A Guide to Exploring Paraty's Gold Trail

Caminho do Ouro I
Caminho do Ouro I | © Glauco Umbelino/Flickr
Georgia Grimond

Paraty’s Caminho do Ouro, or Gold Trail, is a remarkable road through history. Laid by slaves to transport gold from Minas Gerais to the coast, it was a crucial thoroughfare from the 17th-19th centuries. These days it’s a bucolic passage through Brazil’s abundant Mata Atlântica rainforest, with a few stops along the way including pousadas, restaurants, bathing pools and waterfalls.

Background

The picturesque town of Paraty lies on the Emerald Coast between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. It was built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, and became a major port during their heyday in Brazil. When Rio became vulnerable to pirates, vast amounts of gold and other metals that had been mined in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais were shipped out from here to Portugal and beyond.

speech icon man in bubble

Destinations Unlocked:

Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip

Looking for an expert's perspective?

Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
speech icon man in bubble
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

GORGEOUS GUATEMALA

Gorgeous Guatemala

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

1. Guatemala

An express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

BEACHY BELIZE

Beachy Belize

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

2. Belize

A quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

CentralAmerica

COLONIAL MEXICO

Colonial Mexico

5 days . Mini
speech icon man in bubble

3. Mexico

An exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

SouthAmerica

ADVENTUROUS ECUADOR

Adventurous Ecuador

8 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Ecuador

A remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

SouthAmerica

ANCIENT PERU

Ancient Peru

9 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Peru

An alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Europe

SEDUCTIVE SOUTHERN ITALY

Seductive Southern Italy

10 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Italy

The ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Europe

EDINBURGH AND THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS BY TRAIN

Edinburgh And The Scottish Highlands By Train

7 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

2. Scotland

Embark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Europe

COMPLETE PORTUGAL BY TRAIN

Complete Portugal By Train

8 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

3. Portugal

A wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Asia

SOULFUL SOUTH KOREA

Soulful South Korea

10 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. South Korea

Discover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Asia

THAILAND, CAMBODIA & VIETNAM

Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam

11 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Thailand

From Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Asia

SECRETS OF SRI LANKA BY TRAIN

Secrets Of Sri Lanka By Train

10 days . Culture
speech icon man in bubble

3. Sri Lanka

A fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

left arrow trip map

Africa

EPIC MOROCCO

Epic Morocco

11 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

1. Morocco

An epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Africa

ULTIMATE EGYPT

Ultimate Egypt

9 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

2. Egypt

From Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
left arrow previous slide

Next

right arrow next slide
left arrow trip map

Africa

IMMERSIVE KENYA

Immersive Kenya

8 days . Epic
speech icon man in bubble

3. Kenya

An immersive blend of culture and wildlife for first time travelers to Africa. Learn about Nairobi, sample local coffee in the Aberdares and finish up with a fantastic safari stay in the Masai Mara.
left arrow previous slide

Back to Map

Picturesque Paraty I

Construction

The Portuguese were also responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of slaves to Brazil. It was these men, who had mostly come from Africa, who laid the road between São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais states. Vast chunks of rocks were blasted from the ground using gunpowder and used to create huge cobbles to pave the highway, which became known as the Estrada Real.

The road today

In total the trail runs a length of 1,931 km (1,200 miles) through thick, tangled forest with a stretch running through what is today Serra da Bocaina National Park. It is long and physically demanding, and is thought to have taken around 100 days to travel the full distance when it was first constructed. If you have the time and inclination you can hike it in its entirety, but a more manageable option is to take a day trip from Paraty.

The now mossy Caminho do Ouro I

Hiking the Caminho do Ouro

There is a short circuit of waterfalls and freshwater pools that are easily reached from the town, though taking a guide is recommended if you want to walk some of the cobbled gold trail beyond. The route is less than 4 km (2.5 miles) long, taking around three hours factoring in various stops. There are a reputable guiding companies in Paraty who can arrange your transport and tailor your tour to afford expert insight into the history of the road, as well as the flora and fauna of the area.

Waterfalls near Paraty I

Wild swimming

For those who prefer to go alone or spend a whole day in the area, the swimming spots and waterfalls before the official start of the trail are a great option. First stop is the Poço do Inglês (the ‘Well of the English’), a tranquil dipping pool with dripping vines and a swing rope. After the Ponte Branca, or White Bridge, is the Pedra Branca which is a frothing white cascade over the rocks – nearby you can see the remains of an old hydro plant.

A little further on is the Sete Quedas – the Seven Falls – where the water washes over some of the rocks like a white veil and slips quietly over others. Then, after Poço da Usina and Poço da Jamaica, comes the big attraction – Cachoeira do Tobogã, the toboggan waterfall that you can slide down on your feet or bottom.

Tobogã waterfall I

Points of interest

Along the way you can also visit the Igreja da Cunha church which stands at the top of a steep set of stairs. A white building with blue highlights and three triangular cone-shaped towers, it guards over the entrance to the Gold Trail. For food, swing by the other side of the Poço do Tarzan pool where there is a good café that serves up a reviving bowl of açaí, while for drink the Engenho D’ouro distillery gives a fascinating insight into how Brazil’s national firewater, cachaça, is made. If you want something a little different, the Espaço Criativo Artuso sells jewellery, art and ceramics, as well as having beds and an Asian restaurant serving delicious dishes.

The rope bridge to the Tarzan pool I

Flora and fauna

The trail is a home to diverse plants, trees, flowers, insects and animals. You will notice them along the way and may be able to see small monkeys, termite mounds, ants and hummingbirds, as well as hear many of the other birds that live in the forest. Look out for the ever-spreading ‘Shameless Mary’ plant and take in the huge old trees that may have been around long enough to see gold pouring out along the road.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider

Hanna

women sitting on iceberg

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?

2 years.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.

WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?

I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

X

Holiday Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article