"Beautiful and friendly, yet often underrated" Top 5 Page for this destination Paraguay by DSwede
Paraguay Travel Guide: 398 reviews and 699 photos
I was working in Brazil and needed to escape for a while. I was looking for a new destination as well as a place to rest, relax and recharge my batteries so to speak. Paraguay had been on my list for a long time, mostly because it felt like one of those far off places that few ever get to.
In my research for what to see and do, I really came up with little information. That made it all the much better for me. I thought I would come to Asuncion for a couple days and leisurely see what it had to offer. Then I would leave the city and make a circuit around some of the regional highlights.
Due to the relative lack of information, I started asking more and more people. At the time of my arrival, some of the best information I had came from friends of friends. I would paraphrase, but I find Sensei Roberto's words too fitting to alter them:
"Paraguay travel requires a caveat. Rather than things to see, you focus on the people and the naturaleza. Avoid thinking Spanish culture; you are going into Guarani culture. You can get by fine on Portuguese or Spanish language, but thought processes are all in Guarani. Things are done on Paraguay time with an occasional bout of unexpected, temporary frenzy of efficiency. The bland food is passable, few culinary graduates. Yerba mate and terere remain ubiquitous. [...] Paraguay is for taking your time and decompressing. If you have low expectations they will be met. High expectations result in disappointment."
Since I can't really say it any better than that, I won't try. Well, I came with lower expectations, thinking I'd have time after seeing the few sights to try to strike up a few conversations with some locals. But thinking realistically, I figured I'd still be in bed early, having a quiet time.
How wrong I was. I met up with some great people and they did their best to fill up my social calendar. We took some day trips from the city by car. They did their best to make an insomniac out of me by showing me what nightlife the city had and introduced me to their friends and families. I think the earliest I went to bed during the entire week was about 3am! I even found myself (very willingly) riding a borrowed bike on a very bumpy 100km round-trip to San Bernardino, seeing much of the quiet byways that are even less traveled. I even came full circle and returned to Asuncion to meet up with them again and see what a Paraguayan wedding is all about.
But aside from the friendly people, the other inviting thing about Paraguay is the naturaliza. I did not have opportunity to explore the dry moonscape of the northern Chaco, but am lead to believe it is wonderful in its own right.
The south that I did go through has lush jungles, large open plains, all types of agriculture and cattle. The national parks may not be all that developed, but the few that I did go into were beautiful nonetheless. The Jesuit ruins that are littered around the south (near Encarnacion, Trinidad, Jesus, etc.) are impressive and you will likely have the entire place to yourself. Just as Roberto alluded to, it is best to just take some time and explore the area slowly. There are lots of hidden gems.
The history and people are a result of cultural mixing, exploration, exploitation and growth. Europeans mixed with indigenous, African slaves were also in the mix (until 1820's). Paraguay was at the forefront of development in South America with the first railroads and early trade. However, life has slowed down in modern times and much of it has been overshadowed by its larger neighbors of Argentina and Brazil.
My last point is on a somewhat more sobering topic. Paraguay as a whole does have a noticeable separation in the classes. The have's and have-not's are both there. The streets, residences and areas show evidence of this. Some areas are safe, others are not. Some residences are comfortable mansions and others are on the verge of crumbling. Despite this, everyone I met was very helpful and friendly, but if should be cautioned to mind your safety.
A sample of some other places in Paraguay that I visited were:
Asuncion - Capital city and hub of Paraguay
San Bernardino - Paraguay's version of the Hamptons
Aregua - Quiet artists retreat on the Lake
Encarnación - Southern city and access way to the Jesuit ruins (Trinidad, Jesus, Cosme & Damian)
Luque - Slow pace of life here. Primarily known for jewelry shopping
Ita - Small town, with a small lagoon park
San Lorenzo - On the fringes of Asuncion. It has some cheap street markets and a nice church
Caacupe - Pilgrimage point for the Virgin of Caacupe
Trinidad - UNESCO site of the 16th century Jesuit ruins
Mbatovi eco-park - Jungle walks and adrenaline sports
Ybycui - National park with some popular waterfalls and historic steel forgery
(for more pictures, feel free to visit my Paraguay Gallery. If you enjoy the pictures, please leave a comment.)
- Pros:Friendly people and beautiful landscapes
- Cons:Little information or infrastructure for visitors
- In a nutshell:Paraguay is for taking your time and decompressing
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- 6 Cities
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