Paraguay is surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, and has long been isolated by geography and politics. Boasting world-class natural attractions, this small country has been said to ‘be nowhere and famous for nothing’ yet has been ranked as the world’s cheapest nation and the second most corrupt!
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Everything’s cheap, lots of wilderness, Yaguarón’s churches, sixty-stripe Paraní poncho, dorado fishing, Jesuit missions, Paraguayan harps, mate tea, spider web lace, colonial plazas, Lake Ypacarai’s beaches, Monday waterfalls, Guarana energy drink.
What’s Not: Deposed dictators run free, corrupt cops, foot fleas, panhandling kids, roaming cows, few English speakers, drug trafficking, lots of poverty, no change for large bills.
When to Go
Paraguay is subtropical with quick changes in temperature throughout the year.
- Winter (June to September) is quite mild with few cold days.
- Summer (December to March) is often very hot and brings the most rain.
- Southern Paraguay is humid, with rainfall spread quite evenly throughout the year.
Getting There & Away
Asunción is the main air hub and domestic flights are limited. The country’s relatively small size makes travel by bus the most convenient option. There are express links to major centers. The dilapidated trains are very cheap but slow, and only a few lines are in operation. Passenger boats run from Asunción up the Río Paraguay to several river ports. An extensive bus system and metered taxis operate in the capital.
Health & Safety
Some common sense will save you from running into any trouble, though the police are known to be corrupt. Ciudad del Este has a reputation as a center for illegal activities such as money laundering and counterfeiting. It’s a good idea to drink bottled water for the first few weeks of your stay. Malaria and dengue fever are also prevalent, so practice mozzie swatting before leaving home.
Food & Hospitality
Food is pretty standard South American fare, with beans and rice as staples. All-you-can-eat BBQs are great value. Wash you food down with some caña (sugar cane and honey spirit). All accommodation should be booked well in advance, particularly for Asunción in the tourist season (July to August). Some guest ranches in the northern part of the country offer rooms, but prices can be very high.
Eight days is the least you need to enjoy some of the main attractions.
- A day or two in the capital Asunción, with colonial plazas, cathedrals and fine museums.
- Two or three days for the ‘Central Circuit’, a route of around 125 miles featuring some of the country’s most interesting attractions clustered around the capital.
- Two or three days in Trinidad, Paraguay’s best-preserved Jesuit mission. This stunning, peaceful and fascinating place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, but is little visited.
- Three or four days in Defensores del Chaco National Park, home to large cats such as jaguar, puma and ocelot. Guided tours can be arranged from Asunción.
- Two or three days in and around Ciudad del Este, a good starting point for the majestic Monday Falls and Iguazú Falls as well as nearby Italpú Dam, with lots of wildlife and birds.
- A week in the Chaco, a vast and scarcely populated region where Mennonites of German origin have set up farms and their own schools.
asuncion: is Paraguay’s lively capital, built on hills overlooking the Río Paraguay River. Downtown has kept its intimate 19th century feel, and orange trees line the narrow streets.
san-lorenzo: near the capital is where the university halls of residence are and an interesting Gothic-style church.
yaguaron: served as a base for the Franciscan missions during the Spanish conquest.
San Bernadino: near Lake Ypacarai is a popular holiday resort owing to its beaches and lakeshores.
ybycui-national-park: features subtropical rainforest and steep hills and creeks with attractive waterfalls and pools as well as colorful butterflies.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must with so many colonial churches and Jesuit missions.
Relaxing: in a bungalow in the holiday center of Chololo, 54 miles from the capital.
Fishing: for the dorado, found in the Paraguay, Paraná and Tebicuary rivers, which can weigh up to 65 pounds.
Walking: along the quiet waterfront area of Encarnación. The nearby Roque González de Santa Cruz Bridge connects Paraguay with Posadas in Argentina across the River Paraná.
Water sports: on Italpú Dam, the largest hydroelectric complex in the world.
Festivals & Events
Many main festivals are based around the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar and often involve great spectacle, particularly in indigenous highland villages.
February: Carnival is the highlight of the year with street parades and dance.
May: Independence Day commemorates the overthrow of the Spanish governor on 14th May, 1811.
June: Festival of San Juan features fire walking, odd contests and the burning of Judas Iscariot in effigy.
September: the Virgin of Merced is honored with elaborate costumes, bizarre masks and traditional dancing and music.