Is Paraguay Worth Visiting?
If so, why on earth don’t more people visit Paraguay? Why give the surrounding nations in South America all the love and leave out this one?
I figured I’d be part of an exclusive club if I visited, maybe get some sort of medal, learn an inside secret handshake, or even a cult tattoo for my trouble.
So off I went during my first South American overlanding trip, playing Sherlock Holmes to the unanswered, yet often asked question; is Paraguay worth visiting?
What is Paraguay Like?
Paraguay is a little rough around the edges. It doesn’t bolster the same tourism pulling power that the likes of its neighbours do, a tough gig when you are competing against the likes of the gorgeous Galapagos Islands and majestic Macchu Picchu (to name a few).
If you’ve already been travelling around the continent then you’ve probably been spoiled with the travel options at your disposal. If you go to Paraguay, then you need to manage your expectations; it’s not going to be the same experience.
The country is simply not set up for the ‘things to see and do,’ onto the next one and the next one, rinse-and-repeat cycle of backpacking.
You need to be open-minded, explore and not judge Paraguay by the standards of its neighbours, but as a stand-alone country that is trying to find its feet after a turbulent past.
As a South American country, it’s relatively dirty and poor, but imperfect places can often be the most fun as you create your own when you get into pure adventure mode. Paraguay is not a typical postcard vacation country, it’s in its tourism infancy, incomplete, a little gritty in parts and much better suited for backpackers chasing that feeling of experiencing something that is relatively untouched.
Paraguay is (Genuinely) Cheap
Travel writings often come with embellishments and a popular one is exaggerating how cheap a place is. While the popularly shared statistic that Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion is the cheapest capital city in the world is debatable, there is a good shout that it’s certainly the cheapest capital city in South America (closely challenged by Quito).
The prices are similar to travelling in Thailand about 10 years ago and you could get away with $30USD a day for transportation, activities and accommodation if you’re really stretched.
Paraguay makes the best of what it’s got and it’s certainly good value for money.
If you aren’t sure what to do in a new country then you should flock to the people and connect with them. That might be easier said than done if the people are dickheads, but you don’t have to worry about that in Paraguay.
Paraguayans are a friendly bunch, I only wish that I visited there after living in Colombia as I learned Spanish there, but didn’t have any in my locker at that time of my Paraguay visit.
It would have been nice to have connected with locals on a deeper level, but with my lack of español and broken English, Paraguayans were curious, kind and happy that me and my travel buddy give it the chance it deserves.
Tourism in Paraguay: Too Shy For Its Own Good
The Philippines has the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” tagline, Thailand brands itself as “The Land of Smiles.” When you think of Argentina you immediately envisage steak, red wine and tango.
Brazil: Copacabana beach, capoeira and lovely big bums.
Colombia strikes up images of salsa, coffee and sunset beaches.
Even Paraguay’s lesser-travelled South American neighbour, Bolivia proudly promotes the now-viral Bolivian Salt Flats, its extreme cycling destination and La Paz is quickly becoming known for its quirks.
Is tourism in Paraguay so meek because it’s a country bereft of culture with absolutely nothing to do?
Absolutely not. Paraguay has its own cuisine, its own version of the Argentinian drink maté, called tereré, unique festivals and oh; it has its own native language that the majority of the country speaks. Now that’s pretty cool!
Admittedly, I don’t think there is a concentrated amount of activities and places to visit in the country in comparison to the more well-known countries in the region, but there is enough and we have to remember that tourism doesn’t happen overnight; maybe if the Paraguay tourism board got more creative (and received more funds) then they will be less shy in their approach of promoting their nation to the world.
Cool Places To Visit in Paraguay
I’m going to highlight places to visit in Paraguay, but I’m purposefully not going to be too detailed as I plan to write a fully comprehensive travel guide to visit Paraguay in the future.
This current article is simply about whetting your appetite for the question “is Paraguay worth visiting?”
An opinion piece more so than a guide, that is one the way. Let’s take a sneaky peak while we are here though…
- Asuncion: Visit the cheap and cheerful capital city of Peru. Wander about the city centre, the banks of the Rio Paraguay, see the lit-up iconic building of Palacio de Los Lopez at night before enjoying the buzzing nightlife of the city.
- Encarnacion: Flock to the beach, people-watch in the public square during the day and take in the views of The Encarnacion-Posadas Tram.
- Jesuit Ruins: Also in Encarnacion, but this lost city gets an extra mention considering it is the least-visited UNESCO heritage site in the world.
- National Parks: Ybyuci and Cerro Cora are the main ones. The beauty of Paraguay being less-travelled is you have fewer queues and more of nature to yourself.
- San Bernadino: A popular holiday spot for Paraguayans located on the shores of Ypacarai Lake. I stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel named Hotel del Lago with an ahem…colourful past.
- Concepcion: Along the relaxing banks of the Paraguayan River, the town of Concepcion is a perfect place for chilling out, wildlife spotting and (to the tone of this article) getting to know the locals.
Is Paraguay Worth Visiting?
I purposefully made the above section as short as possible because I plan to create a more detailed Paraguay travel guide.
Also, my whole point to this article is less about the “to-dos” and more about fighting the corner of the underdog country in question today.
Latin America has a vast landmass with a plethora of activities, natural and manmade landmarks and if you’re into bucket list ticking (nothing wrong with that even though it’s “cool” to bash it nowadays) then this continent has your back.
Paraguay should be treated like these countries before their inception of booming tourism. Give it a chance, what’s the worse that can happen? It’s sometimes refreshing to not have a fixed plan and just go on a wander, meeting friendly people and learning more about the culture via them as opposed to a well-polished travel guide with no personality.
Is Paraguay worth visiting? It’s obviously a yes from me, but one thing that’s for sure; you’ll never know if you don’t visit yourself.