Paraguay, one of South America’s best kept secrets – World Meanderings (n°72)
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Paraguay, a name that makes you dreaming, maybe a mixed dream of jungle smells, wild life and tremendous adventures. Who knows exactly where is Paraguay? If you are lucky when asking, the answer should be somewhere in South America. But don’t expect much more true explanations. In Fact Paraguay is a small country at the scale of this huge continent, stuck between Argentina towards West, Brazil towards East and Bolivia towards North. It’s one of the only two countries in South America with Bolivia that have not even a small access to the sea. With no sandy beaches where tourists can lay under palm trees and a lack of international knowledge about the country, Paraguay faces a big problem to attract larger tourism.
Since a few years the authorities are expecting to see Paraguay included in the Dakar Rally’s route. The Chaco, the Northern desert region with amazing sand dunes and wild landscapes should be a good option for the next Dakar, or maybe for the one after. Such an event will highlight the whole country and will allow Paraguay to take advantage of all its places of interest, historic sites, various landscapes and of an everywhere protected nature sheltering immense cattle herds and a large wild fauna.
Paraguay authorities know that Paraguayan tourism is only a niche tourism, and that will not change in any more or less long future. That should protect the country from the bad effects that sometime tourism is able to produce. Far away from mass tourism, Paraguay expects a more respectful tourism.
There is no direct flight from Europe. So flight tickets are not really cheap. Coming from Europe you have to previously fly to another main South American destination, Argentina, Brazil or even Peru. Tourists are expected to visit Paraguay in addition to a journey in a neighbouring country. Now, more and more travel agencies and tour-operators should be able to propose you for your next South American holidays an available extension of three or four days in Paraguay.
Going to South America a large majority of European travellers decide mainly to have an extension journey to see Iguazu Falls, that are just at the crossing point of three borders, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It’s a must to see. The Iguazu Falls are split up between Brazil and Argentina. Both sides are amazing. Remember that the only words of Eleanor Roosevelt the day she discovered Iguazu Falls were “Poor Niagara!” Walking on a platform over rushing waters, being as wet as under a morning shower, looking at the huge water walls is something really impressive. It’s one of the best places in the world to measure the strength and the violent beauty of nature.
Most tourists stay at Brazilian or Argentinian hotel resorts for a minimum of two days to visit both sides of Iguazu Falls, and many also jump to Ciudad del Este, the Paraguayan border town, a huge tax- free city with large duty free malls that attract many tourists looking for the last brand computer or a new cell phone, as well as Brazilian smugglers by thousands.
After that why not go West for a short extension (two or three days) to take the road to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay walking first on the path of Jesuits on the “Ruta Jesuitica”, and then on the path of Franciscans on the” Camino Franciscano”. This cultural journey on the footpath of Franciscans and Jesuits can be done the other way, from Asuncion to Iguazu Falls.
A large part of tourists willing to discover Paraguay, choose to begin their trip flying to Asuncion. the capital city of Paraguay.
The city of Asuncion offers a large variety of hotels. Your choice depends on your budget, but you will find charming boutique hotels as well as a few more standard hotels belonging to International brands. There is not too much to see in Asuncion, a few monuments, museums and churches, a craft market… First or last step of your visit to Paraguay, Asuncion will be a nice step to mix visits and relax time.
If you do not need to be right in the centre, a very good option is a family own delicate boutique-hotel the Villa Morra Suites. A bit expensive but it worths your money. Guests are really pampered there. Meals are served around the nice and small swimming pool. Villa Morra is in town, outside the centre but not far from big shopping malls.
Another special mention has to be done also for the Resort Golf and Yacht Paraguayo that is just on the limit of the town, on the riverside. The rooms are quite big, and nicely decorated. As its name says, this hotel is between the river and the golf course of Asuncion. With a huge swimming pool and a direct access to a 200-metre long private beach the resort is a perfect place to have a resting pause away from the near-by city. The hotel guests have a direct access to the 18-hole golf course set along the river amid beautiful gardens. And it’s a real pleasure for those who like it, to practice their favourite sport all day long, without the use of a car transportation to come there. An 18-hole green fee is offered to the hotel guests on a daily basis.
Next Thursday we will continue our journey through Paraguay, following the two impressive Jesuit and Franciscan Roads.
Paraguayan Tourisme Office: www.visitparaguay.travel
Text & Photos ©Frederic de Poligny