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Best Places to Visit in Paraguay, Top Attractions
Paraguay is perhaps not the most obvious tourist destination, but visiting it gives you the opportunity to experience the authentic South America. Paraguay is a rich country filled with sights, sounds and attractions you’ll remember for a lifetime. Whether you enjoy diverse foods, an outdoor adventure or exotic shopping, Paraguay has something to offer every traveler looking for exciting attractions.
#1- Itaipu Dam
The second-largest dam in the world, Itaipu Dam sits on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, a hydroelectric force creating 78 percent of Paraguay’s total energy and 20 percent of Brazil’s. An engineering wonder as high as a 65-story building, it’s technically a series of dams 4.8 miles long, fed by the Paraná River. To go inside, visitors must join a tour group (free from the Paraguayan side), which includes a bus ride around the facility and a screening of a short film about the history of the dam. Those wanting to learn more about the dam’s technical aspects can book a more in-depth tour that requires reservations in advance.
#2- Catedral Basilica Nuestra Señora de los Milagros
Purportedly the site of many miracles, the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles stands above the tiny town of Caacupé. Open throughout the year, the basilica is the largest sanctuary in the country, with ornate, stained glass windows depicting the story of the creation and eventual rescue of Caacupé's virgin statues. The best and busiest time to visit is on December 8, when one million pilgrims travel from all over Paraguay by bicycle, car, bus, and even ox-cart to attend an early mass, light a blue candle, and listen to the accompanying harp music of the orchestra.
#3- San Bernardino
The unofficial glamping capital of the country, San Bernardino curls around the sides of Lago Ypacaraí, beckoning to Asunción's well-to-do crowd wanting a comfortable escape into nature. Both Tava Glamping and Bioparque Yrupe offer swimming pools on their grounds; the former has air-conditioned eucalyptus wood cabins and the latter eco domes. Kayaking, biking, birdwatching, and pleasure boating on the lake count among the year-round activities here. The best time of year to go, though, is during the high season (December to February), when the bars and clubs open and fill with the summer party crowd.
#4- Parque Nacional Cerro Corá
A place of natural beauty and painful history, the 54,340-acre Cerro Corá National Park was where former Paraguayan leader Francisco Solano López fought and died in the last battle of the War of the Triple Alliance. The park is full of forests, streams, buttes, and limestone walls etched with 5,000-year-old petroglyphs, and you can see the cross marking the spot where López died by the Aquidabán River. Armadillos, giant anteaters, tortoises, and pájaro campana (the national bird) all reside here. The park has rangers that act as guides as well as free campsites. Reach it by taking the 45-minute bus from Concepción.
#5- Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco
One of the largest national parks in Paraguay, Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco contains big cats, tapirs, and 6-foot-tall storks in a dry, rocky land of palo santo and carob trees. Ocelots, jaguars, pumas, and Geoffroy’s cats roam its forests, and the Cerro León rises 1,968 feet above the park.
One of the oldest cities in South America, Asunción sits on the banks of the Paraguay River, and offers some of the country’s best museums, largest nightlife scene, and important historical sites. Catch a concert and admire the architecture in the cultural city block of Manzana de la Rivera. Buy produce and souvenirs at Mercado Cuatro.
#7- Salto Suiza
Stay in a giant wine barrel, rappel down a waterfall, or zip-line rough the trees at the Parque Ecológico Salto Suizo (Salto Suizo Ecological Park). Though not the mightiest of falls in Paraguay, Salto Suizo's strength lies in its peaceful ambiance and unique camping options. Fruit trees and natural pools surround the waterfall, perfect for dipping your feet in after trudging around the park's several miles of hiking trails.
#8- Trinidad and Jesús Missions
These two former missions—part of the 30 Jesuit reducciones (settlements) in the Río de La Plata area of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil—are some of the globe’s least visited UNESCO World Heritage sights. After paying a small fee, it’s easy to explore these ruins on your own as you climb centuries-old stairs, cross large courtyards, and enter crumbling living quarters. Trinidad even has a light show at night set to classical music.
#9- Parque Nacional Ybycuí
Only 77 miles south of Asunción, Ybycuí is one of the most accessible and frequently visited national parks in Paraguay. Swim in the natural pool under the Mbocaruzú waterfall, spot neon blue morpho butterflies flitting through the humid Atlantic forest, and see the old iron foundry. Hike the park's steep hills to discover its 15 waterfalls, swimming holes, and rocky outcrops. Besides an abundance of butterflies, capuchin monkeys, bats, and furry coatis can all be seen here.
Known as “the Wandering City” due to moving locations seven times since its founding, Villarrica has leafy city parks and the Ybyturuzú mountains. The sugar refinery makes the air smell sweet, and capybaras freely roam Parque Manuel Ortiz Guerrero, feasting on watermelons and papayas. Throughout the year, you can admire Villarrica’s churches built in the Gothic and Neoclassical styles. The Plaza de los Heroes, formerly a cemetery and Franciscan convent, now offers quiet lunches in its cafés.
#11- Estación Puerto Olivares
A family-run rustic resort, Estación Puerto Olivares sprawls across the banks of the Manduvirá River, safeguarding the history of Paraguay’s railroads and providing educational train experiences. Enamored with locomotives, the owners built a railroad museum that displays an English locomotive and old South American train equipment. Bonus, you can even sleep in the museum.
In the prim streets of Filadelfia, the capital of Boquerón Province, is the largest Mennonite community dotting the Chaco. The Mennonites, a pacifist Christian group known for their aversion to modernization, immigrated here from Russia in the 1900s, when the Paraguayan government promised them land. Now 20,000 strong, the town has eight tiny museums (one with old-school flame throwers the first settlers used to exterminate locusts), a radio station, many churches, and a library.
#13- Ciudad del Este
Famous for waterfalls, Ciudad del Este contains Saltos del Monday (Monday's Falls), a 130-foot-tall and 390-foot-wide waterfall with a surrounding adventure park. The city happens to be one of the largest free-trade zones in the world, too. Find electronics, alcohol, perfume, and housewares at great prices, plus Chinese food and bubble tea near Friendship Bridge.
#14- Pro Cosara
On the edge of the San Rafael Nature Reserve, conservationists at Pro Cosara count howler monkeys and clandestine cannabis farmers among their neighbors. A nonprofit organization founded to protect one of the last remaining swaths of Atlantic Forest in the country, Pro Cosara hosts scientific research groups, volunteers, and curious guests wanting to hike through the famed forests. Simply stay and enjoy the remote location, home to birds, a few hiking trails, a citrus grove, and friendly dogs.
#15- Cerro Lagoon
Only appearing every third or fourth summer, these massive lily pads float atop Cerro Lagoon in Piquete Cue and measure five to eight feet in diameter. Tourists pose for pics on the dock, or hire canoes to get up close to the plants, which are reminiscent of giant belly-up frisbees. Called Yacare Yrupe (caiman’s basket) in Guarani, the name refers to the rough skin of the plant. Though formerly listed as endangered, the lily pads have regenerated and multiplied in force recently, after conservation efforts successfully counteracted years of dredging, looting by tourists, and rogue tea makers.
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