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Landlocked, rural Paraguay is a bit of an unknown quantity for visitors, well off the beaten track, and culturally very different from its neighbours, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. However it’s a friendly, quirky place, easily reached by land from neighbouring attractions such as the Iguazú Falls which is just over the border from bustling Ciudad del Este where duty free goods are snapped up by Brazilian and Argentinian day trippers.
It’s more than a tax free shop however. Northwest from the capital, Asuncion, stretches a vast, flat, stiflingly hot territory of salt flats, swampland, dry forest and cattle ranches, the scarcely populated Chaco. Inhospitable, maybe: but various species of wild mammal such as armadillo, tapir and even jaguar survive here. East and south of the capital tropical forest is more lush and home to an array of tropical birds. Nature lovers won’t be disappointed and numerous national parks are abundant with wildlife.

The indigenous population of Guaraní indians is still very much in evidence and their language is spoken widely. Colonial Spain has left its mark here, in the sleepy riparian capital Asunción, and the country is dotted with the ruins of Jesuit settlements. Remote Paraguay has always offered a refuge for people under threat, from European Mennonites to refugees from Nazi Germany.

Our holidays to Paraguay

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Jacana

Jacana: Crossing the continent

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Our insider tips for Paraguay

Chris Parrott

Chris Parrott

For a whimsical stroll through Graham Greene territory, ambling along the banks for River Paraguay in the centre of the capital, Asunción. Close by is the Palacio de Gobierno, built in the style of Versailles, from which the despot Alfredo Stroessner was fabled to have escaped in his pyjamas during the 1989 coup.

Chris

Chris Rendell-Dunn

Watching Paraguayans at play at the lakeside resort of San Bernardino on the east bank of Lago Ypacaraí. Peaceful during the week, the resort erupts in summer and at weekends with live concerts, bars and nightclubs.

Konrad M

Konrad Mludzinski

Listening to the country’s distinctive harp music. It will follow you around anyway, in transport and restaurants. The harp is the country’s national instrument and is often accompanied by songs in the native guaraní language.

Nicola Gude

Nicola Gude

Jesuit missionaries established reducciones (native communities) throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a haunting experience to discover the ruins of these substantial buildings, which fell into disrepair after the priests were expelled in 1768. La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesus de Tavarange are two of the best preserved. (The film “The Mission” deals with this period).

What our experts say

I have travelled through Paraguay many times over the past 30 years. It's a quirky backwater in which to spend a few days, with its own distinctive culture including the ubiquitous harp music. A refuge for people fleeing from persecution, as well as a Duty Free goods paradise (including many forgeries), it has a history of bloodshed and dictatorship but also many attractive and tranquil spots in its unchanging rural landscapes.   

Etienne Frans

Etienne Frans

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