Paraguay Travel Guide
Wedged in between Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia, Paraguay is a nation that is often overlooked by many travelers in Latin America. Though it lacks some of the big-name attractions that many other nations in the region boast, there are still plenty of interesting natural and historic sites that can be found throughout this intriguing country.
Ravaged by its regional neighbors during a series of wars in the 19th century (one of which cut off its access to the Atlantic Ocean), Paraguay has struggled to recover since, as these conflicts have led to it becoming one of the poorest nations in South America.
As a traveler though, this means that the cost of travel is exceptionally low here, making Paraguay the most affordable nation in the Southern Cone. The lack of tourist traffic means that Paraguay may be the relaxing break that you are looking for on the Latin American travel trail.
Currency: Paraguayan Guarani
Languages: Spanish, Guarani
What To Do
When starting your trip in capital of Asuncion, make the National Pantheon of the Heroes the first place you visit.
Dedicated to soldiers that gave their lives in the wars that defined this nation’s early history, it is a place of solemnity, so be sure to conduct yourself in a respectful manner when visiting this monument.
Ask your hotel or hostel manager when The Changing of the Guard occurs, as it is a ceremony that is filled with pomp and circumstance.
The Casa de la Independencia Museum is another noteworthy historical attraction that you should check out before heading out into the Paraguayan countryside. While it appears to be nothing more than a 200 year old home at first glance, it was within these walls where Paraguayan Independence was planned and declared on May 14th, 1811.
All the rooms in this house are furnished with period furniture, including the office, which is where the patriots of the independence movement signed documents making their secession from the Spanish Crown official.
Recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, La Santisima Trinidad de Parana is a ruin complex that used to be a Jesuit mission. A great place to go if you are entering Paraguay after viewing the world famous Iguazu Falls, it is still in great condition despite being left to the elements for generations.
Established to help Christianize the local indigenous population, the Jesuits that inhabited this sanctuary also helped to shield these people from a life of slavery, which was a fate that befell many other First Nations people as the Spanish asserted their dominance across the South American continent.
Looking to discover one of the most outstanding natural environments that Paraguay has to offer? You’ll find them at Parque Nacional Cerro Cora, as this thick, subtropical monsoon forest provides an excellent habitat for a variety of endemic flora and fauna species.
Keep your eyes open for armadillos, monkeys swinging up in the trees, and tortoises; if you’re lucky, you may even get to see a jaguar, although their numbers are limited, and they can be hard to spot.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of waterfalls after going to visit Iguazu Falls, be sure to check out Salto del Monday.
A natural attraction that would stand out as a national highlight if it weren’t for its proximity to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, Salto del Monday will impress with its 262 foot high drop.
Make certain to stick around for sunset, as you’ll get to see countless thousands of swifts fly out of their nests to feast on the bounty of insects that come out around dusk.
What to Eat
Looking to enjoy Paraguay’s national dish? At lunch, seek out some Sopa Paraguaya, but don’t expect to be eating your meal with a spoon, as this dish is actually a cake made from corn meal.
A synthesis of local indigenous in Spanish culinary traditions, Sopa Paraguaya became popular after a series of wars left the country impoverished, leading locals to create dishes that could pack a day’s worth of nutrition into one meal. As such, don’t plan on having anything else after you have had a full portion of this dish.
Another similar meal to Sopa Paraguaya is Chipa Guasu, which consists of many of the same ingredients, but typically comes with cinnamon as a seasoning. Found commonly at Paraguayan asados, it is a side that will have you loosening your belt after your meal.
Your search for soup in Paraguay won’t be a fruitless endeavor though, as Pira Caldo is a brothy treat that that locals enjoy at lunch or dinner.
Consisting of river fish, bell peppers, Parsley, onions, tomatoes, and various spices, it is also a dish with high caloric value, so if you are on a diet, take care to not have this meal too often during your time in Paraguay (though you will certainly be tempted to do the opposite!)