The 10 Best Reasons To Visit Paraguay in South America!

Why would you want to visit a country that happily allowed ex-nazis in as immigrants and has been run by dictators for almost the entire 400 years it has officially been in inexistence? Well we’ll tell you why!

Table of Contents

Introduction

A hill I will die on is that Paraguay in South America is one of the most underrated countries in the world. It sometimes seems that every other country on the South American continent has had its day in the sun, except Paraguay! Well we’re going to talk you through the 10 reasons to visit Paraguay and hopefully, show you exactly what everyone else is missing out on.

To be honest, we once underestimated it too!

While planning our recent trip to Brazil, we found that it was actually cheaper to fly first into Paraguay, rather than São Paulo or Rio. We took this as a great opportunity to explore a new place admittedly, but I can’t claim we had many expectations. As it turns out, we are SO pleased we made this choice. Paraguay has so much to offer to tourists. Though it does not focus too much energy on promoting tourism itself, it would benefit hugely from more visitors.

Despite the shortage of visitors, Paraguay is actually super tourist-friendly and welcoming too.

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 a street art mural of two men sitting at a bar, being served a cocktail by a woman. The colours of the mural are mostly red and black. One of the men is a silhouette.
Street Art in Asuncion

Safety in Paraguay in South America

Generally Paraguay is a pretty safe country in terms of countries in South America. We were told by a variety of local guides that tourists should not have any kind of problem, except perhaps some pickpocketing in busy areas, which is a problem in almost every big city.

Insurance for travelling through South America

Of course we do all hope that everything will always be plain sailing on our trips. Sadly, that’s just not always the case and things do go wrong! From experience, we do always recommend having great travel insurance. We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance and we really do like them. They are affordable and reliable, but the best thing is how clear their wording is and how easy they are to use.

You can check costs for your trip below.

10 Best Reasons to visit Paraguay

1. Eat incredible food

Every meal in Paraguay was amazing, and we don’t say that lightly! In a country that is a true amalgamation of all of its inhabitants from various cultures, as well as a heavy local indigenous influence, you have a real mix of flavours to choose from, no matter what it is you’re looking for. The local cuisine is heavily dependent on meat, but because of all the various cultural influences, you can also expect to find a lot of pizza, pasta, German dishes (such as schnitzel), Japanese food, paellas, the list goes on!

Though best known for their meat-based dishes, we didn’t struggle to find vegan/vegetarian food (especially with the help of Happy Cow). We found that there were a lot of paellerias and pizzerias, which had great options, as well as a couple of restaurants in Asunción that sold vegetarian or vegan empanadas/pastries/sandwiches/salads. The two restaurants we were recommended for all tourists to try were El Bolsi (which did indeed live up to the hype) and Lido Bar, which was nice – it had a real local feel to it.

Others we would recommend: La Malquerida in Recoleta area (beware, the portions are HUGE), and Natu Center Vegetariano near Saltos del Monday Waterfalls in Ciudad del Este. Locals also love to snack and sip on tereré or maté (cold and hot versions of the same drink), which is a herbal tea infusion, drunk through a filtered straw. To drink this, you’ll most likely have to share a cup with a local, which a great way to meet new people!

A tereré station set up with multiple herbs and spices (/roots). The ingredients are all laid out one by one, with several roots, then lots of green herbs. The table is wooden and flimsy.
A tereré/maté station

2. It’s great value

Honestly, now is the time to go to Paraguay, before it gets really popular and becomes more expensive. Meals were costing us, on average, around £5/$7 each, and the portions were normally gigantic.

Hotels were similarly excellent value, at around £30/$35 a night for some great value places, and we found it really easy to get around by taxi/uber without breaking the bank. We’re sure that in a few years, when tourism has really taken off there, costs will be nowhere near as low!

3. The scenery is amazing

We used public buses to get around Paraguay and generally, it is a really lush and verdant country with some stunning landscapes. We found the waterfalls on the border with Brazil and Argentina (Saltos del Monday) especially beautiful and wish more people had the chance to see them. They’re only a short hop away from Iguazu Falls, so even if you are not planning a full trip to Paraguay, we recommend checking them out! Though, in our opinion, it is better to stay longer in Paraguay itself.

You can also see a variety of different birds from there, and what’s amazing is that we got them entirely to ourselves, even though we visited on a weekend!

Emma, a short white woman, is standing against a fence, looking backwards to a huge waterfall, which is behind her. She is wearing a full brimmed hat, a short and Aztec patterned top. There are two main falls, surrounded by jungle, crashing into rocks below.
Saltos del Monday

4. The people are super friendly

Paraguayan (Guarani) people pride themselves on being exceptionally open-minded and welcoming. This was certainly a trait we found to be true, even on visiting areas where tourists were not generally advised to go, such as the Chacarita, a slum in the centre of Asunción. We wandered through it accidentally (with no issues) and were later told by our guide that, even though it has a bad reputation in Paraguay, he has never heard of any issues for tourists there.

