Nestled away in the heart of South America, Paraguay is a country full of natural wonders, tranquil living and friendly people. The country is completely landlocked and shares borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil with the Rio Paraguay dividing the land into two. The capital, Asunción, on the banks of the Paraguay River, is home to the grand Government Palace and the Museo del Barro.
The country is very wealthy in natural resources despite its small size, but unfortunately, it has endured decades of political instability, leading it to be one of the poorest and least developed countries in South America. Things have improved considerably and the country is now geared up for tourist visits.
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PARAGUAY QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Asunción
- Currency: Guarani (PYG)
- Area: 406,752 km²
- Population: 6,956 million (2018)
- Language: Spanish, Guarani
- Religion: Roman Catholic 90%, Mennonite, and other Protestant
- Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (European plug)
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PARAGUAY PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 6 January, Three Kings Day
- 1 March, Heroes Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 14 May, Flag Day
- 15 May, Independence Day
- 12 June, Chaco Armistice
- 15 August, Founding of Asunción
- 29 September, Boqueron Battle Day
- 8 December, Immaculate Conception
FESTIVALS IN PARAGUAY
- Carnaval Encarnaceno - (February) Although its northern neighbour hogs all the attention, Paraguay is also a great place to celebrate Carnaval – especially in Encarnación, which throws a riotous fest on every weekend in February. Come for the costumed parades, pounding rhythms and partying through the late hours.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PARAGUAY
Paraguay experiences a subtropical to temperate climate with southern hemispheric seasons characterised by wet summers between December and January and dry winters from June through August. The mean annual temperature is 23.5°C with geographical variation between the warmer western regions and cooler eastern regions of the country. The Eastern regions are home to humid forests of Bosque Atlántico del Paraná, pasture land, savannas and dry forests in Cerrados, and grassland and wetlands of Pastizales de la Mesopotamia near the Argentinean border.
- February - Carnaval season in full swing in Encarnación.
- June - A great opportunity to try traditional foods during the Fiesta de San Juan.
- December - Thousands descend on Caacupé for the Día del Virgen celebrations.
PARAGUAY WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Paraguay experiences a subtropical to temperate climate with southern hemispheric seasons characterised by wet summers between December and January and dry winters from June through August. The mean annual temperature is 23.5°C with geographical variation between the warmer western regions and cooler eastern regions of the country. The historical average precipitation is 1,087.1mm concentrated in the south-eastern regions. The Paraguayan Chaco in the North and western regions is 25% of the Gran South American Chaco, considered the second largest forest ecosystem in the continent. The Eastern regions are home to humid forests of Bosque Atlántico del Paraná, pasture land, savannas and dry forests in Cerrados, and grassland and wetlands of Pastizales de la Mesopotamia near the Argentinean border. El Niño Southern Oscillation influences inter-annual weather patterns in the country. El Niño years are associated with anomalous precipitation in mid spring and autumn and humid summers that are particularly pronounced in the east and lower Chaco. Paraguay also experiences occasional heat waves in the summer, frosts in the winter, and flooding events associated with El Niño.
PARAGUAY TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN PARAGUAY
HIKING & CYCLING IN PARAGUAY
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Paraguay all year round, although May to September are slightly more moderate temperature wise and also have less chance of the odd rain shower.
BEACH OPTIONS IN PARAGUAY
SURFING IN PARAGUAY
KITESURF IN PARAGUAY
Kitesurfing spot details and weather
HEALTH RISKS IN PARAGUAY
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
PARAGUAY TRAVEL COSTS
How expensive is it to travel in Paraguay? Paraguay is a fairly cheap country to visit!
A mid range traveller should budget between $45-50 per day, while a budget traveller could get away with $30. This includes Accommodation, Food, local Transport and Entertainment.
PARAGUAY TRAVEL TIPS
TO/FROM ASUNCIÓN AIRPORT
Buses displaying ‘Aeropuerto’ signs head out along Av Aviadores del Chaco between the airport and the center (< US$ 0.50). Airport taxis are expensive (from US$ 15 to the center), but if you flag one down on the road outside it’s half the price.
BUSES IN ASUNCIÓN
Noisy, bone-rattling city buses (< US$ 0.50) go almost everywhere, but few run after 10pm. Air-conditioned services are more expensive and less frequent ( US$ 0.60). Nearly all city buses start their route at the western end of Oliva and post their destinations in the front window.
Buses dominate transportation, offering reasonable fares and usually efficient service. Journeys between Paraguayan cities typically take less than eight hours, depending on the start and end points. Bus quality varies from luxury services with TV, air-conditioning and comfortable reclining seats to bumpy sardine cans with windows that don’t open and aisles crammed with people picked up along the way. Typically you get what you pay for – the best services are only slightly more expensive, so there’s no need to scrimp. Larger towns have central terminals with separate offices for each company. You can expect to be approached by touts shouting potential destinations at you.
