Paraguay lies landlocked in the center of South America. It is a hot and humid country that is divided in two by the Paraguay River. To the east are lush grasslands and forests. Almost the entire population lives here by raising cattle, farming sugarcane, rice coffee and soy beans. To the west the almost empty Gran Chaco is a vast plain of salt marshes, thorny scrubs and sparse grass. Spain found Asuncion; now Paraguay’s capital and ruled here for 300 years, putting the Guarani (Native Americans) to work on their estates. Today, almost all Paraguayans are called “mestizos” (of mixed descent).
Here are the top ten not to be missed places in Paraguay.
Museo del Barro
Museo del Barro
is not just about sculptures out of clay mud, it covers all the Paraguayan art work samples of indigenous rural crafts with a touch of artisan skills in a level that overwhelms the senses. It transports you to an era and an atmosphere where creativity flows in an incredible way. It is a museum dedicated to the various artistic samples ranging from photographs, digital coloring, painting, pre-Columbian art and pottery, unique masks, native costumes, contemporary art, etc.
It is a private institution that is more popularly called as “the museum of clay”, since a large part of their collection is pieces made of clay and mud done by the local tribes. An impressive collection of “sacred” art or religious art from Spain rounded up this cultural offer.
The rustic museum is located on the eastern side of the capital. It offers a good summary of the art and culture of the indigenous people of Paraguay. You learn not only about the various languages of these people but also on the coexistence and relationships starting from the pre-Hispanic civilization and the Guarani culture.
The museum is an absolute class of its own and a good place to learn what the Paraguay culture is all about. Be sure to visit this museum if you want more leverage on your visit to Asuncion. It has a little shop of crafts at the entrance where guests can buy souvenirs of saints made from clay. The museum is open only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Parque de la Salud
Parque de la Salud
is a small forest in the middle of the city. The route is about 1.5 kilometers long and full of huge trees in the middle of the city. It is a nice and safe place for hiking, perfect for jogging, and where you can recreate and spend a good evening. It has ample shade, well maintained and is equipped with highly recommended several circuits that have different distances and different lanes for cyclists and people on foot. The longest circuit is poorly measured and you should bring your own GPS if you’re interested to check the distances accurately and lap times.
There are no lockers and place to leave things and you must bring proper identification cards for accreditation at the entrance. This central park is located in the middle of Asuncion.
One of the best urban parks in the city is a few steps away from the financial district. It stands in front of the Central Bank of Paraguay and based on the Carmelite Neighborhood Health Park. There are many guards that secure this park and at night it is well lit.
Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno)
The Palace of the Government of Paraguay is a U-shaped building located in the historical center of the capital next to the Bay of Asunción. It is a nice and simple place with no frills or big buildings to distract its imposing presence. It was built from 1857 and is one of the famous landmarks of the capital. Unfortunately, the entrance or tour to the interiors is not allowed for security reasons. The beautiful palace can only be admired from afar. You can take pictures but you can get warned by the Paraguayan army guards if you get too close or remain in the vicinity of the palace.
It serves as host residence for the current government and was recently restructured and repainted with white color to retain its old image as the original emblem and historical representative of the heritage of the Republic of Paraguay. Situated across a tranquil bay, the palace has the façade facing this bay from the time that the main entrance to the city was made by waterways. The garden is reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles in France and worth checking out. In addition to seeing its façade, you can go see it lit at night and enjoy a few drinks on the bars with the splendid view of the palace and meet the friendly locals of Asuncion.
Panteon Nacional de los Heroes
Pantheon of the Heroes
in Asuncion is an old monument that commemorates the death of more than 300,000 Paraguayans in the border wars with Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay (1865 – 1870). Perhaps this is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Paraguay not only for its architecture (which is really beautiful and very reminiscent of American and European buildings) but most of all for the pride with which the Paraguayan heroes are remembered and revered by their people and descendants. Do not expect a closed, dark, and musty mausoleum. The place is airy, with good brightness and attended not only by tourists but by locals who come here while waiting for the bus or shopping in the nearby square.
This landmark place is located in the downtown part of Asuncion. At the central part there are tombs of heroes, sacred and patriotic symbols, and several messages of support from foreign ministries and official agencies from Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan and more than thirty other nations. At night it is well illuminated and yields good pictures. It is very interesting to watch the changing of the guards who are there all the time in front of the monument to protect and secure it. Its interior is very small, the admission is free, and it is regarded as one of the postcard images of Asuncion.