Spanish is commonly spoken in Asunción, though it is one of two official languages, the second being Guarani, which essentially means that not everyone speaks or understands Spanish. Despite that, we ever had any issues making ourselves understood, people were keen to connect with us, find out more about us, and make sure we were looked after. Whenever we did encounter Spanish or English speakers, we found a nation of very proud people who were very keen to show us more of their country and tell us about it in more detail.

Mariah, a Guarani woman, is standing near a mural with a giant, Asian-style cat depicted on it. She is looking behind her, out to a city scape and she is in focus, while the rest of the photo is slightly blurred. She has her hair up and is leading a tour.
One of our tour guides, Mariah.

5. It’s relatively new to tourism but has good infrastructure

In our experience, countries which don’t get much tourism generally don’t have the best infrastructure in place to support it. We were told by Paraguayans that Paraguay has, for various reasons, not invested much effort into developing tourism within its borders. They have chosen instead to develop financially through business deals with large corporations, which is evident as you drive into Asunción.

Despite this, they have a great bus network (mostly bookable online through BusBud), a good range of hostels and hotels throughout the country (normally Spanish speaking, though higher end hotels will have English-speaking staff), ubiquitous WiFi (almost always free), a good range of tourist attractions, pretty good roads except in very remote locations, such as the Chaco, and reliable public services (hospitals, banks etc.). It’s a great place to try, even if you are not a super confident backpacker – besides a few translation errors, you should not experience many issues.

A tortoiseshell cat sitting on a stone block with its eyes closed. It looks very relaxed.
One of the many cats in Asunción.

6. There’s loads to do

As we mentioned above, the range of activities for tourists in Paraguay is surprisingly good! Check out our post on the 10 best things to do in the country, where you can take your pick of historical activities, cultural insights, great nature, or wildlife activities.

7. The wildlife is incredible

Which brings us to the Chaco! This is essentially Paraguay’s answer to the Brazilian Pantanal and honestly, a much cheaper way to do it. The wildlife you will see here is similar: capybaras, tapirs, incredible birdlife and a chance to see jaguars. Think extremely rural countryside with very few facilities and quite difficult to get to, but once there you can expect to be wowed by a diverse display of nature and some incredible scenery.

A jaguar sitting on a tree branch, with its paw flung down to the side. It is looking nonchalantly near the camera and looks sleepy.
The jaguars of South America

8. It’s the ideal gateway to Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia

As we said in our intro, flights to Paraguay in South America are often cheaper than to most other countries on the continent, but yet, as a small landlocked country, it won’t take you long to reach its neighbours. For example, we flew into Asunción, but within 5 hours on the bus, we were in Ciudad del Este, the border town on the Paraguayan side to Iguazu Falls, and from there it took us around 2 hours (including 2 border crossings and a ferry) to reach Argentina. Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side is just as easy and can be done via bus without the boat, and there are other buses from Asunción that go to Bolivian border towns.

From a distance you can see sunset over Iguazu Falls. The photo was taken from the Brazilian side, which has a wider perspective of the whole Falls.
Sunsets in Iguazu

9. It has a fascinating history

Paraguay certainly has a troubled past, but in spite of this, it is one of the only countries in South America to have retained a large percentage of indigenous Guarani people, which means that its history dates back a lot further than the 400 years it has been in existence according to Western History books. It has been in the hands of a dictatorship for almost the entirety of its independence, and was closed to other countries for a lot of this time.

All of this has given it a somewhat undeserved reputation of being a dangerous or conflicted place but, in reality, Paraguayans were (apparently!) reasonably happy with most of their leaders and are fiercely proud to be where they are today. It’s certainly worth hiring a tour guide to hear more about this fascinating back story. We highly recommend Guru Walk, which offers free tours (of course it’s expected that you tip) in English and Spanish, and was one of the best things we did in Asunción. They are very flexible and work around when suits you best – make sure you book in advance and you can change the time if needs be later on.

10. The street art is stunning

A second tour we recommend, particularly if you love art, is a tour of the Chacarita, run by Chaca Tours. The Chacarita is a complex area of Asunción with a difficult past and a reputation associated with drug addicts and criminals. In reality it is a sub-community of Asunción that is almost self-governed. The people who live there are slowly trying to change public perception of their neighbourhood with an initiative fuelled by street art, which now covers almost every corner of it.

Some of the pieces are absolutely beautiful, and the guides are exceptionally knowledgeable about each piece and each person in the neighbourhood. Tours run whenever possible in English and Spanish and there are plans to expand the business, with a restaurant and Chacarita dining experience coming soon.

A brightly coloured wall mural, mostly blue with an orange, red and yellow stripe in the middle which reads ‘che pykasumi reveve va’ekue chehegui rehovo’, which means ‘my little dove who flew away from me’ in Guarani. It is the first line of a Guarani poem by the same name.
Street art in the Chacarita in Asuncion

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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