Official language: Spanish
Currency: The Guaraní
The landlocked and undeniably exotic country of Paraguay calls out to those adventurous travellers who want a unique and exciting destination. For most visitors the adventure begins in Asunción. This is a hot and steamy city which has few conventional tourist attractions but a strong local culture and a great atmosphere. It is probably unlike any capital city you have ever seen and this alone makes it fascinating to most people. It is also the travel hub for the country and where you are most likely to be based in order to get around the different attractions in Paraguay. Apart from Asunción, the other place not to be missed on any trip to Paraguay is the natural wonder of the waterfalls as Iguazu. The thriving commercial city of Ciudad del Este is a popular spot with Brazilian and Argentine shoppers, and it will give you access to the natural beauty of this area as well. Crossing the border into Brazil or Argentina is necessary to see the full splendour of the falls here. The rest of the country is fascinating, as it is made up of towns and cities that don’t receive all that many tourists.
Possibly the next biggest attractions are Aregua, San Lorenzo and San Bernandino. Each of these places offers a different insight into life in Paraguay. Distances between cities are shorter here than in many other South American countries, making it easy to see a lot on a short trip. Asunción is within easy reach of most of the top attractions, while the rugged Chaco region makes for a more challenging destination. All in all, Paraguay is the kind of county where it is easy to fall in love with the natural beauty and the laid back lifestyle. It is hot and humid too, meaning that slowing down and adapting to the local pace of life is a necessity rather than an option.
Must see places in Paraguay
The biggest and most important city in Paraguay is an interesting place to explore, even if it is light on traditional tourist attractions. The historic centre is a good place to start any exploration of the city and it is compact enough to be easily explored on foot. Outside of this area, the Botanical Garden is a nice place to spend some time relaxing in a pleasant setting. The July trade fair is a good opportunity to find out about the country’s products and manufacturers.
Ciudad del Este
This is the Paraguayan city that sits near the triple border with Brazil and Argentina. What this means is that it is the county’s gateway to the stunning natural wonders of the Iguazu Falls. Visitors can cross to Brazil using a bridge. Ciudad del Este is a popular shopping destination with Brazilians and Argentines. Away from the waterfalls, the Itaipu Binacional Hydrodam has a visitor centre that offers a brief tour of the installations. The local museum and zoo are also worth a visit.
The small town of Aregua is only a short distance from Asunción and offers a number of interesting attractions. The Casa Amarilla is an unusual building which has a hostel as well as an art gallery and small store. There is also a popular Strawberry Festival held here in August or September each year. Aregua is also a good spot for making a base before heading out to the countryside. The Cerro Koi hill has some interesting rock formations that make it a spot worth heading out to, although the presence of robbers means that you will be offered a police escort.
This is the best and liveliest water sports spot in Paraguay. It has an interesting mixture of architecture, with the houses of the original German settlers interesting to look at. Many wealthy Paraguayans visit here to soak up some sun and enjoy the water. Lake Ypacari gets especially busy in the months from December to February.
The proximity of Encarnación to the border with Argentina means that it is common for Argentines to cross over to here for some shopping. It is a nice place to wander around and also offers a few more exciting things to do. For a start, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Jesuit Missions near here are excellent. There is also a small beach on the river just out of town. Perhaps best of all are the Carnaval celebrations that take place here and are classed as the best in the country.
The hot and humid port town of Villeta is a decent place to get some fishing done, with a few options for doing this locally. Among the other things to do and see, you could look for the building that is known to locals as the haunted house. There is also an old church with some interesting murals on it.
This small but growing settlement in the hot, dry Chaco region of Paraguay is an intriguing travel destination. It also goes by the name of Colonia Fernheim and started life as a Mennonite colony. It has a different feel to the rest of the country and is a largely agricultural zone. There are a couple of interesting museums that help to explain the history of this interesting place.
The small town of Nueva Australia has a fascinating history. A group of idealistic Australians attempted to set up a utopian community here in the late 19th century. It has been described as the world’s first attempt at communism but it didn’t last for long. These days, it is still home to descendents of some of the original settlers. Not far away is the interesting little town of Villarica.
The quiet, attractive town of San Lorenzo is a good base from which to head out to the interesting indigenous museum located about half an hour away. Here you can see some splendid wood carvings and other indigenous craft items. San Lorenzo itself is the third biggest settlement in the country and a fun place to check out.
With a pleasant setting by the river, Pilar is about as laid back a city as you will find anywhere. It is a hot and humid city, with the large number of rivers and streams nearby making it popular for fishing and boating trips. There are a number of options for walking along the edge of the water and letting your stress melt away in Pilar.
Things to do in Paraguay
Paraguay is one of the most laid back and friendly countries in all of South America. Away from the big city of Asunción you are most likely to come across small settlements that can be easily explored and enjoyed.
Hit the City
The city of Asunción is a good place to get started in Paraguay, although it is different from the rest of the country in many respects. Other relatively big cities here include Ciudad del Este, San Lorenzo and Luque. Even the biggest cities in Paraguay tend to be relaxed and good fun to walk around.
See the Falls
There are a few different ways of getting to the outstanding waterfalls at Iguazu, due to the fact that they sit on the border shared by Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The way to see these falls from Paraguay is to head to Ciudad del Este and then cross the bridge over to the Brazilian side. This is one of the wonders of the natural world and if you are in Paraguay it isn’t to be missed under any circumstances.
Head to the Water
Despite being a landlocked country, there are quite a few opportunities to enjoy the water in Paraguay. The River Paraguay runs through the country and is joined by a number of other waterways. This means that going boating, trying some fishing or carrying out water sports is possible in different parts of the country. There are even some nice beaches down the water in some places, giving an ideal place to relax and enjoy the good weather.
Take in the Countryside
The fact that it is so easy to get out into the countryside in Paraguay means that it is a fine country in which to see a lot of natural beauty. No matter where you go outside of the capital you are likely to be only a short taxi ride from something interesting. The county is divided into 4 different geographical regions, with the hot and dry Chaco region being the most difficult for travelling and seeing the countryside in.
Speak to the Locals
Paraguayans are commonly regarded as friendly and approachable people, both in the cities and in the smaller towns. While there are security concerns in some areas, you could find that speaking to the locals will give you some wonderful and memorable moments. Don’t forget that many people speak Guaraní as well as Spanish here, while some speak only Guaraní.
Pick the time right
Tourists visit Paraguay from April through to September
It is definitely possible to head out to Paraguay at any time of year. However, the high levels of humidity make October to March a fairly difficult time to enjoy everything the country has to offer. Generally speaking, the cooler period from April through to September is the best time to make a trip here and this is when most tourists do. Temperatures are high throughout most the year, while the arid Chaco region can get searingly hot in the summer months. The different geographical regions in Paraguay have varying climates, from tropical to subtropical and from humid to arid. The summer season runs from October to March and the winter season from April to September. Temperatures don’t tend to vary much throughout the year, although the winter season is cooler to some degree than summer. Rainfall also varies by region and some parts of the country can get extremely humid.
Cheap electronics goods are widespread here and are one of the reasons so many residents of neighbouring countries come swarming over the border every day. These are often counterfeit, so don’t be fooled into paying more than they are worth.
The water isn’t safe to drink here and you should also be careful with salads, drinks and other products that could contain tap water. The tourist oriented restaurants in the plazas are usually the safest options, although they are more expensive.
Tourists from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada all need visas. They can be organised in advance or upon arrival at the international airport in Asunción.
Paraguay is regularly ranked as one of the world’s cheapest countries, so splashing out on a luxury hotel or top class restaurant is unlikely to break the budget.