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The landlocked nation of Paraguay often gets overlooked when it comes to South American travel. But this is one reason why Paraguay is an awesome place to discover authenticity, learn about a unique culture, and have unique experiences away from large tourist crowds. To help you get to know this beautiful and fascinating place a bit better, here are 10 great things to see and do on a vacation to Paraguay.
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Jesus and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins
Locally known as La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná and Ruinas Jesuiticas de Jesús de Tavarangué, these ruins were left behind by Jesuit colonies and built by 17th-century missionaries. The ruins are one of the most-visited places in Paraguay and offer an interesting peek into what life was like after the Guaraní War. There’s a museum here where you can learn about the site’s history and even a light show after dark. The Jesus and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and examples of some of the finest works of the Jesuits still standing today.
Paraguay River Promenade, Asuncion
The town of Asunción was founded way back in 1537, and it’s the capital city with a wealth of historic charm. Here you’ll find a lovely promenade, historical sites, and many restaurants to sample the local cuisine. It’s fun to go for a riverside walk on a nice day and head over to see the colonial-style mansions at Avenida Mariscal López. The Loma San Jeronimo neighborhood is a great place nearby to find traditional food and attend an event.
Another fun thing to do when you visit Paraguay is to see the tea plantations. Yerba mate tea is an important part of the culture and livelihood in Paraguay, and Selecta and Pajarito are major producers of it in the country. You’ll find most of the tea plantations in the southern part of Paraguay, and some of them even offer guided tours. The Bella Vista area is where tea plantation tours pick up, so head there to learn about how this beverage was exported to Europe and even used as currency for a while in the country’s history.
One of the most popular natural attractions in this region is Iguazú Falls, which sits on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Many travelers to Paraguay make the trip to the eastern edge of the country and past Ciudad del Este to see these iconic and impressive waterfalls. The falls are actually made up of over 250 cascades surrounded by jungles. You can hop on a bus to reach the falls and explore the nearby hiking trails to really appreciate the beauty of Paraguay. One waterfall that is close to Ciudad del Este is called Salto de Monday, and it flows from about 262 feet high.
Ybycuí National Park
This national park, known in Spanish as Parque Nacional Ybycuí, is a popular place to visit for travelers in Paraguay. Here you can see tropical birds and Capuchin monkeys, as well as a museum to learn about the region’s history. There are guided hikes that you can join to see the waterfalls and even take a dip to cool off on a hot day. This national park is about a 2 ½-hour drive from Asunción but well worth the journey. Also, make a point to stop at the historical site to learn about the restored iron foundry and the Arroyo Mina Recreation Area.
Try Sopa de Paraguay
Would you believe that the traditional soup of Paraguay is actually a solid? Sopa de Paraguay is one of the most favorite and traditional dishes in the country, so make sure to give it a try. The dish is made with corn flour, milk or whey, and cheese, and it’s more like a rich, spongy cake than a liquid. The Lido Bar in Downtown Asunción is a great place to try this unique food.
If you head a bit east of the town of Asunción, you can visit the town of San Bernardino, which is a great place to have a summer escape. Between the months of December and March, you can find many locals visiting this area to soak up the sun on the beach and enjoy the local restaurant scene. San Bernardino is located along Lake Ypacarai, which is about 30 miles from the capital. Other fun things to do in San Bernardino to enjoy the outdoors and find adventure include visiting Lago Ypacarai, Aventura Xtrema, and Bioparque Yrupe.
The Itaipú Dam is considered to be one of the engineering wonders of the world and it’s absolutely huge. This is the dam that generates much of the electricity in Paraguay, and you can take a guided tour of this structure or perhaps a fishing trip on the waters nearby. This dam stretches into Brazil and is shared by both countries.
To get in touch with the wilderness of Paraguay, head to Gran Chaco, which is in the western part of the country and extends over to Bolivia and Argentina. This is a favorite destination among wildlife lovers because tropical birds, jaguars, pumas, anteaters, and many more unique species live here. It’s also fun to take a guided birdwatching tour when you visit this part of Paraguay to learn more about what you’re looking for and how to identify native birds in the wild. This region covers over half of Paraguay’s surface area and is very sparsely populated and natural.
National Pantheon of the Heroes, Asuncion
Another must-visit site when you’re in Asunción, Paraguay is the National Pantheon of the Heroes. Today, this is a monument and museum, but this was where the country’s independence from Spain was originally planned. This is a place to honor Paraguay heroes who have fought in wars in the past and has been compared to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Washington, D.C. You can watch the changing of the guard ceremony here when you visit the National Pantheon of the Heroes.