Paraguay Holiday Planning Guide
Divided in half by its eponymous river, Paraguay is a land of contrasts, especially between its lush eastern region where most of the population lives and the arid west, filled with rustic villages and old Jesuit colonies. Although under Spanish rule for three centuries and with a recent history of dictatorships and wars, Paraguay retained its native Guarani culture, with more than 80 percent of population of indigenous heritage. You'll find plenty of things to do in Paraguay, from touring cosmopolitan cities and quaint Jesuit colonies, to browsing affordable arts and crafts stores and sailing on rivers that crisscross the diverse natural landscape that makes up this landlocked nation.
Places to Visit in Paraguay
Regions of ParaguayAlto Parana Department
: A region known for its wide range of natural sights, Alto Parana offers hikes along riverside trails, waterfalls, and nationally important bridges and dams. Cordillera Department
: Rich with clear lakes and natural streams, and boasting locally important historic sites, Cordillera Department should definitely be included on your Paraguay itinerary.Paraguari Department
: Paraguari Department houses some of the oldest indigenous temples and a variety of natural sites worth visiting, including important ecological reserves and hills ideal for a relaxed hike.Itapua Department
: The so-called "melting pot" of Paraguay, Itapua offers a chance to learn about the rich diversity of nations and cultures who immigrated here from all parts of the world.Misiones Department
: Boasting nearly untouched beaches on the Tebicuary and Parana Rivers, Misiones Department is a place to enjoy peaceful nature and get to know the local tribes, their history and art.
Cities in ParaguayAsuncion
: Boasting colonial architecture, an innovative culinary scene, and buzzing suburbs, Asuncion is a city of opposites suitable for every type of Paraguay itinerary.Encarnacion
: Rich historical and cultural heritage as well as a refreshing riverside climate make Encarnacion a place worth exploring for all who visit the country.Salto del Guaira
: Housing innumerable stores and malls with products considerably less expensive than in the rest of the country, Salto del Guaira tops many shopping Paraguay itineraries.Pedro Juan Caballero
: The highest city in Paraguay, Pedro Juan Caballero is known for both its large national park and many shopping areas where both the locals and tourists go for deals on a range of purchases.Ciudad Del Este
: Ciudad Del Este's large number of malls and other shopping areas, together with the natural attractions just outside the city, make it a must-see on your Paraguay holiday.
Popular Paraguay Tourist AttractionsShopping Del Este
: A major Paraguay tourist attraction for shopaholics, this mall houses a number of stores selling everything from designer fashion to the famous local chocolates.Panteon Nacional de los Heroes
: Discover the local history at one of the country's most important landmarks, commemorating peace agreements with past enemies and dedicated to all those who fought in Paraguay's many wars.Palacio de López
: The presidential residence, this 19th-century palace represents an architectural masterpiece, open for organized tours.Costanera de Asuncion
: A popular recreational spot for many visitors on a Paraguay trip, the seaside area offers memorable views of the surrounding landscape, as well as the opportunity for bird-watching and exercise. Represa Hidroelectrica Itaipu Binacional
: Named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the enormous dam represents an architectural marvel constructed and used by both Brazil and Paraguay.Monalisa
: This shopping mall offers a relaxing and fulfilling shopping experience, selling everything for fashion and electronics, to everyday household essentials.Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
: The cathedral, dating back to the 17th century and recently renovated, represents an important landmark of Baroque architecture.Casa de la Independencia
: Casa de la Independencia offers insight into a major moment in the country's history--the separation from Spain--and showcases a variety of memorabilia from the 18th century.Costanera de la Ciudad de Encarnacion Paraguay
: Come to this waterfront area to relax, have a picnic or lunch at a restaurant, hike, bike, or simply enjoy the view of the Parana River.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Paraguay
Cuisine of Paraguay
The cuisine of Paraguay is similar to its neighboring countries--varied but mostly based on meat, vegetables, and fruit. Fish is also commonly used in preparing everyday dishes.
For the finest culinary experience, head to Asuncion
, the capital, where you'll find a variety of restaurants providing a tasty insight into the local cuisine.
Barbecue is one of the outdoor activities you're likely to attend during your Paraguay holiday--it allows friends and families to spend quality time together and grill meat and veg on the open fire. The locals call this "asado," a term used to describe both the event and the various techniques of barbecuing.
