Last Friday we spent the day touring Paquetá Island in Guanabara Bay. That is, we took a ferry from Praça IV in Rio to the island, about 15 kilometers – it took about 80 minutes. We had a great time, in spite of the grey and chilly weather. I highly recommend a visit to this peaceful local getaway. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. It’s all about horses and bikes.
Paquetá is actually a neighborhood of Rio, but its history is quite unique.
|Carriages wait for you at the ferry terminal.|
Paqueta is as old as Rio itself. The first record historians have of the island is in 1555. It has been an independent entity, a part of neighboring mainland communities, fought over, re-incorporated, etc. – the tiny island has a rather tumultuous history, which you can read about in rich detail on their website here.
|I loved how fully grown trees were in the middle of the streets.|
This small, figure 8-shaped island has a total area of just 1.2 square kilometers, just 8 kilometers in circumference. There are about 4,500 permanent residents, mostly from families with long ties to the island. Tourism is the main source of income, but in fact most residents work for the City of Rio in municipal positions such as water treatment, governance, teaching, grounds keeping, etc.
Luiz and I visited the island as part of a group from his tourism course. We took a horse drawn carriage around the edge of the island, stopping at featured points such as a lovely park with a path to an elevated lookout. The carriage driver was very informative and took pains to share his knowledge of local history, along with some critical political remarks.
The island has some really scenic beaches (although the water is not always safe to swim in) and some beautiful parks. The views of São Gonçalo, Niterói, and Rio are great. The place is SUPER peaceful – perfect for a romantic picnic. It is also quite safe – so families can enjoy the shoreline without worry.
I suggest if you have a sunny day in Rio and you are looking for somewhere to go – definitely consider Paquetá. Enjoy the ferry ride, rent a bike or ride a carriage, tour the island, settle on a beach or in a scenic park, later have lunch in a bay-side restaurant.
It’s not Martha’s Vineyard. It’s not Mackinac Island. It’s not Key West. But it has its charm and you will definitely feel very distant from the cacophony that can sometimes characterize Rio.