Major Tourist Attractions: Itaipu Dam, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, Saltos del Monday, Ntional Pantheon of the Heros, La Santisima Trinidad de Parana
Being located in the heart of the South American continent, it might come as a surprise that Paraguay is in fact a very isolated country. Somewhat jokingly, it’s often called an island surrounded by land and it’s an apt description: there are very few roads leading into it and the ones that exist are mainly in the eastern part of the country on the border to Brazil and Argentina. Another surprise for many is that while Spanish is the official language, Guarani is the most used tongue in the country, especially in the regions outside the capital, Asunción. In fact, the population is largely mixed, making this a truly ethnically diverse nation.
Paraguay is an experience; it’s not necessarily a country of beautiful sights. Almost two third of the country is covered by the infamous ‘El Chaco’, this vast, scarcely populated hot lowland region to the west, which for not so long ago was almost uninhabitable. Even with today’s technological advances it offers plenty of challenges for settlers and visitors alike. The main artery through the country is the Rio Paraguay, a mighty river that to these days offers experiences hard to find in other places. Here Amerindian tribes live along the river under similar conditions as they did centuries ago and transport in the region is mainly carried out on the river, since building roads here is difficult and financially challenging. The beauty of these challenges is the untouched character of the region, making it an experience embarking on the weekly river-boat of Aquidabán up towards Bolivia. If you are more in favor of a luxurious experience, the boat of your choice will instead be the Crucero del Paraguay.
Greater Asunción is the home to a third of the country’s population and already in colonial times the most developed part of the country. It’s an attractive city, although fairly modest and quiet in its appearance, while also recently going through an economic upswing unrivalled on most of the continent, due to the past decade’s openness after decades of total isolation. Asunción’s city center is fairly compact and offers a historic core with some interesting buildings, such as the Cabildo and the government seat of the well-lit Palacio de Lopez.
In the south are some of the historically most interesting sites the country offers: the old Jesuit missions. All along the border to Argentina there are several of them, clustered around the city of Encarnación, like La Santisima, Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue. Ciudad del Este to the east is the modern side of the country, but also known for its contraband reputation.
With all the wilderness the country has on offer, you would expect an abundance of tours into the wild. Strangely enough, it’s still non-existent, although the tourism infrastructure is slowly evolving and more tours can be found. There’s certainly wildlife with many hidden secrets awaiting the ones who embark on exploring the Chaco, the Pantanal or the north-eastern rain forests.
- Paraguay’s sleepy and charming capital, Asunción, with its historical center at its core.
- Visit the Mennonites religious settlements of El Chaco: Filadelfia, Neuland and Loma Plata.
- Eat lomito and asado in one of the Asuncion eateries serving up high-quality steaks and meat.
- Visit the Jesuit missions in the south around Encarnación.
- Visit the remnants of the failed “Nueva Germania” colony in the San Pedro department of Paraguay. Many Nazi-Germans came to settle in the country as well, but this is the original hub of the German settlers in the country.
- Visit the Itaipú Dam on the border to Brazil, north of Ciudad del Este. Reflect over that the largest waterfall of the world, the Guaíra Falls, were sacrificed for the construction of this hydroelectric giant.
- Visit the Chaco and/or the Pantanal with one of the few qualified wildlife tours the country offers.
- Embark on a river cruise up on the Rio Paraguay; in luxury with the Crucero del Paraguay or as the locals do onboard the Aquidabán.
- Go shopping in the third most important free commercial zone in the world in Ciudad del Este.
- Visit the little known, but spectacular Ñacunday Falls, on the Paraná River just south of Ciudad del Este and the way more famous Iguazú Falls in the neighbouring countries.
Address: 1776 Mariscal Lopez Avenue
Phone: 595 21 213-715, 595 21 248-3000