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Paraguay Today: Off the Beaten Path & Desperate for Tourists w/Empty UNESCO World Heritage Sites

If you're looking for a unique part of the world few travel to, I can strongly recommend Paraguay. Was in country from April 19-May 3, 2022 and had an absolutely amazing time. Travelled over 2000 KM, including deep into the Chaco desert in the West as well as along the Parana River from Paso de Patria in the West to Encarnacion in the East. Was there primarily to study the sites of the Paraguayan War (1864-70) and Chaco War (1932-35).

Spent a day at the two UNESCO World Heritage sites--the Jesuit Missions (Reductions) of Jesus & Trinidad--and I was the ONLY tourist there! Wandered around with my guide in awe.

IF you buy goods and services off the Paraguayan economy, things are inexpensive. I exchanged currency downtown near my hotel at G6,830 to the dollar. A 750 ml bottle of Fortin Rum (Blanco) was just G17,000. The 8-year Fortin Rum (Negro) just G25,000. A 930 ml bottle of Ouro Fino beer just G6,000. The supposedly "better" 970 ml Munich bottle just G8,000.

Stayed 6 nights at the magnificent Palmaroga Hotel in the old town part of downtown Asuncion. Enjoyed the outside 12th floor pool on top; quite the view. Just loved walking around Asuncion from 0500-0700 in the morning as the city woke up. And then later in the morning when everything is open. Also spent 2 nights at the nice Hotel Florida in Filadelfia (one of the 3 modern Mennonite cities in the Chaco) and one night at the outstanding Hotel Papillion in Bella Vista (near the Reductions and the Selecta Yerba Factor tour). Even the Las Garzas in Pilar was a nice night's stay along the Paraguay River south of Asuncion.

Loved Paraguay so much that I'm planning on returning in March 2023 to see the natural wonder sites (e.g., Salto Cristal, the San Rafael Wildlife Reserve, Cerro Akati, and the Iguazu Falls & Itaipu Dam.

So easy to navigate the tiny Silvio Pettirossi International Airport. And so fascinating to hear Paraguayans speaking both Spanish and Guarani, the indigenous tongue that has survived alongside as an equal language. The only nation in S. America to do this.

Posted by
84 posts

Thank you for your report. Latin America is my usual travel destination, and I've thought a lot about Paraguay, though I haven't been there yet. With my interest in languages, I was pleased to read your mention of Guarani (not that I speak it, but it's good to know it's used). And I love those occasions -- frequent in my favored Latin-American destinations -- when I am the only tourist, or just one of few.
A couple of questions: first, I'm more of a city/town than a nature type, and I love spending time in quaint, aesthetic Spanish-colonial towns (abundant in my favored destinations, Peru and Central America). Are there many in Paraguay?
Also, I rather dislike heat (though I've made allowances for fascinating places like Nicaragua), and especially humid heat, and I've been rather seduced by Peru's great, high-altitude weather. And though I know you can't generalize, what kind of weather did you encounter on your autumn visit to Paraguay?
Also, any comments -- vague as this sounds -- on the overall ambience of Asuncion: quaint, attractive, friendly, safe -- or otherwise?
I realize you didn't specifically solicit questions; so thank you in advance for any replies you might have time to offer.
(By the way, it was good to see a proper selection of drinks available at reasonable prices!)

Posted by
8 posts

Just sent you a PM. Would love to talk about Paraguay at length.

Posted by
8 posts

As for just ONE of many quaint cities... Santa Maria de Fe. Where you can feed howler monkeys who live in the trees in the square and hang out, literally, during the day over by the police station, which is across the street from Margaret Hebblethwaite's house, she being the world's foremost expert on tourism in Paraguay by way of being the author of the Bradt Guide to Paraguay (1st, 2nd and 3rd editions). I relied on her 3rd to plan my trip. She was in England, but her son Ben gave me a tour of the house and backyard. Her former hotel (Santa Maria Hotel), where I spent the night and ate a lovely chicken dinner, just down the square from the police station. The Bonpland Museum diagonally across the square near the church; Bonpland the botanist & doctor imprisoned in the town for a decade in the early 19th century by the great dictator Dr. Francia (El Supremo). And a magnificent Jesuit museum on that side of the square. Met some English girls in the square, who were teaching English at Margaret's English academy there. The government just built a brand new road leaving toward the SE, to Santa Rosa (another quaint city). There was a nice renovated Jesuit "laundry" site on the outskirts as you left SMdF on the new road.

But other "quaint" cities I travelled to included Caacaupe, Paraguari, Piribebuy, Tobati, and Yaguaron, to the east of Asuncion, ,as well as San Ignacio, San Juan Bautista, and Santa Rosa well to the SE of Asuncion, Pilar along the Paraguay River and Carmen del Parana along the Parana River.

Posted by
47 posts

Hello everyone! I have been a longtime participant of this forum and community for almost eight years now (more reader than participant). Three trips to Europe and almost happy 70-80 nights there since then. Not so many after the kids came :) I will be honored to be your forum specialist adviser as a native paraguayan myself and living here. Thanks for visiting Michael, and if anyone needs local advice I will do my best if I can. Cheers!

Posted by
8 posts

Where do you live in Paraguay?

