South America’s hidden gem

Embarking on an enchanting field journey through the heart of Paraguay, we discovered a land steeped in history, adorned with natural wonders, and pulsating with cultural vibrancy. Allow us to guide you through the best places to visit, what to eat, unique hotels to stay in, and some invaluable local tips for an unforgettable trip to this unrevealed South American gem.

 

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Unique Places and Experiences to Do in Paraguay

Asunción

Asunción is the captivating capital city of Paraguay. It enchants all visitors with its mixture of colonial history and contemporary energy. Settled along the scenic Paraguay River, the city boasts an array of cultural delights, from historic landmarks like Palacio de López and Casa de la Independencia to lively markets, colorful street art, and a burgeoning culinary scene. With warm locals, pleasant weather, and vibrant nightlife, Asunción invites you to delve in its dynamic and welcoming atmosphere. You’ll find low-hanging mangoes and oranges walking on its streets! Don’t think twice about picking any of them.

The Golden Circuit

The adventure goes on in the bustling capital city of Asunción, where we set off on the Golden Circuit, a route brimming with authenticity and offering an array of unique attractions and living traditions. We’ll keep on telling you our story and perhaps inspire you to become part of it going to Paraguay! 

Our first stop was Itá, a charming town known for its exquisite pottery. We wandered through the workshops and witnessed the skilled artisans molding clay into beautiful creations, a testament to Paraguay’s rich artistic heritage. Then we arrived in Yaguarón, a place where history whispers from the walls of the colonial-era Franciscan church. The intricate craftsmanship and architectural splendor of this sacred site is displayed as you marvel at the fusion of European and indigenous influences. Next on our itinerary was Pirayú, a small town surrounded by rolling hills and verdant landscapes. This is a place to relax in the tranquility of nature, strolling through fragrant orchards and savoring the sweet taste of tropical fruits. As we ventured further, we reached Caacupé, known as the religious capital of Paraguay. The great Basilica de Caacupé, a magnificent pilgrimage site, let us witness the fervor of faith and the spiritual devotion of the Paraguayan people.

San Bernardino, a delightful lakeside town, captivates with its serene beauty. You can take leisurely boat rides on Lake Ypacarai, surrounded by picturesque mountains and the soothing embrace of nature. The golden sunsets paint the sky with crimson and gold, creating a truly magical sight.

Our journey then led us to Aregua, a quaint colonial town nestled on the shores of Lake Ypacarai. We strolled through the cobblestone streets, admiring the colorful houses adorned with blooming flowers. The local art scene flourished here, and we found ourselves captivated by the vibrant paintings and intricate ceramics on display.

The town of Luque proudly carries the title of the “City of Music” due to its rich tradition of crafting exquisite harps and guitars. Renowned for its exceptional silver filigree work and exquisite jewelry, Luque showcases the artistic prowess of its skilled artisans. It also represents Paraguay’s deep-rooted heritage of leather craftsmanship. There are many workshops where skilled artisans transform rawhide into exquisite handcrafted goods. The scent of leather lingers in the air as you observe the meticulous process of creating finely tooled saddles and accessories.

 

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Jesuit Missions Route

Our private two-day road trip took us through the captivating Jesuit Missions and the lively city of Encarnación, unearthing hidden gems and unraveling the rich tapestry of Paraguay’s past. The Jesuit Missions Route includes several destinations where the Jesuits established their missions during the 17th and 18th centuries. Here are some examples of what you can expect in each little town so we can design your route. 

– San Ignacio Guazú, one of the most well-preserved Jesuit missions in the country, features impressive ruins, including the church, cloisters, and residential quarters. Don’t skip lunch at La Arcadia, a charming restaurant owned and designed by the family of the local artist Coki Ruiz.

– San Cosme y Damián is also a well-preserved mission where you can perceive the Jesuit influence on the Guarani community. 

– Encarnación is a lively city on the banks of the Paraná River, known for its beautiful beaches and Carnaval celebrations.

– La Santísima Trinidad del Paraná was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and is renowned for its unique architecture and layout. Special night walks in the complex accompanied by classical music are at hand.

– Situated near the city of Encarnación, Jesús de Tavarangue is known for its grand church and archaeological ruins. This is a good place to take a glimpse into the scale and magnificence of the Jesuit missions. 

– In the Misiones Department, Santa María de Fe is one of the smaller Jesuit missions but still worth a visit, because it displays the beautiful craftsmanship and artistry of the Guarani people.

 

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The modern and the urban

Itaipú Dam

No trip to Paraguay would be complete without a visit to Itaipú, the world’s largest operational hydroelectric dam. Standing in front of this colossal engineering marvel, you admire the sheer magnitude of human achievement. The panoramic views from the dam’s observation deck offer a glimpse into the power harnessed from the mighty Paraná River.

