Paraguay Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Guarani (PYG)
🕙Time Zone: -4 GMT
📞Phone Code: +595
🌐Language: Spanish (Paraguayan dialect)
✈️Best time to visit: May to October
🍴Eat: Milanesa (pork)
🍷Drink: Mosto (sugarcane juice)
🗺️Don't miss: "Loma San Jerónimo" in Asuncion.
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Paraguay borders with Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia, making it a landlocked country. It is overlooked by the international tourism community except for the most intrepid travellers and economical conscious-tourists. This is mostly because of the underdevelopment of the country and its safety concerns.
However, Paraguay is unique in South America, in that it largely resisted the cultural devastation by the Spanish conquistadors and has therefore preserved the cultural dominance of its pre-Colombian Guarani people.
Since becoming a republic in 1811 a series of dictatorships have damaged its progress, but today Paraguay has a relatively peaceful democracy and is fairly prosperous thanks to its thriving agricultural economy.
Those who fly into the capital, Asuncion, will find a large, relaxed city full of Latin American atmosphere and historical interest. The city's rich 450-year history is reflected in the downtown architecture, including the Asuncion Cathedral, as well as some modern marvels like the beautiful Lirico Theatre. In addition, Asuncion boasts a fun nightlife, vast shopping malls, and some excellent hotels and restaurants.
Rivers are the lifeblood of Paraguay and a scenic cruise from Asuncion to Concepcion is a popular option for tourists. Concepcion is a laidback little town about 210 km north of the capital, the most notable feature of which is the riverside setting.
More adventurous travellers might make expeditions to the western Chaco region, where some fascinating German Mennonite communities can be found living alongside the indigenous Guarani people, and hundreds of species of flora and fauna flourish in the wetlands.
Paraguay is still, largely undiscovered by many and there is not much marketing done to make it more visible. Although tourist amenities may be lacking outside of the capital, those keen on experiencing a South American destination in true character will find plenty of adventures and surprises with unspoilt wilderness, and authentic indigenous culture in Paraguay, making it a rewarding and memorable destination.
Arriving to the capital, Asuncion, is the best option to start your trip if you are travelling from overseas. If you are travelling from other South American countries, its also possible to travel by long distance bus but preferably travelling by air, although more expensive, it's much safer and a quicker journey.
Paraguay's infrastructure is not developed enough and travelling by road in daylight would be advised more than at night.
There are limited flight's operating into Asuncion from Europe, only Air Europa from Madrid gets you in directly. Otherwise LATAM would offer good connections from other South American destinations. Currently Paraguay has no national airline.
As mentioned before, getting there by international bus is also possible. However distances travelled can be extremely long and the roads are not developed enough, most of the journey in single lanes. Security and safety has also been flagged, so extra precautions should be taken when foreigners take this mode of transport to/from Paraguay.
Ground transportation in Paraguay is only possible by road, therefore busses or driving being the only options. The popular route Asunción - Ciudad del Este is the safest and most popular for tourists. (See info on Ciudad del Este on the next tabs).
Paraguay is just south of the Tropic, so the climate is subtropical. That means hot weather especially in the summer, November to April. Temperature can consistently climb over 38°C! Humidity can be high and uncomfortable in the hot months. Nevertheless the weather changes frequently from one week to another. When the sun shines you bake and it can be very dry when the rains hold off for just a few days. When it does rain, these are heavy and make temperatures drop precipitously. Then the clouds build and it becomes cold.
Winter's should be the best climate to visit, as it will be warm but comfortable to walk around. Temperatures around 20°C from June to September.
Food is generally of a good quality, particularly when traditional Paraguayan food is on the menu. Paraguayan beef is excellent and a variety of cuts are available; the bife de chorizo and tapa cuadril are some of the more popular cuts. The large Korean community in Paraguay means there is an abundance of authentic Korean food in Asuncion. Pizzerias are everywhere, too, and the availability of Mexican food is on the rise. The sub-tropical climate offers a wide range of seasonal fruits.
Specialities include: Chipa, maize bread flavoured with egg and cheese. Sopa paraguaya, not a soup but a savoury mixture of mashed corn, cheese, milk and onions. Soyo, a soup of cornmeal and ground beef seasoned with fresh oregano, bay leaves and garlic. Borí Borí con pollo, a chicken soup used to ward off colds, the bori are small balls of maize and cheese. Mbejú, starch and cheese fried together. Payagua Mascada, a fried snack containing ground beef, garlic, onion and breadcrumbs. Lomitos, similar to a hamburger. Milanesas breaded meat fillet.
