Although first visited by Europeans in the early part of the 16th Century Paraty remained relatively undeveloped until gold was discovered in the Brazilian interior in 1696. The old Indian trails used by explorers to cross the coastal mountain range became the main route for gold transported from the state of Minas Gerais (lit. General Mines) to the port of Paraty and onward by ship to Rio de Janeiro and then Portugal . Heading in the other direction came thousands of adventurers, slaves, supplies and livestock. Built by African slaves during the 17th and 18th Centuries this paved road, known as the Gold Trail or the Old Trail (Caminho Velho), was more than 1,200 km long and the journey from the town of Diamantina could take as many as 95 days. In the 19th Century the Gold Trail gained a new lease of life connecting the plantations of the coffee barons of the Paraiba Valley to the port of Paraty .

Much of the Gold Trail has been destroyed over the centuries but in Paraty significant parts of this remarkable paved road have been preserved and are open to the public on guided tours. These tours include walking on the Gold Trail through the Rainforest, swimming in waterfalls and visiting a cachaça distillery where the sugarcane rum is still made the traditional way.