Ciudad del Este

You can’t miss the bustling city of Ciudad del Este, a melting pot of cultures and a shopper’s paradise. The streets bustle with activity as you navigate the vibrant markets and shopping malls, indulging in the thrill of bargain hunting and exploring the diverse variety of goods from around the world. This city expresses the fusion of cultures, with Brazilian, Paraguayan, and Argentine influences converging to create a unique cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Astounding Nature Encounters

Leaving Ciudad del Este behind, you can set your sights on the awe-inspiring natural wonders that Paraguay has to offer. 

Saltos del Monday

An off-the-beaten-path attraction, a mesmerizing cascade of waterfalls, where the power and beauty of the falls leaves you spellbound, as you immerse in the misty embrace of this natural spectacle. The area around Saltos del Monday also offers an ideal setting if you are a nature enthusiast, providing opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and absorbing the captivating beauty of the Paraguayan wilderness. 

El Chaco

Your journey through Paraguay will definitely lead you to the remote and captivating region of Chaco. This vast and wild area in the western part of the country invites adventurers with its untouched landscapes, rich biodiversity, and unique cultural experiences. Embark on a safari adventure in Defensores del Chaco National Park, trek through the Dry Chaco, and experience the traditional way of life of the Menonite and indigenous communities that call this region home. Enjoying traditional cuisine and staying in rustic lodges that blend harmoniously with nature completes the enchanting adventure.

Ybycuí National Park 

One of the unmissable for nature lovers, the Ybycuí paradise is located in the Paraguayan hills. This protected area is characterized by lush forests, sparkling waterfalls, and a myriad of bird species. Hike through the picturesque trails, take refreshing dips in the natural pools, and keep an eye out for colorful toucans and elusive monkeys.

 

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What to eat

Paraguay’s culinary scene enticed us with its bold flavors and hearty traditional dishes that show a delicious blend of indigenous Guarani flavors, Spanish influences, and traditional techniques. We savored the national dish, sopa paraguaya, a delectable cornbread infused with cheese and onions, and indulged in juicy grilled meats or asados accompanied by the famous mandioca. To satisfy your sweet tooth, please try the delicate chipa, a cheese and cornmeal biscuit, the refreshing tereré, a traditional herbal iced tea enjoyed by locals on hot summer days and the dulce de mamón, made from the ripe fruit of the mamoncillo tree, cooked down with sugar to create a deliciously tangy and sticky jam. Empanadas, milanesas and bori bori, are some other must-taste dishes from Paraguayan cuisine.

Restaurants you must try in Paraguay:

– Tierra Colorada Gastró: An exquisite culinary experience where flavors come to life through a blend of local and international dishes. Inviting ambiance and attentive service create the perfect setting for savoring a delightful meal.

– Pakuri: The restaurant’s warm hospitality and picturesque surroundings make it a must-visit destination. A unique dining spot where you can indulge in traditional Paraguayan delicacies, showcasing the country’s rich gastronomic heritage. 

– Bolsi: With its contemporary twist on classic Paraguayan recipes, Bolsi has carved a niche for itself among discerning food enthusiasts and corporate employees in downton. An innovative approach to traditional dishes and a stylish ambiance offers an unforgettable culinary journey. Don’t miss the empanadas and milanesas!

– Lido Bar: A beloved establishment, Lido Bar charms with its nostalgic ambiance and delectable food. Its signature cocktails and appetizing menu make it a favorite spot for locals and tourists seeking a memorable night out.

– Lo de Osvaldo: Its charming and authentic vibe celebrates the essence of Paraguayan cuisine. This local gem delights with its flavorful “asados” and welcoming atmosphere, providing a genuine taste of the Asunseños’ way of living and their soccer passion. The Smoked Picanha is just extraordinary.

– Papillon Hotel: Beyond being an excellent German-owned Brazilian grill and crafted beer spot, Papillon Hotel is an oasis of relaxation in Bellavista. You can unwind here while admiring an impressive Yerba Mate collection, adding a touch of cultural immersion to your dining experience.

Where to stay

When it comes to accommodations, Paraguay offers a range of unique and memorable options. In Asunción, boutique hotels tucked away in stylish mansions provide an intimate and charming stay, allowing you to immerse in the city’s history. 

Factoria Hotel – Asunción

This exceptional boutique hotel artfully blends modern sophistication with the country’s rich cultural heritage. The moment you step into its meticulously designed interiors, you are greeted by a harmonious fusion of contemporary aesthetics and timeless charm. Each room exudes a sense of warmth and comfort, providing a serene sanctuary for guests. With a commitment to excellence in service, it offers an immersive experience, where you can relax while indulging in the finest amenities and personalized attention. Whether it’s savoring gourmet cuisine at the renowned restaurant or resting in the enchanting courtyard, every aspect of this hotel echoes the essence of Paraguay’s soulful traditions. If you are seeking an enchanting escape with a touch of refined luxury, La Factoria Hotel is one of our personal recommendations.