Paraguayans also pay a lot of attention to deserts, which usually include a variety of cakes, like lampreado, chipa guasu, and others, usually filled with "dulce de leche," made from milk.
Although beer, wine, and a variety of fruit juices accompany many meals, the national drink is terere, similar to guarana, which people consume from a special cup called "guampa."
Shopping in Paraguay
As you tour Paraguay, you'll find that in all major cities there is at least one enormous mall offering local and international brands.
One of the most famous malls located in Ciudad del Este is Shopping Vendome
, where you'll be able to find all the essentials for your trip and a few gifts for the friends and family back home.
A pleasant alternative to shopping at indoor malls, open-air markets held by the local people offer everything from fresh groceries, meat, and fish, to inexpensive souvenirs, handmade traditional clothing and jewelry, crafts, and textiles.
and Ciudad Del Este
are quite known for their markets, held on city squares that allow visitors to find good deals and soak up a little street culture.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Paraguay
Interesting Facts About Paraguay
● Iguacu Falls in Paraguay are twice as wide, and taller than Niagara
● Few houses in Paraguay have doorbells, and people announce their arrival by clapping their hands
● Pistol dueling is legal in Paraguay, as long as both participants register as blood donors
Things You Should NOT Do in Paraguay
Paraguayans generally greet each other with handshakes, kisses, and hugs. Try not to avoid this kind of greeting, even if you're not as comfortable with that level of intimacy to avoid appearing standoffish during your trip to Paraguay.
When arriving at a local friend's house, it's a nice gesture to bring flowers and a small gift, although it's not a must. Politely enjoy your food, and compliment your host on the specialties served. There's a high chance you'll be given a second plate, which you should try to finish to avoid offending the cook.
When strolling in public, never take photographs of soldiers or military equipment. Refrain from engaging in arguments about sensitive subjects like politics, and under no circumstance raise your voice or show anger. Remember that Paraguayans care about posture, image, and proper social behavior a great deal.
Holidays & Festivals in Paraguay
The majority (more than 98 percent) of religious Paraguayans belong to some branch of Christianity, so it doesn't surprise that Christmas and Easter represent the country's two main holidays. During the days surrounding those events, you can see colorful and vibrantly decorated streets, houses, and shops.
Dia de San Blas on February 3 honors the country's patron saint --the largest celebration traditionally occurs in Ciudad Del Este
The Carnival--held in the capital Asuncion
at the start of Christian Lent--includes costumed processions, dances, and parties all over the city.
If you happen to be on your Paraguay trip in the autumn, you can attend Oktoberfest, also in Asuncion--the event is basically a copy of the more famous German happening, during which can try numerous sorts of beer and attend parties and music shows.
Useful Paraguay Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Paraguay
Although Paraguay has two official languages, Spanish and Guarani, the first one is more widespread and spoken by almost everyone. Many people use and understand English, but just to be sure you can communicate with those that don't, learn some of the most commonly used words and expressions in Spanish.
Some of these include "hola/buenos dias" (hello/good day), "adios/hasta luego" (bye/see you soon), and "por favor/muchas gracias" (please/thank you very much). This should be enough to start a basic conversation during your vacation in Paraguay.
Climate of Paraguay
Paraguay has two distinct climatic regions--Paranena, which enjoys subtropical, and Chaco, which benefits from tropical weather. In summer (October-March) the average temperature is about 38 C (100 F), whereas the winters are mild, with an average of about 18 C (64 F).
The pleasant winter weather of July and August make those months the best for a trip to Paraguay.
Transportation in Paraguay
Most urban areas offer taxi services, which can be quite pricey, especially in smaller towns where foreign tourists remain a sight for sore eyes.
Most locals use buses, which offer an affordable way of getting from one city neighborhood to the next--the long-distance rides provide a good method of exploring farther out of urban areas.
Tipping in Paraguay
Although it's not standardized or included on all bills, tipping is almost always expected. In restaurants, it's customary to tip the service staff with 10 percent of the total. Bellhops, taxi drivers, tour guides, and others who make your life easier on a Paraguay trip won't be offended with a small tip in cash.