After spending a week in Manaus and the jungle the only thing we wanted was to get some rest and trip to Ilha Grande was a perfect way to do it. From Manaus we flew back to Rio where we spent one more night at Katia’s (Airbnb) place waiting for a transfer to Ilha Grande next morning. Instead of taking public transport we used a private company specializing in this (Easy Transfer Brazil). It was a bit more expensive than public transport, but we didn’t want to go for 5am bus to bus station then wait for a boat etc. Instead of this we got a full package: bus + boat to Ilha Grande and then after two days: boat + transfer to Paraty for 135R$ each.
Bus ride from Rio was smooth and after ~3 hours we boarded the boat. Sea was a bit rough, so the whole journey was a bit wavy. Anyway, none of us have sea-sickness, so we actually liked it. After ~1 hour on the boat we reached the main port of Ilhe Grande – Vila do Abraão. It was so amazing to find such a quiet place after buzzing Rio. There are no paved roads and almost no cars in this island, the only exceptions are lifeguard, police and ambulance cars. Everything in this little town can be reached on foot, so after disembarking the boat we went to search for our hotel. It wasn’t easy as map wasn’t very accurate, but after wandering around we found it. We dropped our things and went to explore the island. There are a few other establishments around it, however the only way to them is to take a walking trail or take the boat. We took an easy and short trail to a small beach (Praia da Julia) as it was already afternoon. It was so good just to lay on the perfect sand and enjoy the sunset. After it we went to have a dinner at one of many restaurants in the town. It actually seems that every house is either hotel, restaurant, shop or tour company – all for tourists. However it didn’t feel too touristic as nobody was trying to force you to buy or to order something how it happens in e.g. Turkish resorts.
The interesting thing about restaurants is that all main dishes are served for two people, it’s not possible to get the same dish just for one person without paying premium. Dishes are not cheap (70-150R$ – 23-50$), but the portions are really(!) big and food is really good. We tried local thing – fish with passion fruit sauce – it was amazing!
Next morning we took a half island day trip with a speed boat. It included going to two best snorkeling places on the island – Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul, and also stopping at a couple remote beaches that are accessible only by boat. It was a bit cloudy, so snorkeling wasn’t perfect, but as water is super clear there still were some nice views to enjoy. Once again it was really nice just to stay on the beach, do some snorkeling and not to worry about anything.
We wish we could have stayed more days (or planned to do so) as two days is not enough time to explore this beautiful island. There is a really nice beach – Lopez Mendes – on another side of the island, however hike to it takes ~2 hours, so we didn’t have time to do it this time. Maybe one day we will return..
The next day we took a quick trail to see an old aqueduct and some waterfalls. After that we found another quiet beach and enjoyed it for a couple last hours. After that we took a transfer to Paraty – a small coastal town which used to be the main port for shipping gold to Europe for a long time. Because of this interesting history it doesn’t have any new buildings and the only ones are from colonial period, so town is really colorful and cozy. A few decades ago people at this town realized that tourism is perfect choice for it and started renovating all buildings. Also cars are not allowed to get into the town historic center which makes it even more authentic and attractive. We took walks around the town in the evening and in the morning, and both times it was really nice to walk around and feel like being in 18th century colonial port town.
To conclude, both Ilha Grande and Paraty are definitely worth a visit if you’re in Brazil. The connections from either Rio or Sao Paulo are easy and it’s completely different Brazil you’ll find there.
After Paraty our plan was to go to Iguazu Falls and as there is no public airport in Paraty, we had to take bus from it to Sao Paulo and then to Curitiba from where we found really cheap flight for 33$ with Azul airlines. The buses took 12 hours in total and after this long journey we reached Curitiba where we spent one night. It’s quite a big city (3.2 mil people) and also it’s much more European than other Brazilian cities we visited. That’s probably because most of the city inhabitants are European descendants from countries like Poland, Germany and so on. Curitiba is really really clean and well organized: bus station was perfect and easy to navigate, taxis were new etc. We took a short walk around the city seeing some of the most famous sights, however Curitiba is not a very touristic city, the same as Sao Paulo we would say. Anyway, if you have time, especially before going to Iguazu Fall, you can stop at Curitiba for a day or two.