakfast however was great.

Where/ What to eat?

There are plenty of choices in downtown, we actually strolled over a few restaurants to have our drinks, snack and dinner. We loved Caipirinha coffee and beef crepe in Cafe do Mato. The restaurant opposite – Lampĩao is also good. Try to sit outside to enjoy the good vibes at night.

PARATY

Paraty, in contrast, is vibrant and full of life. The town was decorated with sparkling colorful hanging strings, simple but glamorous, prepared for the biggest festivals of the year. The main stage was covered with hundreds of colorful umbrellas, ready for the opening night.

paraty-va-lencois-ve-duyen-dang-cua-lang-que-nam-my-paraty-street
Paraty with sparkling decoration for the carnival

The houses look slightly different from Lencois. A string of brilliantly colored houses stand out on the white wall-covering. Flowerpots and vines creeping up the exteriors of houses make Paraty more elegant and graceful.

brazil-hanh-trinh-17-ngay-cuong-nhiet-va-hoang-da-paraty-2
Colorful houses in Paraty, Brazil

Souvenir shops have nice and neat display with different decorating tastes.  The ancient church located on the pier is also an interesting feature of this town. Since it is a hub to travel to nearby islands for diving and snorkeling, the port seems busy with lots of colorful boats.

At some street corners, the melodies of guitars and harmonicas float in the air from street performers bringing an electric life to Paraty. The historic town is literally small as we can walk around it within 1 hour. However, it was so charming that we enjoyed wandering around, day and night.

paraty-va-lencois-ve-duyen-dang-cua-lang-que-nam-my-paraty-street-musicians
Artists spontaneously performed on the street of Paraty, Brazil

The carnival in Paraty was an interesting experience. We came out to the main stage at 7pm as per schedule, but not seeing many people. We had dinner, kept hanging there till 11pm, not many activities except a small parade and a DJ on the stage to play music keeping people dancing around. It looked like an outdoor public dancing club.

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We got tired and back to our hotel around midnight. When we were almost settling on our bed, we heard load music outside our hotel. Running to the gate (which was already locked), rashly opening it and we were shocked with the bursting crowds outside. It seemed that the main parade had just happened. The streets were filled with people in many kinds of creative and diversified costumes. The crowd were following a big truck with extremely loud music system, crossing main streets of Paraty. The parade then continued until the next morning.

paraty-va-lencois-ve-duyen-dang-cua-lang-que-nam-my-paraty-carnival.png
Super crowded street at midnight – The festival was just started

Get in Paraty:

  • By Bus: The only public transportation from nearby big cities to Paraty. There are plenty of air-conditioned buses per day going back and forth from either Rio (4.5 hrs) or Sao Paolo (6-7 hrs) to Paraty.  Cost range from 25US$ to 30US$ one way. The bus is quite new and clean with a toilet on board. Book bus online via www.brazilbustravel.com. The scenery along the way from Rio to Paraty was amazing, hence try not to sleep all the times. From the bus “station” in Paraty, take a 5 minutes taxi to the old town centre (across the bridge).

Get around Paraty:

The historic town is compact and can only be covered by foot. With a few minutes walk to the rough boulders, you can easily get a taxi. Beware of the Taxi’s as they are very expensive (between R$25-30 for a 1.5km drive) and are not metered, therefore negotiate a price before getting in.

Where to stay:

We would strongly suggest to stay inside the old town where you can enjoy the walk and atmosphere. We were very happy with Pousada Bartholomeu, charmingly decorated boutique hotel with great restaurant. Every corner is well designed and instargramable. The caipirinha here was the best in our Brazil trip with a twist of lemon and passion fruit. Breakfast was excellent and seafood spaghetti was great for lunch.

Where/ What to eat?

Since we wanted to stay nearby the main stage for the festival, we ate in a restaurant at the corner. The food portion of grill mix was huge for 2 of us, but tasted great. There were a few restaurants scattered in old town with walking distance.

Traveled in Feb, 2018

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