South of Rio, highway 101 skirts the dramatic coastline of Brazil’s beautiful “Costa Verde” (Green Coast), home to some of the last tracts of Atlantic Rainforest in the country. Towering granite peaks draped with lush vegetation plunges onto small golden beaches which splinter into a myriad of tropical islands just off the coast. At the foot of the mountains some 4 hours from Rio, historic Paraty overlooks the picturesque Ilha Grande Bay, a gorgeous colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage site of cobbled streets, ornate churches and beautifully restored townhouses. Dating back to 1667, Paraty was founded as the principal port to serve “Caminho do Ouro”, a 1200km road constructed to transport gold and semi-precious stones from Minas Gerais State back to Europe. Today, the port is a popular retreat for tourists and locals alike with excellent bars and restaurants and charming boutique hotels. Stay a few days to savour the historic architecture; head out to hike in the Atlantic Rainforest or take a schooner trip to explore deserted islands, Paraty offers a wonderful contrast to the buzzing energy of Rio.