Paraguay is perhaps not the most obvious tourist destination, but visiting it gives you the opportunity to experience authentic South America. Paraguay features a unique blend of European and Guarani cultures, colonial architecture and history, and natural landscapes. Here are the top 5 attractions that you should visit in Paraguay.
Unlike other South American capitals, such as Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Asunción is not built for tourism. Still, there are a few sights in the city center that you can easily discover on foot around the barrio La Catedral, the neighborhood named after Asunción’s cathedral.
This barrio is home to the Panteón Nacional de Los Héroes, a small mausoleum where many of the national heroes rest, the Palacio de Los López and current seat of government, the iconic Hotel Guaraní, a symbol of Asunción since it first opened in 1961, and Casa de la Independencia, one of the few colonial buildings in Asunción, dating from 1772, where Paraguay’s independence was secretly planned in 1811.
The best of Paraguayan art can be seen at Museo del Barro set in an impressive new building. The museum has an interesting collection that includes a range of pre-Colombian ceramics, colonial Christian icons and statues, and contemporary paintings.
Located about 30 kilometers/ 18 miles from Asunción, Areguá is a town on the shores of Lake Ypacaraí, known as the Paraguayan capital of pottery and strawberry. It’s on the Golden Circuit of historic towns around Asunción.
The main thing you will do is to wander through the colorful “Mercado de artesanías”, an entire street lined with craft shops selling bowls and pots, gnome-like figures, and other ceramic objects. You can also go for the colonial buildings on Avenida Mariscal Estigarribia leading up to the elegant Church of Areguá. The traditional Strawberry Festival takes place in August when you can sample several strawberry-based desserts and juices, including jam, ice cream, and pie.
There’s also the nearby Cerro Koi, a hill and natural attraction, featuring a unique formation of octagonal sandstone. Only in two other countries (South Africa and Canada) have been found similar rock formations, though not exactly the same. Koi Hill also offers sweeping views of Areguá and the lake.
3. Monday Falls
Monday Falls is one of the most famous natural wonders of Paraguay. These 40-meter-tall falls to feed the Monday River – Monday, pronounced monda-i in Guarani, literally means “water that steals”. The falls are breathtaking but perhaps suffer from their proximity to the neighboring Iguazu, less than 40 kilometers/ 25 miles away. The Monday Municipal Park preserves the natural forest around the falls, offering viewpoints, a system of trails and a restaurant.
4. Ciudad del Este
Thousands of Brazilian citizens cross the border daily into Paraguay to buy goods that are heavily taxed in Brazil. Here’s why Ciudad del Este is also known as a Supermarket in South America. Street bazaars and shopping malls sell electronics, clothing, toys, and every conceivable thing you might want. Besides bargain hunting, visitors can admire the Itaipu Dam, a huge hydroelectric power plant built jointly by Brazil and Paraguay. Ciudad del Este is also the gateway to the Iguazu Falls.
5. Jesuit Ruins
Not far from the town of Encarnación, the Jesuit missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993. The missions are reminders of the Christianization of the indigenous populations of South America during the 17th and 18th centuries.