La Misión – Asunción

Inspired by the Jesuit Reductions, this is a refined boutique hotel that exudes elegance and charm. With its luxurious accommodations and serene atmosphere, the hotel provides a sophisticated haven for travelers seeking a memorable and relaxing stay in the capital city. The attentive service is oriented to making you feel like much more than a special guest. Extraordinary location in Recoleta and surrounded by local businesses and places to eat, La Misión can become your home when you are in the city.

Hub Hotel – Asunción 

A modern and stylish accommodation choice. Located in the city center, in the Recoleta neighborhood, it offers comfortable rooms, contemporary amenities, and a rooftop terrace with stunning city views. An indoor Juan Valdés coffee shop welcomes you next to the front-desk.

Awa Hotel – Encarnación 

Awa is an excellent choice for accommodation when exploring the Jesuit Missions area. This first-class resort offers spacious and family-friendly accommodations, a refreshing swimming pool, and a dedicated kids’ club with exciting activities.

De la Trinidad – Encarnación

Another good option with friendly service in Encarnación. It offers a nice restaurant, spa and comfortable accommodations with nice views. Great location, just a few steps from the boardwalk, so you can enjoy easy access to delicious dining options and nice strolls along the waterfront.

Hotel Casino Acaray – Ciudad del Este

A mandatory place to stay in this bustling city, a classic entertainment icon for locals. Located by the Paraná River, it features a lively casino with various games, live performances, upscale accommodations, and dining options. Far from boutique, “little-Vegas” style.

For nature enthusiasts, choosing among the many eco-lodges situated in the heart of Paraguay’s lush rainforests offers an opportunity to reconnect with the natural world, waking up to the sounds of exotic birds and the rustling of leaves.

How to get there

Paraguay is easily accessible from various locations, including the classic route from Iguazu Falls. If you’re traveling from Iguazu, you can take a bus or hire a private car to cross the border into Paraguay. Another popular entry point is the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital city. Many international airlines operate flights to and from this airport, connecting Paraguay to destinations around the ergion. Neighboring countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia even offer land routes with well-connected bus networks providing convenient transportation options. 

When to go

The recommended time to visit Paraguay is during the dry season from May to September when the weather is comfortable with cooler temperatures and lower humidity. This period allows for enjoyable outdoor activities and exploration of Paraguay’s natural wonders. However, if you don’t mind occasional rainfall and prefer a lush green landscape, the wet season from October to April offers its own beauty and the opportunity to witness vibrant festivals and cultural events throughout the year. The ideal time to visit Paraguay depends on your personal preferences and the specific experiences you seek.

How to Design my first trip to Paraguay?

Assuming that your journey starts in Asunción, we suggest the following structure:

Day 1: Arrival in Asunción.

Day 2: City exploration and visit to a local museum or private house.

Day 3: Golden Circuit.

Day 4: Jesuit Missions – San Ignacio and San Cosme & Damian. Encarnación.

Day 5: Jesuit Missions – Trinidad and Jesus de Tavarengué. Ciudad del Este. 

Day 6: Saltos del Monday. Itaipu Dam. Continuation to Foz de Iguazú.

If having a huge interest in nature and wildlife, assign additional days to visit El Chaco, at least a 2-night stay. To visit Ybycui National Park consider an extra day for a full-day experience departing from Asunción.

Atelier Tips:

Rohayhu Paraguay (I love Paraguay)

To make the most of your trip to Paraguay, we suggest embracing the local culture and customs. Engage with the warm-hearted Paraguayans, who are known for their hospitality and welcoming nature. Learn a few phrases in Guarani, the indigenous language spoken by 95% of the population, to connect with the locals on a deeper level. 

Explore the colorful markets

Take advantage of the lively outdoor markets, where you can discover handmade crafts, fine textiles (ask for ñanduties), and local delicacies. Have a look at the “yuyeros” curing any illness with herbs at Mercado #4, which by the way, was a film location for the movie “7 Cajas” (7 Boxes), widely considered the best Paraguayan movie. 

Enjoy a football game at Defensores del Chaco!

Attend a local match at Asunción’s iconic stadiums like Estadio Defensores del Chaco, soaking in the passionate atmosphere of fans cheering for their teams. Catch professional matches featuring top teams like Olimpia or Cerro Porteño, if the schedule aligns. The Museum of Conmebol in Luque displays the captivating history of South American football through memorabilia and interactive exhibits, delighting soccer fans and sports enthusiasts.

*Yellow Fever Vaccine Matters

It may seem like a formality but Paraguay requires proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter its territory. The international certificate must have been issued at least 10 days prior entry date. Check with your local medical service about the pros and cons of this vaccine.

As you embark on your own adventure, remember to keep an open mind and let the country’s hidden treasures and warm embrace captivate your senses. From its mystical ruins to the vibrant tapestry of culture and natural beauty, Paraguay promises an unforgettable journey that will leave an indelible mark on your soul. Discover the charm of this South American country and create memories that will last a lifetime. Get in touch with our travel specialists at Atelier to design an extraordinary stay in Paraguay.

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