Southwest of Rio de Janeiro is the small town of Parati, virtually unchanged since its heyday as the main port on the Gold Route to Portugal. The former pirate hideout boasts a colonial centre adorned with cobbled streets, pretty houses, art galleries and craft shops, as well as restaurants serving freshly caught local fish. Traffic is forbidden here, so as to preserve the tranquil atmosphere, seemingly paused in time from centuries ago.
Tours explore the surrounding area by foot, boat and bicycle and there are some fantastic vistas on the Gold Trail over the mountains. You will also encounter isolated waterfalls and ancient ruins of Portuguese forts, resting on outcrops, both on the mainland and the islands. A wonderful boat trip can be made to explore the islands, landing on secluded beaches, or you can anchor in bays to snorkel or dive in the clear, warm waters.