You can travel by boat up the Río Paraguay to Concepción and Bahía Negra. You will need to hire a local boatman if you plan on exploring the Pantanal region. Costs can be high.
It is not cheap to rent a car in Paraguay, but it can be worth it if there are a few of you travelling together. Flexibility is your main advantage, although buses go most places accessible to an ordinary car. Anywhere away from the main rutas and you’ll need a 4WD which will be upwards of US$ 100 per day.
In Asunción, taxi fares are metered; don’t get in the taxi if it’s not. In other cities they often are not metered, but no trip within city limits should cost more than US$7.50 in Ciudad del Este and US$6 elsewhere (usually less). Drivers in Asunción legally levy a 30% recargo (surcharge) between 10pm and 5am, and on Sunday and holidays.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF PARAGUAY
- Carnaval - Party until well after dawn in hedonistic Encarnación.
- The Chaco - Watch a jaguar laze in the shade and sleep under billions of stars.
- Pilar - Make a difference by volunteering on scientific and social projects in the quaint, colonial City of Birds.
- Parque Nacional San Rafael - Spot some birds in Paraguay’s most biodiverse reserve.
- Jesuit Missions - Explore the picturesque remnants of a unique culture.
- Itaipú Dam - Marvel at this incredible piece of engineering.
- The Pantanal Paraguayo - Spend some time watching animals in Paraguay’s corner of this wet wilderness.
- Yaguarón - Admire the ornate interior of the Franciscan church.
Start your visit with a historical tour of Asunción, take day trips to Yaguarón (for the Franciscan church), Caacupé (for the basilica) and San Bernardino (to mingle with high society). From Asunción, head east to the jungle lodge at Mbaracayú Biosphere Reserve. Back in civilization at Ciudad del Este you will find good shopping, or visit the awe-inspiring Itaipú Dam nearby. It’s only a short day trip to the breath-taking Salto del Monday - you might still have time to nip across the border to Brazil and Argentina to compare it with Iguazú Falls. A night in the forest at Hotel Tirol will prepare you for another few days’ bird-watching in the wilderness at Parque Nacional San Rafael. After all this moving around, you’ll be glad to relax on the Paraná river beach and enjoy the top-class restaurants in trendy Encarnación. This is also a great base for visiting the nearby Jesuit missions of Trinidad and Jesús. When you’re ready for a change of scene, cross the international bridge to Posadas, Argentina.
ASUNCIÓN & SURROUNDS
At its heart, Asunción is beautiful and simple, with a sprinkling of original colonial and beaux arts buildings, international cuisine, shady plazas and friendly people. Probe a little deeper, however, and you’ll see another side: smart suburbs, ritzy shopping malls and fashionable nightclubs. Despite the heavy traffic and diesel fumes in the historic center, this is one of South America’s greener and more likable capitals, and it doesn’t take long to get oriented.
Prepare yourself for a taste of rural and historical Paraguay in the lazy villages that surround the capital. Though there is no set route or defined itinerary for visiting them, the historic satellite towns around Asunción are dubbed the Circuito de Oro or Circuito Central by the tourist industry. This series of communities is dominated by colonial buildings and observes long siestas, disturbed only by occasional ox- or horse-drawn carts clacking up dusty streets.
Paraguay’s southernmost region, east of the Río Paraguay, is home to some of the country’s most important historical sites. The Jesuit ruins, national parks and the frenzy of Carnaval make it an eclectic and fascinating area to visit. On the way from Asunción to Encarnación you’ll pass through the town of Coronel Bogado. Known as the ‘Capital de Chipa’ (chipa is a bread made of manioc flour, eggs and cheese), Coronel Bogado is the best place to sample this national obsession. There’s no need to get off the bus; the vendors will come to you.
With its new beach, sparkling coastal promenade and wildly energetic Carnaval, Paraguay’s ‘Pearl of the South’ is billing itself as the local answer to Rio de Janeiro. Though that might be a bit ambitious, there is no doubt that Encarnación’s unique take on Carnaval is a whole lot of fun, where the crowd dances as much as the participants, spray snow fills the hot summer air and the party goes on well into the early hours of the morning. Encarnación is also a great base for exploring the south of the country. Though the Jesuit Missions are the headline grabbers, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy in the surroundings.
