Paraguay Travel Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Paraguay, often referred to as “the heart of South America,” is a hidden gem for travelers seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. This landlocked country is rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty, and historical significance, offering unique adventures for those willing to explore its many facets.

What’s the Best Time to Visit? 馃搮

The best time to visit Paraguay as a tourist depends on your preferences and the type of experiences you’re seeking. Paraguay has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. Here are the key considerations for different times of the year:

  1. Dry Season (May to September): This is the most popular time to visit Paraguay. The weather is relatively dry and cool, making it ideal for exploring the country. It’s a great time for outdoor activities, including sightseeing, hiking, and birdwatching. The famous Jesuit missions are often best visited during this period.
  2. Rainy Season (October to April): Paraguay’s wet season can bring heavy rains and high humidity. While this season is less popular among tourists, it can be a great time for wildlife enthusiasts as the rainforest comes to life. The Pantanal wetlands are particularly rewarding during this time for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.
  3. Carnival (February/March): If you’re interested in cultural festivals, Paraguay’s Carnival celebrations can be a lively and colorful experience. Encarnaci贸n, in particular, is known for its vibrant Carnival celebrations.
  4. Winter (June to August): Paraguay’s winter is a pleasant time to visit with cool temperatures, making it a good time for outdoor activities and sightseeing without the discomfort of high humidity.
  5. Summer (December to February): The summer months are hot and humid. If you don’t mind the heat, you can enjoy the vibrant green landscapes and the opportunity to take part in traditional summer celebrations.
  6. Semana Santa (Holy Week): If you’re interested in religious and cultural events, consider visiting Paraguay during Semana Santa (Holy Week), typically in March or April, to witness traditional processions and festivities.
  7. D铆a de la Independencia (May 14): Paraguay’s National Day is celebrated on May 14. It’s a great time to experience the country’s patriotic spirit and enjoy parades and cultural events.

The best time to visit Paraguay varies depending on your interests, whether it’s enjoying outdoor activities, immersing yourself in cultural events, or experiencing the lush beauty of the rainforest. Consider the specific regions and activities you plan to explore, and plan your visit accordingly.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around? 馃殞

Getting around Paraguay as a tourist can be an adventure in itself. While the country’s transportation infrastructure is developing, it’s important to plan your travel within Paraguay carefully. Here are some common ways to get around:

  1. Buses: Buses are the primary mode of long-distance travel within Paraguay. You can find a range of options, from basic to luxury buses. Companies like La Encarnacena and Cootra recommend booking your tickets in advance.
  2. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in cities and towns. Ensure the taxi has a working meter or agree on the fare before starting your journey. In rural areas, shared taxis called “colectivos” are common.
  3. Rental Cars: Renting a car can provide flexibility, especially for exploring remote areas. Major car rental companies operate in the larger cities. Be prepared for road conditions, including unpaved roads.
  4. Domestic Flights: While Paraguay has domestic airports, flights are less common than buses for domestic travel. Flights are available between Asunci贸n and other major cities.
  5. Trains: While there’s a railway network in Paraguay, train travel is limited and often not a practical option for tourists.
  6. Ferries: If you plan to visit the Chaco region, ferries can be a means of transportation, particularly when crossing the Paraguay River.
  7. Hitchhiking: In some regions, especially the Chaco, hitchhiking is a common means of transportation, but it may not be the safest option for tourists.
  8. Motorcycles: In some areas, renting a motorcycle can be a practical way to explore. Ensure you have the necessary licenses and experience.
  9. Walking: In cities and towns, walking can be a pleasant way to explore local neighborhoods and markets.

It’s important to note that road conditions in Paraguay can vary, and some remote areas may be less accessible. Be prepared for travel delays and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places. As you plan your itinerary, consider the specific regions you want to explore and the transportation options available in those areas. It’s also advisable to check local conditions and routes, especially in the rainy season, which can affect road travel.

What’s the Official Language?

The official languages of Paraguay are Spanish and Guarani, with Guarani being widely spoken and culturally significant. Here are some basic Spanish phrases and common Guarani words that can be helpful for tourists in Paraguay:

Spanish Phrases:

  1. Hola – Hello
  2. Buenos d铆as – Good morning
  3. Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
  4. Buenas noches – Good evening/night
  5. Por favor – Please
  6. Gracias – Thank you
  7. S铆 – Yes
  8. No – No
  9. 驴C贸mo est谩s? – How are you?
  10. 驴Cu谩nto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
  11. Lo siento – I’m sorry
  12. Me llamo… – My name is…
  13. No entiendo – I don’t understand
  14. 驴D贸nde est谩…? – Where is…?
  15. Ba帽o – Bathroom
  16. Comida – Food
  17. Agua – Water
  18. Ayuda – Help
  19. Salud – Cheers (used when toasting)

