Is Paraguay worth visiting?
This is the question I get as soon as I say that I’ve been to Paraguay.
And as much as I think, giving advice is not always smart (you should figure out things yourself, not let others do that for you after all), I’ll try and give you an answer to that or at least an idea who I think the country is for.
First things first, I’d say you should know a little bit of Spanish when visiting this country. Tourism hasn’t been fully developed to cater to international tourism in my opinion. I noticed this as pretty much nothing I saw written down was ever translated into English. Overall, there was hardly any information one could obtain online. Pretty strange in the age of the internet, isn’t it?
You will also notice this as there aren’t as many hostels as in other places backpackers would visit. Surprisingly prices for accommodation were almost the same as in Brazil, despite the general price level being much lower. In Villarica, I couldn’t even find a hostel, despite it being quite a popular town for visiting nearby natural sights.
Having said that, there are actually quite a large number of foreigners living in the country, especially Germans, so I was positively surprised to find some more ‘European’ groceries (whole-grain bread, etc…) and supermarkets were one of the best in the whole of South-America in terms of array and quality of goods.
What about places of interest?
Well. Let’s assume you’ve traveled the world, seen the most amazing mountain ranges, beaches, jungle, architectural highlights, etc.… in that case you might be a little disappointed by what you can find in Paraguay. You have the capital with some colonial architecture. Villarica has some nice nature (waterfalls, small mountains) and lakes, etc.
However, I wouldn’t say those would fall into the category of ‘must-see-before-you-die’.
On the other hand, I absolutely loved exploring all these places that I had never heard of before and that locals told me about. I felt like the only tourist most of the time which made the whole experience unique and special.
I really liked Villarica, in the southern center as there are many beautiful waterfalls and small little hills to climb. It was pretty tricky to visit those place by public transportation though as the last bus back into ton was often around 2-3pm when students would go home from the city, meaning you either hitch-hike (which I did and was a little tricky – either because I’m a foreigner or because people don’t do it, I’m not too sure) or you have to return early. I’m not sure about any accommodation out in the countryside as finding any budget-friendly place in Villarica was already difficult enough to find.
Another reason that makes the country worth visiting are the people. Paraguayans are not well-off, yet they were always extremely kind and friendly to me and very helpful when I needed help. I often had to enquire about information from strangers as things are not as organized as in other countries, i.e. figuring out which bus to take… and I was excited about their hospitality.
Coming from Brazil, it was also very pleasant to spend less money on food, etc and except for accommodation, it is one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to in South-America.
Last but not least, there is actually one place I think is a must-see!
The Ruins of Trinidad. This is a Unesco World Heritage that has one of the fewest visitors I’ve ever seen. The ruins are located about 30 min outside of Encarnacion, one of my favorite cities in Paraguay as it has a very relaxed atmosphere and even a river beach!!! The area next to the river is expansive and great for walking. Food is good and Argentina is just across the river, making it for a convenient border crossing. However, THE place to see are the ruins of Trinidad.
Of course, if you’ve traveled a lot you might have seen quite a few ruins. That was my case as well, yet I was honestly positively surprised. First of all, it is a huge area, which already makes it impressive. Second, as there are hardly any tourists, you have most of the place for yourself which is great to soak up the atmosphere. Third, I simply thought that the ruins were beautiful. Interesting structures, beautiful location in the countryside.
This is the one place I’d really go visit again if I was in the area.
I did not visit the whole country, in fact I stayed in the south between the most populous cities, Ciudad del Este, Asuncion and Encarnacion, so of course I cannot speak for the whole country, however I hope this gave you an idea of what you can expect.
Have you been to Paraguay? Is there any place you’d highly recommend travelers to visit? Let us know in the comments