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
This area was once the domain of ancient, impenetrable forests teeming with wildlife. The building of the world’s second-largest dam, Itaipú, changed all that, flooding huge areas of pristine forest and swallowing up a set of waterfalls comparable to those at Iguazú. The dam brought development to the region, leading to the founding of the city of Ciudad del Este, and an influx of farmers bent on turning what was left of the ancient forests into soy fields.
Ciudad del Este, near the busy Brazilian border is chaotic and it can be a massive shock if it’s your first experience of Paraguay, but rest assured there is nowhere else in the country quite like this. Give Ciudad del Este a chance and you’ll find the rest of it is surprisingly pleasant, with some interesting attractions nearby.
Northern Paraguay is off the radar for most travellers, but the colonial city of Concepción is the best place to catch a boat heading north along the Río Paraguay. Natural wonders abound in this remote area, and the road east from Pozo Colorado to Concepción is famed for its abundance of wildlife. Sadly it’s not cheap to stay in Concepción and you may be a little disappointed at what you get for your money. North of Concepción, the Río Paraguay wends its way slowly to the Pantanal Paraguayo. Unlike in the Brazilian Pantanal, you probably won’t see another tourist here, and except for your boat mates your main companions will be the wildlife.
The vast plain of the Chaco remains a great place to see wildlife. It's roughly divided into the flooded palm savannas of the Humid Chaco (the first 350km west of Asunción) and the spiny forests of the Dry Chaco (the rest) – encompassing the entire western half of Paraguay and stretching into Argentina and Bolivia.
Bisected by the Ruta Trans-Chaco, this area is an animal-lover’s paradise, with flocks of water birds and birds of prey abounding, easily spotted along the roadside. Although the Chaco accounts for more than 60% of Paraguayan territory, less than 3% of the population lives here. Historically it was a refuge for indigenous hunter-gatherer communities; today the most obvious settlements are the Mennonite communities of the Central Chaco. There is only one way into the Chaco and that is via the long, straight Trans-Chaco highway. Buses to the Mennonite towns of Loma Plata and Filadelfia leave from Asunción (8 hours) and Concepción (6 hours).
WHAT TO PACK FOR PARAGUAY
In general, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes will be the most comfortable options. Bring a jacket for cool highland temperatures and over-air-conditioned buses. Pants and long-sleeve shirts are handy insect protection for jungle hikes.
Rain gear (jacket, dry pack for electronics)
Hat (for sun and rain)
Good walking shoes
Flip-flops (for beaches and dodgy showers)
Unlocked GSM cell phone
Refillable water bottle & water filter
Tissues (for public toilets)
WHAT TO EAT IN PARAGUAY
Beef here is succulent, abundant and easily rivals that of Argentina. The best cuts are tapa de cuadril (rump steak) and corte americano (T-bone), though the most common (and cheapest) are fatty vacío (flank) and chewy-but-flavoursome costillas (ribs). Grains, particularly maize, are common ingredients in traditional foods, while mandioca (manioc) is the standard accompaniment for every meal. Chipa (a type of bread made with manioc flour, eggs and cheese) is sold everywhere but is best in the southern town of Coronel Bogado. Empanadas are great wherever you buy them. It can be hard to find typical dishes in restaurants: locals tend to eat them only at home where recipes are passed from generation to generation.
Paraguayans consume massive quantities of yerba maté (a type of tea), most commonly as refreshing ice-cold tereré (iced maté) and generously spiked with yuyos (medicinal herbs). The national obsession can be bought in any general store, but you will need to get your guampa (gourd) and bombilla (drinking straw) first. There are countless brands and brews of yerba available in the supermarket, and the most refreshing for tereré are those flavored with mint or citrus.
- Asado - Grilled meats are the focal point of every social event.
- Chipa - Cheese bread made with manioc flour.
- Chipa guasú - Hot maize pudding with cheese and onion.
- Sopa paraguaya - Cornbread with cheese and onion.
- Tereré - Iced yerba maté tea, drunk ubiquitously and constantly.
- Vori-vori - Chicken soup with cornmeal balls.
LGBTQ IN PARAGUAY
Paraguay is an old-fashioned country, with conservative views. Despite a growing LGBT movement in the country, high-ranking government officials have expressed views that suggest that reviewing equality laws is not high on their agenda. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are unknown. Gay bars are appearing in Asunción, but on the whole homosexuality is not yet widely accepted.
WHERE TO STAY IN PARAGUAY
City hotels and hostels are generally good value, with air-conditioning, private bathrooms and wi-fi access. Residenciales (guesthouses) and hospedajes (basic hotels) are at the lower end and can attract suspect clientele – it’s worth spending more. Camping facilities are rare. Most land is privately owned, so you can’t pitch a tent without permission. In the Chaco, outside of the main towns you will need your own food, drink and bed sheets.