Casa de la Independencia
The site is located in a typical colonial building that preserves the memory of the days when the heroes of Paraguay planned their independence from Spain in 1811. Today, the
Casa de la Independencia
is a small, well-maintained, and interesting museum that proudly shows period furniture in every room and important historical documents. All parts bear an explanatory plaque (age, name, and origin) with translations in English in the given guide. It is one of the most popular places to visit in the historic center of Asunción. It is located in the city center and stands close to the National Palace.
It shows how the heroes helped shape the independence of this nation complete with vivid details and archived history books and articles. All the exhibits are simply laid out and perfectly distributed by their designated timeline and significance. Don’t fail to see the box where the Spanish governor’s resignation was requested. The educational tour to the small but interesting museum is perfect for families with children. Learn more about the history of Paraguay in old photos, old artifacts and other things that illustrate the country before they fully gained back their freedom.
Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Asuncion
is located in the city center and within walking distance from the other famous historical attractions and religious points in Asuncion. This majestic building has three arches and entrance points. On each side of the façade, there are two bell towers. Near the building are some barracks and the famous promenade places in Asuncion, the Parthenon and Palmas street. It is a simple and spacious church that faces a large square and the waterfront of the river side. It is the only main cathedral in the city that remains closed and opens only when the holy mass is being held.
It is very interesting to know all the historic area that surrounds this tourist site starting from the town hall, the house of government, and the Catholic University that stands next to the cathedral. The interior has a wide nave and pillars with its colonial construction and excellent acoustics. It was built in 1603 and inaugurated in 1845. Inside there is a small museum that explains the religious history of Paraguay. This church also houses the official seat of the Archdiocese of Assumption.
The Iguassu Falls can be seen from two sides of the two border countries near Paraguay; Brazil and Argentina. If you spend only one day at the falls, you can visit the Argentine side. But if you have more time, you can spend first on the Brazilian side for half a day then spend on the Argentine side a full day. The tour begins with a rainforest safari and boat ride. The “Safari” is a short ride on a truck that passes through a thick forest then rises to a long staircase down to the start of the cruise. The stunning scenery on the trail provides ample opportunity for spectacular photographs.
The boat travels directly to two of the falls where you can barely keep yourself from getting wet from the sheer water and spray. Then you climb back over numerous flights of stairs, and walk around on webs between the various stages of the falls. The walk follows through up to a large terrain without barriers that is aptly called the “Devil’s Throat”. From this point you can enjoy a good walk and admire all the beauty of the cascading falls that is absolutely one of the highlights of every travelers visit to this top attraction in the Ciudad del Este region of Paraguay.
Ciudad del Este
The thriving city of
Ciudad del Este
located on the Parana River used to be called the Puerto Presidente Stroessner after the military dictator who ruled Paraguay for 35 years (1954 to 1989). Today, it has become a shopping Mecca for people who are looking for Asian and imported products. It is filled with stalls, electronic shops, ambulant vendors, and is always teeming with curious buyers and foreigners. There are good products around this bargain shopping area, just be observant and be informed before purchasing what you need.
In almost every store you can improve the price that is originally charged. Of course there is the general mess (trash, traffic, noise, etc.) that is associated with places that are filled with enterprising shops. There are also street kids that will follow you around to sell socks, used appliances, and cheap perfume. There are places where your purchase can be safe as some shops and malls offer good quality products. Some of the great traditional shops are worth visiting because the prices are usually good (drinks and consumer electronics) and what they advertise outside their shops are true.
Ruinas Jesuiticas de Jesus de Tavarangue
The best time to go to the ruins of the Jesuits is late afternoon. When the sun goes down, the magical tour begins. When the road gets dark, the light illuminates the reflection from the ground up to light the yellowing walls of the ruins. But that’s not all, along the way there is a sound system (home theater) that plays jungle sounds, whispers of the ancient inhabitants, rituals, and drums.
Hearing those sounds and the play of light makes the tour of the ruins truly unique. It is well preserved and every corner has signpost access and marks. If you like to see historical places you cannot miss a visit to the
San Jose Beach
San Jose Beach
is only 7 blocks away from the city of Encarnacion. During the Carnival season, the number of tourists comes mostly from Asuncion, Ciudad Del Este and Posadas (Argentina). It has a beautiful and spacious waterfront that is ideal for walking or playing water sports and beach activities. It is a great place for families to enjoy and appreciate the clean water, fine white sand and the sun. The sunsets here are spectacular.