Planning my return trip for March 2023, looking to see these areas. Any thoughts you have on your actual experiences in these places would be appreciated:

  • Salto Cristal waterfall
  • Ybytyruzu Reserve with Cerro Akati & Salto Suiza waterfall
  • San Rafael Wildlife Reserve
  • Saltos del Monday waterfall
  • Acaray Dam
  • Hernanderias
Posted by
8 posts

As for ASUNCION--"Also, any comments -- vague as this sounds -- on the overall ambience of Asuncion: quaint, attractive, friendly, safe -- or otherwise?"--the Mother of Cities is what you want to make of her. Keep in mind that about 1 in 6 Paraguayans live in the Greater Asuncion area and that includes suburbs like Lambare, Luque and Villa Morra. Get your city map at the Senatur (Tourism) office on Palma St. and study it carefully. You can find historical sights hundreds of years old or modern 1st world shopping centers & skyscrappers/towers, and everything in between.

I stayed at the Palmaroga Hotel on Palma, between Ayolas and Montevideo, on the "west" side of the historic downtown. LOVED the hotel and its location. So it was EASY for me to just walk to the Palace of Lopez along the bay & the historic buildings nearby (Cabildo, Cathedral, and more) or go "east" to the various plazas (e.g., the Pantheon of Heroes) or farther "east" to the Plaza Uruguaya where there are booksellers (I bought a book on the Chaco War and another on the 1947 Civil War, both filled with pictures).

I routinely walked the city both E&W and N&S from my hotel, once walking 14 blocks S to the Plaza Italia at 0500 in the morning. Loved watching the city wake up in the morning. And after fantastic breakfast at the hotel (sometimes buffet, sometimes not), I'd spend more hours walking the plazas and seeing the sights. Just watching the crazy traffic with so few stop lights was entertaining, almost a mad dance you were sure you'd see accident after accident but nary a one happens.

Just be aware that things are open when they are and they aren't open when they aren't. Took me many tries to get into the Pantheon (on the day a National Holiday, Labor Day, was celebrated on a Monday) and the Cathedral (Sunday right before a late AM liturgy). A couple museums never were opened. BUT there were NO tourists. All the police and military about made the streets feel safe, esp. as foot and vehicle traffic was happening all about.

Just BEWARE if you walk the sidewalks in the dark, AM or PM. So many huge potholes and growing trees breaking up the cement, as well as liter and trash waiting to be picked up. And some potholes in the streets seemed like they could almost swallow a small car!

And DO see Loma San Jeronimo, "west" of the downtown by the new customs buildings on the bay. That historic part of the city not gridded. The Ko ape Mirador Bar on the hill for the views as you watch sunset. And colorfully painted buildings with narrow alleyways/corridors connecting them.

Also take in Cerro Lambare, to the SW of Asuncion, for the hill and monument. Quite the view, both as you drive up and down the winding road, and take in the sights on top of the hill.

I was blessed to spend an entire day taking a car tour of the Asuncion area. So that meant I went to Sajonia along the river (to see the two nearly 100-year old Navy gunboats) and the Memorial for the Supermarket disaster and the modern art museum. Even found the spot where they assassinated the Nicaraguan dictator Somaza back in '79. I took in the Musuem of the City and the Museum of the Memories (the Stroessner Era 1954-89 atrocities, torture & murder).

The PEOPLE were always FRIENDLY. Whether the salesclerk selling me beer at the Shell Station by the hotel or the Maka indigenous woman and her baby from whom I bought some souvenirs & she allowed me to take their photograph.

Maybe this says it all: I'd guess easily 95% of the time I politely asked to take a picture, they'd let me. The police and military loved to snap to attention. But even street vendors and merchants and panhandlers. I knew NO Spanish but learned just enough to ask for permission to take the picture. Being a very rare tourist they seemed to appreciate the attention by a foreigner, since they'd seen so few since 2019.

So MUCH to see and do. So much history. The people. I LOVE Asuncion!

Posted by
47 posts

I am from Asuncion and your wishlist of sights for your next trip looks very nice! I read your Asuncion sights and you did a lot in the "old" downtown. Really good itinerary! Please don't hesitate to contact me for anything before, during and after the trip!

Posted by
8 posts

Though as I said previously Daniel, regarding a planned return in March 2023:

"Any thoughts you have on your actual experiences in these places would be appreciated:

Salto Cristal waterfall
Ybytyruzu Reserve with Cerro Akati & Salto Suiza waterfall
San Rafael Wildlife Reserve
Saltos del Monday waterfall
Acaray Dam
Hernanderias"

Posted by
47 posts

I have been in Salto Cristal area about ten years ago and it was nice. I have been in the Iguazu Falls & Itaipu Dam (brazilian side) about six years ago.

Salto Cristal area is very nice with raw nature all around. Not much infrastructure but the town itself of Acahay is warm and sleepy as a rural area in South America can be with its charm and all.

IF & ID have good infrastructure and attraction park-like feel and appeal. Ciudad del Este and Foz de Iguaçu are nice too. I have been in CdE a few months ago (didnt went to Foz this time) and it was clean and the ambience was very good. My family enjoyed the trip a lot (went for a family wedding and stretch a few more nights for a mini vacay). Foz was great back in 2016 too and probably still is.

The road between Asuncion and CdE has improved so much it felt was almost a total different road than the one six years ago. It is almost four or more lanes all the way and the whole construction work is about to end in the next months I guess.

The other places:
Ybytyruzu Reserve with Cerro Akati & Salto Suiza waterfall
San Rafael Wildlife Reserve
Saltos del Monday waterfall
Acaray Dam
Hernanderias

Not been there yet but always heard good reviews by local goers. Just don't expect a lot of infrastructure, but warm local guests, raw nature beauty and cross-cultural experience at its best.

Any doubt feel free to contact me here or by DM