One day cycling and exploring Paquetá Island
On a Saturday in January I decided with 3 friends to spend the day cycling and exploring Paquetá Island, also known as the Island of Love.
By Fernanda Hinke
I begin by telling you some of the island´s history and then about our lovely day there.
The Island is one of the neighborhoods of the city of Rio de Janeiro and it is located 10 nautical miles from downtown, at the bottom of Guanabara Bay. The only way to get there is by taking the ferry at Square XVI. It was discovered by the Frenchman André Thevet in the year 1556, few years prior to the official foundation of Rio de Janeiro city. The island used to be inhabited by Tupinambas Indians and the French intended to establish a French colony in Brazil at that time.
Of course, the Portuguese Crown did not like it and commissioned Estácio de Sá (founder of Rio de Janeiro) to come to Brazil with the mission of defeating the French and colonizing new lands. They allied with the Temiminós and Tamoios indians and in 1565 they founded the city of Rio de Janeiro while ejecting the French from the area.
Paquetá is an important cultural reference for Rio de Janeiro. It began with the frequent visit of D. João VI in1808, the same year that the royal family came to Brazil, making the island a refuge for noble families. Another important milestone for the island came through Brazilian literature, when the writer Joaquim Manoel de Macedo published the novel A Moreninha in 1844. His work portrays a love story and the habits of the Carioca bourgeoisie on the Island of Paquetá. The romance marks the beginning of the Brazilian romanticism period. With its characteristics as an island being a neighborhood of the city, Paquetá is also full of legends and famous as an iconic place.
The size of the island is the same size as Rio´s Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon with 8 km in circumference. Seeing it from above it has the shape of an 8. There are 4.500 permanent residents living there but during summer the population can reach 17.000 people.
On the Island there are no cars so people get around by bike. This was the first reason I came to check this kind of paradise and I went there with my own bike.
I started pedaling with my friends from Copacabana, we passed by Botafogo and Aterro do Flamengo. Finally we arrived at Square XVI and we embarked with our bikes (be aware that the boats take a limited amount of bikes, it´s best to arrive 20 minutes in advance). To take the ferry you pay only R$ 5.60/ person with the bike included (check here the ferry days & times). The voyage of the ferry is already a delight. We could enjoy the view to the small Fiscal Island, the Rio Niteroi Bridge, the city of São Gonçalo and also many cargo ships waiting to anchor in the port. The scenery is beautiful!
When we got closer to Paquetá (the trip lasts 1 hour and 10 minutes) we started to see the Island, it’s really beautiful. Still in the boat, we could appreciate blocks of rocks on the bay, called “Matacões” in rounded shapes.
We got off the ferry and stopped at the little bar close by. There, we already had a local beer that carries the name of the island and we took advantage to observe the local population, simple and smiling people. Several eco-bike-taxis stood there waiting for the next passengers. The architecture is also very compelling with a lot of colonial houses.
We came prepared for a picnic and we wanted the perfect place for that. As the island is small we left with our bikes in search of the best spot.
While cycling around the island, we were able to enjoy beautiful landscapes, a climate of calm and safety, unpaved streets covered with clay preserving its original bucolic appearance, mansions from 18th and 19th century, children running and cycling free through the streets, local people doing barbecues on the sidewalk or at the beaches.
The only sad thing about the island is that the beaches are not suitable for swimming because the Guanabara Bay is very polluted – what a shame!
We found some shadow in an almost deserted place and we spent a few hours there picnicking and enjoying the scenery. The time passed quickly and so we took our bikes to explore the island even more.
We got the ferry back at 7pm. It was dusty and we had one more dazzling view. The day seemed to have no end and we were so relaxed that when we got off the boat in the center of Rio de Janeiro we still had the energy to pedal to the Gloria neighborhood to enjoy a samba in a public square! What a beautiful day!
What to visit in Paquetá Island:
House of José Bonifácio – Patriarch of Independence
Tree “Maria Gorda”
Bridge of “Saudade”
Stone of Valentine
How to get around:
On the island, private cars are not allowed. The options of transport for residents and visitors are: a few electric cars, eco-bike-taxi, bicycles, little electric trains, boats and canoes.
Or if you prefer – write to us so that we can organize a full day for you on Paquetá: firstname.lastname@example.org