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About 300km from Rio on the BR-101 is the Costa Verde's main attraction, the town of PARATY . Inhabited since 1650, the centre of Paraty (or, officially, Vila de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Paraty) has remained fundamentally unaltered since its heyday as a staging post for the eighteenth-century trade in Brazilian gold, passing from Minas Gerais to Portugal. Before Portuguese settlement, the land had been occupied by the Guaianá Indians , and the gold routes followed the old Indian trails down to Paraty and its sheltered harbour. Inland raids and pirate attacks necessitated the establishment of a new route linking Minas Gerais directly with Rio, and, as trade was diverted to the bigger city, Paraty's fortunes declined. Apart from a short-lived boom in the nineteenth century of coffee shipping and the production of cachaça, Paraty remained hidden away off the beaten track, intact but quietly stagnating. Nowadays, however, Paraty is very much alive; UNESCO considers it one of the world's most important examples of Portuguese colonial architecture, and the entire city has the status of a national monument.
The town centre was one of Brazil's first planned urban projects, and its narrow cobbled streets, out of bounds to motorized transport, are bordered by houses built around courtyards adorned with brightly coloured flowers and teeming with hummingbirds. The cobbles of the streets are arranged in channels to drain off storm water and allow the sea to enter and wash the streets at high tides and full moon. Although businesses in Paraty's historic centre are overwhelmingly geared to tourists, the wider community has not been totally engulfed by wealthy outsiders and by and large provides a more satisfying experience than Búzios, its chic counterpart on the Costa do Sol.