Paraguay is located next to Brazil and Argentina and consequently is often easily overlooked by potential holidaymakers. Those visiting from the UK will be taken aback by how utterly special and unprecedented the landscape is which greets them as they step off the plane. Jungles, lagoons and marshes permeate the surroundings and many spots appear completely untouched by man. Yet, all quickly learn that it has been manhandled by history and it is only thanks to the strength of the surroundings and the resiliance of the people that the country has managed to retain its natural charm and beauty. Despite being controlled by Spain for three centuries, Paraguay has retained its own sense of individuality, and although the War of the Triple Alliance killed two thirds of the male population, the country has survived. A physical testament to human strength and the determination to survive, all will be taken aback by the character of Paraguay.
The most widely spoken languages are Spanish and Guaraní. It is best to learn some basic phrases in one of these languages as English is not widely spoken. Spanish is favoured in the cities whereas only Guaraní is likely to be spoken in rural communities.
The National currency is the Guaraní. One pound is equal to 11000.6 Guaraní and one dollar is approximately 6160.00 Guaraní.
Paraguay boasts a fantastic tropical climate, making it the perfect destination for sun worshippers. However, the stifling temperatures can prove unbearable at times and there is rarely a break from the sun, especially in the North of the country. When the rain does come it is torrential, and then the country may be slightly cooler for a few days. Potential holiday makers should note that the extreme temperatures attract insects such as mosquitoes and thus all should bring some form of repellent.
The capital city of Asunción is home to many sources of entertainment sure to please each visitor. The traditional architecture is a joy to behold and the riverfront boasts many exciting attractions. Each July hosts a trade fair, where tourists can sample live music as well as locally produced liquors and snacks. The National Congress was constructed in 2002 and is currently one of the most impressive buildings in the country.
The National Cathedral is also a beautiful structure, both inside and out. A visual arts museum celebrates local artistry and achievement, whereas the Municipal Museum remembers the country’s past and the victories and defeats it has lived through. Those killed in battle are remembered at the Panteon del los Heroes. Caacupe is the country’s predominant religious site which hosts an annual pilgrimage for those hoping to explore their spirituality.
Fans of local lace will appreciate a trip to Itagua, the site of its production. Here, visitors can make a purchase as well as learn about the skill behind making such a delicate and ornate fabric.
Visitors hoping to steal a closer glimpse of the breathtaking surroundings will love a trip to the Parque Nacional Ybycui, which seeks to protect one of the last surviving areas of subtropical rainforest. The area boasts waterfalls, as well as a beautiful selection of striking butterflies. Some of the countries most incredible animals inhabit the Defensores del Chaco; those lucky enough may catch a glimpse of jaguars or pumas. Of course, necessary safety precautions are essential; guided tours will allow visitors to appreciate these fantastic creatures from a safe viewpoint.
Trinidad is situated on the top of a hill and is home to one of the most well preserved Jesuit sites in the country. An overlooked tourist attraction, this site is peaceful although the echoes of history continue to fascinate visitors.
The most comprehensive shopping trip will be found in the city of Ascuncion, home to many different stores and malls which sell locally produced products in quaint, small shops. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of the goods on offer, although all should ensure that the product in question is not of cheap quality. Calle Mara is a popular shopping street which specialises in the beautiful ñandutí lace worn by local women, as well as leather pieces and traditional pieces of jewellery.
Ascuncion is the place to visit for an exciting evening. A number of clubs, bars and casinos have been constructed in the area in order to provide entertainment for both visitors and locals. Open air restaurants are a must for authentic, local atmosphere and home cooked food.
Motorways connect all the major locations in Paraguay, although drivers should be aware that many of the roads are in very bad condition. Toll booths are common and drivers may be pulled over by the police for no apparent reason. It is highly recommended that visitors avoid driving at night. There are few rules dictating road usage and courtesy is rare. Drivers will need a National Driving licence or an International Driving Permit.
Food and Drink
South American cusine is delicious; staple ingredients include beans, rice and exotic fruit. Food is not generally spicy and there are many traditional restaurants serving local and reasonable dishes. Favourites items include empanadas (pastry encased meat and egg) and cassava, a potato substitute. Paraguay produces many delicious forms of bread; chipas is a maize bread with cheese and egg. Also popular are sopa paraguaya, a soup consisting of corn, milk, cheese and onions, and surubi, a delicious fish which lives in the Paraná.
Tap water should be avoided, but there are plenty other beverages to replace it with. A local favourite is a form of tea called mate, which is produced from the yerba plant and can contain herbs. Pulp is a popular soft drink, made from grapefruit and oranges. Most establishments serve beer, as well as many different liquors.