As for drinks: Mosto, sugar cane juice. Caña, alcoholic version of mosto.Tereré, tea-like infusion drunk cold through a special straw called a bombilla. Maté, hot version of Terere.
Within the centre of South America this land locked country was one of he most interesting destinations I've come across. It's very underdeveloped and infrastructure is basic. Perhaps not the safest of places for going alone or on holiday to explore, but definitely an eye opener to another culture and was worth every minute!
Asunción Tourism Information Guide
The capital of Paraguay, Asuncion, is the largest city where most governmental and historical buildings are located. The city is large but within it you will find the microcentro, which is the best area where to stay and visit. It's a young city with many schools, universities and learning institutions around the city. It's a pleasant city to walk around and discover, with many of it's treasures hidden away, a good recommendation is to explore the city with a guided tour.
❗Attention: During the day it's safe to walk around the city, with care of your personal belongings. But if you are travelling alone, it's definitely not recommended to walk at night or when the sun sets as Paraguay has a high criminal rating. The city specially has a high issues in drug trafficking, transportation security, theft, counterfeiting, kidnapping, naming a few of the problems faced by the police.
Tours and visits should be completed by day. Should you go out at night, always take a licensed taxi ordered by the hotel or restaurant, going directly from door to door.
✔️Tip: An interesting suggestion is to visit Asuncion city centre during the week. Because everything will close from mid Saturday till Monday. The city may appear fairly deserted at the weekends, not even the tourism information centre will be open. Only a few bars and convenience shops will be able to sell you basic amenities.
Asuncion has a humid subtropical climate characterised by hot, humid summers, and mild winters. The city is relatively rainy throughout the year, but with noticeably less rain between June and September. This is also the coolest time of the year, with temperatures between 15°C and 25°C. The cooler, drier months are generally considered more comfortable for travel, with most travellers choosing to visit between March and October.
The hottest time is from December to February, with average high temperatures between 29°C and 35°C. The rest of the year it's still white hot, so expect during the day temperatures reaching to 30°C with high humidity.
Arriving to the airport is a very simple, as the arrivals is small. Taxis and busses depart just outside. However if travelling with luggage it's not advised to take public transport. It's not the safest of modes due to reported crime, specially if you are a foreigner. Also when arriving later than 9pm there is no services from the airport to the city centre. So the only option is to take a taxi, make sure you take licensed taxis only as many people will try to encourage you to travel in private cars. (often not safe).
When visiting the city centre and staying within there is no need to get public transport. There are only busses operating, somewhat very old fashioned and hard to distinguish where they go. As advised before, if you are going out later in the evening always arrange by official taxi.
Asuncion may not have many conventional tourist attractions, but if you are willing to explore them, it can be an interesting place to visit.
The downtown area may have seen better days but there is a resilient romance to the colonial buildings, and some interesting museums and monuments to check out. The suburbs do boast shopping malls, good restaurants, and a fun nightlife, especially in the northeast towards Villa Morra.
- Below you find the places of interest in Asunción within the city centre:
The National Congress, one of the more impressive new buildings in the city. It was built in 2002. Be sure arrive there by 1PM you will be able to visit a small museum inside.
- Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Asunción, the national cathedral. unfortunately it is frequently closed, especially at midday siesta.
- Municipal Museum, it is modest, but interesting for it's historic display.
- Palacio de López, the house of the Paraguayan government. Very well lit at night.
- Cabildo, cultural center in the old colonial legislative building near the bay area.
- Casa de la Independencia, landmark of the Paraguayan Independence. This is where national heroes gathered to plot against Spanish colonists in 1811.
- Estación Central del Ferrocarril, the Railway museum, but more impressive is the building itself and old wagons. You may be lucky to catch a ride on Sundays to neighbour city of Aregua. This is a tourist ride, the train no longer operates regularly.
- Panteón de los Heroes. Houses the tomb of the unknown soldier along with other "heroes" from Paraguay's disastrous wars, changing of the guard occurs every other day.
- Manzana de la Rivera, is a antique city block transformed into a museum-library-theater-cafe complex.
- Escalinata Antequera, at Antequera street these colourful stairs lead up to a monument and a good view to the city.
- Sunday flea market, along "calle Palma" street. From early morning until noon approximately, this small market is selling junk stuff, photographs hand craft, antiques and probably the most surprising, is seeing the sale of knives and electric Tasers on the street. Perhaps for self defence, but also for attacking. It's truly the feel that crime is real in the city and precautions must be taken.