Guarani Words:

  1. Mbopi – Hello
  2. Mba’ eichapa – How are you?
  3. Nde reikuaase – I’m fine
  4. Ipor茫 – Good
  5. Mba’eichapa por茫 – Very good
  6. Aguyje – Thank you
  7. Ha’ete – Please
  8. Ejatopy – Excuse me
  9. Jaiko – Yes
  10. Aipo – No
  11. 脩ande mba’ eichapa – My name is…
  12. Mbokaja’e – I don’t understand
  13. Mbopi mokoive – Goodbye
  14. Py’ahu – Food
  15. Ka’aku’ape – Water
  16. Tavy – Help
  17. Pete卯 peve – Bathroom
  18. Salud – Cheers (used when toasting)

Learning a few basic phrases in both Spanish and Guarani can enhance your travel experience and show respect for the local culture. Paraguayans are often delighted when tourists make an effort to communicate in their native languages.

Where to Stay? 馃彣

Paraguay offers a variety of accommodation options for tourists, including budget-friendly hostels, mid-range hotels, and upscale resorts. The choice of where to stay depends on your budget, preferences, and the regions you plan to visit. Here are some popular places to stay in Paraguay:

  1. Asunci贸n: The capital city offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Popular areas to stay in Asunci贸n include the city center and the neighborhoods of Carmelitas and Villa Morra.
  2. Ciudad del Este: If you’re visiting the city known for its shopping, you can find various hotels and guesthouses, especially near the border with Brazil.
  3. Encarnaci贸n: A city on the Paran谩 River, it’s known for its beaches. There are several hotels and resorts with river views.
  4. San Bernardino: A popular lakeside resort town offers a variety of lodging options, particularly during the summer months.
  5. Carmelo Peralta: This town near the Tri-Border Area with Brazil and Argentina offers accommodation options for those exploring the Chaco region.
  6. Hernandarias: This town near the Itaipu Dam has a few lodging options, including resorts.
  7. Concepci贸n: In northern Paraguay, it’s known for its historical significance. You can find hotels and guesthouses here.
  8. Villa Florida: A lakeside town known for its natural beauty offers accommodations with a relaxed ambiance.
  9. Loma Plata: A Mennonite colony in the Chaco region has unique lodging options for those interested in the local culture.
  10. Yaguar贸n: This charming town, located near Asunci贸n, offers a quieter atmosphere and lodging options with historical character.

When booking accommodations, especially during the peak tourist season, it’s advisable to make reservations in advance. Be sure to consider the specific regions you plan to explore and the types of experiences you seek when choosing your lodging. Paraguay provides various choices for different travel preferences and budgets.

What to Eat? 馃嵔锔

Paraguayan cuisine offers a delightful array of dishes influenced by local traditions and the country’s unique culinary heritage. When visiting Paraguay, make sure to try these must-try foods:

  1. Sopa Paraguaya: Despite the name, it’s not a soup but a savory cornbread. It’s made with cornmeal, cheese, onions, and sometimes eggs. This hearty dish is a Paraguayan staple.
  2. Chipa: These cheesy and savory bread rolls are often served at breakfast or as snacks. They are made from manioc (cassava) flour and cheese.
  3. Mbeju: Similar to chipa, mbeju is a thick, pancake-like bread made from cassava starch and cheese. It’s a popular and delicious street food.
  4. Asado Paraguayo: Paraguayan barbecue is a meat lover’s delight. Try various grilled meats, sausages, and ribs, often served with chimichurri sauce.
  5. Milanesa: Breaded and fried beef or chicken cutlets, similar to schnitzel. They are commonly served with mashed potatoes or rice.
  6. Mandi’o Chup谩: A hearty Paraguayan stew made from corn, chicken, cheese, and vegetables. It’s a comforting and filling dish.
  7. Empanadas: Paraguayan empanadas are often baked and filled with a mix of meats, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and vegetables.
  8. Locro: A hearty and flavorful soup made from corn, beans, meat (usually beef or pork), and spices. It’s especially popular in rural areas.
  9. Pira caldo: A river fish soup that is a regional specialty. It’s often made with catfish or pacu fish and flavored with local herbs.
  10. Lomito: A Paraguayan-style beef sandwich made with tenderloin, often served with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.
  11. Serranito: A sandwich filled with a variety of meats, cheese, and vegetables. It’s a popular choice for a quick and hearty meal.
  12. Dulce de Mamon: A dessert made from the fruit mamoncillo, similar to a small lychee. It’s often served with a sweet syrup or caramel.
  13. Cascos de Guayaba: Guava shells cooked in sugar syrup. They are sweet and delicious, often used as a filling in pastries.
  14. Terer茅: A traditional Paraguayan cold herbal drink, similar to mate but prepared with cold water. It’s a popular social and refreshing beverage.
  15. Paraguayan Cheese: Paraguay is known for its cheese, which is often used in various dishes, including empanadas, chipa, and sopa paraguaya.

Exploring Paraguayan cuisine is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the local culture. These dishes provide a taste of Paraguay’s unique culinary traditions and flavors.

What to See? 馃攳

Paraguay offers a diverse range of attractions, from historical sites to natural wonders. Here are some must-see places for tourists in Paraguay:

  1. Asunci贸n: The capital city is a vibrant hub with historic architecture, museums, and bustling markets. Explore the historic center and visit landmarks like the Palacio de los L贸pez and the National Pantheon of the Heroes.
  2. Iguazu Falls: Although primarily located in Argentina and Brazil, a portion of the world-famous Iguazu Falls can be seen from Paraguay. Visit the city of Presidente Franco for panoramic views of the falls.
  3. Ybycu铆 National Park: This national park is known for its pristine natural beauty, including waterfalls, rivers, and lush forests. It’s a great place for hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking.
  4. La Sant铆sima Trinidad de Paran谩: Explore the well-preserved Jesuit missions of La Sant铆sima Trinidad de Paran谩 and Jes煤s de Tavarangue, both designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  5. Cerro Le贸n: Climb this hill near Asunci贸n for panoramic views of the city and the Paraguay River.
  6. San Ignacio Guaz煤: Visit this charming town known for its well-preserved Jesuit ruins and historical sites.
  7. 脩eembuc煤: Discover the unique landscapes of this region, including marshes, lagoons, and the picturesque town of Pilar.
  8. Itaipu Dam: Take a tour of one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams, located on the Paraguay-Brazil border. Learn about its engineering marvels and the impact on the region.
  9. Cerro Cor谩 National Park: Explore this national park, which is rich in biodiversity and has historical significance as the site of the Battle of Cerro Cor谩 during the Paraguayan War.
  10. Museo del Barro: Located in Asunci贸n, this museum showcases Paraguayan folk art, crafts, and indigenous culture.
  11. Saltos del Monday: These waterfalls near Ciudad del Este offer beautiful natural surroundings for hiking and picnicking.
  12. Ypacara铆 Lake: Enjoy the scenic beauty of this lake, located near the town of San Bernardino. It’s a popular destination for water sports and relaxation.
  13. Filadelfia: Visit this Mennonite colony to learn about the unique culture and lifestyle of the local community.
  14. Mbatovi Eco-Reserve: Explore this pristine reserve, known for its hiking trails and opportunities to observe wildlife.
  15. Paraguayan Chaco: Experience the unique landscapes of the Chaco region, with its vast savannah, wildlife, and indigenous communities.

Paraguay’s attractions are diverse and often off the beaten path, offering a more authentic and less crowded experience for tourists. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, Paraguay has something to offer every type of traveler.

What to Do? 馃摳

Paraguay offers a variety of activities and experiences for tourists to enjoy. Here are some must-do things to make the most of your visit:

  1. Explore Asunci贸n: Spend time in the capital city, Asunci贸n, to discover its history, vibrant culture, and lively markets.
  2. Visit the Jesuit Missions: Explore the UNESCO-listed Jesuit mission towns, such as La Sant铆sima Trinidad de Paran谩 and Jes煤s de Tavarangue, to learn about Paraguay’s colonial history.
  3. Enjoy Iguazu Falls: While most of the falls are in neighboring countries, visit the Paraguayan town of Presidente Franco for a unique perspective and boat tours on the Paran谩 River.
  4. Try Traditional Foods: Savor Paraguayan cuisine by sampling dishes like sopa paraguaya, chipa, and asado. Visit local markets to taste fresh fruits and snacks.
  5. Drink Terer茅: Join locals in drinking terer茅, a traditional herbal tea, often enjoyed in a group setting. It’s a social and refreshing experience.
  6. Explore the Chaco: Discover the Paraguayan Chaco, a vast and unique ecosystem. Take guided tours to learn about the culture, wildlife, and landscapes.
  7. Visit Ybycu铆 National Park: Explore the park’s lush forests and waterfalls. Go hiking and birdwatching to appreciate Paraguay’s natural beauty.
  8. Go Birdwatching: Paraguay is a haven for birdwatchers. Visit the Chaco, 脩eembuc煤, or Mbatovi Eco-Reserve for birdwatching opportunities.
  9. Take a Boat Trip: Explore the Paraguay River and its tributaries by taking boat tours for a glimpse into local river communities and wildlife.
  10. Hike Cerro Le贸n: Climb Cerro Le贸n near Asunci贸n for panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
  11. Attend Cultural Festivals: Time your visit with Paraguayan festivals like Carnival, Holy Week (Semana Santa), and Independence Day (May 14) to experience local traditions.
  12. Discover Mennonite Colonies: Visit Filadelfia or other Mennonite colonies to learn about the unique culture and history of these communities.
  13. Relax by Ypacara铆 Lake: Spend a day at Ypacara铆 Lake near San Bernardino, enjoying water sports, swimming, or simply relaxing by the lake.
  14. Learn About Paraguayan History: Visit museums like the Museo del Barro and historical sites to gain insights into Paraguay’s history and culture.
  15. Go Shopping: Explore markets and stores for traditional Paraguayan crafts, textiles, and products such as 帽anduti lace and ao po’i fabrics.
  16. Interact with Locals: Engage with Paraguayans to learn about their daily life, traditions, and customs. Consider visiting local communities or homestays.
  17. Attend a Football Match: Experience the passion of Paraguayan football by attending a local match or cheering on the national team.
  18. Visit Saltos del Monday: Take a trip to Saltos del Monday, a picturesque waterfall near Ciudad del Este.
  19. Experience Paraguayan Hospitality: Paraguayans are known for their warm and welcoming hospitality. Embrace the local culture and make new friends.

Paraguay offers a unique blend of history, nature, culture, and culinary delights for travelers. To make the most of your trip, consider exploring both well-known destinations and off-the-beaten-path experiences in this beautiful South American country.

Culture and Safety 馃

Culture:

  1. Respect for Local Customs: Paraguayans are generally known for their hospitality and respect for tradition. Be polite, greet people with a friendly “Hola,” and show respect for local customs and practices.
  2. Language: The official languages are Spanish and Guarani. While many Paraguayans speak Spanish, learning a few basic phrases in Spanish and Guarani can enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture.
  3. Catholic Influence: Paraguay is a predominantly Catholic country, and religious customs are important. Be respectful when visiting churches and religious sites.
  4. Dress Modestly: In more rural areas and around religious sites, dress modestly. Women, in particular, should cover their shoulders and avoid revealing clothing.
  5. Greetings: Paraguayans place importance on polite greetings. Using “Buenos d铆as” (good morning) or “Buenas tardes” (good afternoon) when entering a room or starting a conversation is appreciated.
  6. Time: Paraguayans are generally relaxed about punctuality, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait a little longer for appointments and social gatherings. However, for tours and appointments, it’s still a good practice to be on time.

Safety:

  1. Health Precautions: Ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and take precautions against mosquito-borne diseases, especially if you plan to visit rural areas. Stay hydrated and use sunscreen.
  2. Money Safety: Keep your belongings secure and avoid displaying valuable items. Use reputable ATMs and be cautious when withdrawing money.
  3. Transportation: Use trusted transportation providers. Confirm that taxi meters are running or agree on a fare before starting your ride. Be cautious when crossing streets, as traffic can be chaotic.
  4. Food and Water: While Paraguay is known for its tasty street food, make sure to choose vendors with good hygiene practices. Stick to bottled water and avoid tap water in some areas.
  5. Internet and Connectivity: In remote areas, internet access may be limited. Familiarize yourself with local communication options.
  6. Emergency Services: Know the local emergency numbers for police (911) and medical assistance (911).
  7. Travel Insurance: Consider having travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and trip disruptions.
  8. Bargaining: Bargaining is common in markets and when purchasing items from street vendors. Be polite but negotiate for a fair price.
  9. Street Demonstrations: While they are relatively rare, be aware that street demonstrations can occur. Avoid participating in or being near protests.
  10. Altitude: In areas with high altitudes, like Asunci贸n, take precautions to prevent altitude sickness. Adjusting to the altitude gradually can help.

Paraguay is generally safe for travelers, but like any destination, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take common-sense precautions. Respecting local customs and practicing cultural sensitivity will help you have a more enjoyable and authentic experience in this beautiful South American country.

Conclusion

As you bid farewell to Paraguay, you’ll carry with you the memories of its warm people, diverse landscapes, and intriguing history. Visit Paraguay, and you’ll discover a destination that promises authenticity, tranquility, and a deep connection to the heart of South America.