❗Attention: When walking around the city don't go down narrow streets where "favela" style small houses are built with scrapped metal, plastic and loose bricks. These slum areas are known as the favelas. They are dangerous if walked alone as poverty and crime is high.
✔️Tip: Arranging with your hotel for a local guide is a the best idea to see the city safely, especially if you do not speak any spanish.
- Loma San Jerónimo: Behind the city centre, walking towards the port, you will find Loma San Jerónimo neighborhood. Recognized as a cultural and historical patrimony of the city. It's essentially an old part of the city which has recently had a splash of colour injected to it's streets making the area flourish. Due to its unique appeal now it's recommended as a must-see when visiting Paraguay.
San Jerónimo" has the particularity of its colourful streets and a humble but cool atmosphere. In the highest point of the neighborhood, there's the San Jerónimo church and the Mirador, where you can get the most amazing view of Asunción. On Sundays, there are guided tours and fairs with cheap but great typical Paraguayan food, art, music and vintage items.
Many travellers opt to travel to the Iguazu Falls from Paraguay. If you are in Asunción and have a few days spare, this could be a very interesting trip and adventure!
Ciudad del Este, is a city key for its strategic location next to the borders with Argentina and Brazil, this important city is home to one of the biggest commercial areas in South America selling and buying mainly technology related products, home appliances and gadgets. It's very busy during the day, markets and stalls occupy all the streets of the city centre. You can easily get lost in so many shop and stalls, but fortunately the city is not that big.
However upon the evening and night time it gets empty and can be quite deserted.
❗Attention: The same as Asuncion, Ciudad del Este also has high rates of crime activity. Visitors are advised to stay inside hotels after the sun sets and avoid going down unknown areas.
The main reason to come to Ciudad del Este is In fact, not for the shops, but by its proximity to Iguazu falls.
Climate and temperature: Ciudad del Este and Iguazu enjoy a subtropical climate. Hot summer's and pleasant winters. So it's best suited if you travel during the not so hot months around June to September, as it will be warm but comfortable to walk around. Temperatures around 20°C.
Transportation: Getting to Ciudad del Este is possible by bus from Asuncion. There are many services available during the day and the trip takes 5 hours.
What to see and do? The main reason to go to Ciudad del Este is to visit the Iguazu Falls. Getting to Iguazu is possible from Argentina (where they are located). However the best views can be seen from the Brazilian side and this is why the author organised he's tour from Asuncion as the crossing from Paraguay to Brazil is very simple and there are no stamps issued for the one day visit.
✔️Tip: Organising your trip from Asunción to Ciudad del Este and Iguazu Falls is best done by tour. It's the best way as everything will be included (pickups from the hotels to the bus station, the 5 hour coach ride to Ciudad del Este, tours to Iguazu, private guide and return trips, drop offs or, if necessary, to Auncion and the airport.)
Tours are very well structured and you will be taken care of with local reliable guides and driven in safe, modern, air-conditioned cars.
For more information check Ace Tours to organise a tour.
Iguazu Falls Tour Photos
❗Attention: We do not recommend travellers who are not familiar with South America to go out at night in Asuncion. Although there are many bars and clubs, these are mostly orientated for the locals. Any tourists at night are likely to become targeted for pickpocketing and other tricks. If you know a local or go out in groups, this would be the only exception to try and enjoy the night out in this city.
Also note to take precautions in the area you are staying. Hotels would be able to advise on latest safety warnings. If you do go out, guard your personal belongings. Always take a licensed taxi ordered by the hotel or restaurant, going directly from door to door.
Shopping in Asuncion is not something which will draw visitors from abroad. Mostly shops have limited supplies and are frequented by locals mostly.
The only highlights worth mentioning are the Sunday flea market, along "calle Palma" street. From early morning until noon approximately, this small market is selling junk stuff, photographs hand craft, antiques and probably the most surprising, is seeing the sale of knives and electric Tasers on the street. Perhaps for self defence, but also for attacking. It's truly the feel that crime is real in the city and precautions must be taken. On another note, (and safer) Loma San Jerónimo neighborhood would offer some unique tourist friendly stands which sell handcrafted items and antiques together anything possible for sale.
Staying directly within the city centre can be a little more expensive, but probably better to walk around and safer. Hotels are reasonable for a budget conscious traveller.
Average prices are €30 and upwards but also there are hostels that can be extremely cheap. Make sure you read reviews from the hotel before you book.
Airbnb is not as popular yet in Paraguay but with time its growing. Always, look for centrally located places.
Asuncion might not be the most impressive city, but it's relaxing and has a slow pace of life. Visiting and walking around won't take long. A duration of 2 nights would be enough.