Paraguay: Perfect 7-Day Itinerary
Paraguay is an undiscovered country in South America by international travelers. As we were backpacking around the continent, we decided to spend a week in Paraguay and see what it has to offer. Here is our personally tried and tested one-week itinerary which aims to show you the best of the landlocked country in only seven days.
What is the most overlooked country in South America? We are pretty sure it must be Paraguay.
The landlocked country is often visited only by long-term travelers who check countries off one by one from their bucket list, or by real explorers who go off the beaten path and prefer traveling to a bit different destinations that the rest of the population. We believe we fitted in both categories.
We traveled around South America for eight months, wanted to see as many countries as possible, but also our restless souls did not let us skip Paraguay. I think hadn't we traveled there we would have still been wondering if it was not a mistake and whether we did not miss anything important.
When we were creating our Paraguay itinerary, we knew we do not want to spend too long in the country, therefore one week seemed like a reasonable period of time to get to know the mate (and terere) culture better, and see the best this country has to offer.
Although seven days can seem that it is not sufficient time (it is for sure not, in case you want to explore more secluded parts of the country), it was absolutely enough for us, as we wanted to experience the real Paraguay, its culture and habits, and at the time of our visit we were not interested in exploring national parks and hard accessible regions.
In case you want to see more from Paraguay, for example, Chaco or regions near the borders with Bolivia, it is easy to extend this itinerary for another week or even more.
Although you can often read that Paraguay is a misunderstood country, there is a reason why this destination is not that heavily visited, such as Peru, Chile or Argentina, and why travelers spend here either a few days or decide not to bother, and do not enter the country at all.
Paraguay simply does not have the usual top attractions, must-see places, and best sights which will take your breath away, there are no mountains, not even hills (the highest peak is Cerro Pero with 841 meters), 'only' vast green plains, red roads, and cities.
But the lack of the traditional tourist places allows visitors to look for small nuances, and simply enjoy a pleasant time in the country, there is no pressure to follow any tourist trail which will give you unexpected freedom and an authentic experience.
In this post, we hope to inspire you to visit Paraguay, which for us was also a logical stop on our way between Argentina and Brazil.
Feel free to follow this seven days Paraguay itinerary, with tips on where to stay and how to get around.
PARAGUAY 7-DAY TRAVEL ITINERARY
Depending on what direction are you traveling, your first destination in Paraguay will be either Encarnacion when arriving from Argentina, Ciudad del Este when crossing borders from Brazil, or the capital Asuncion, in case you travel by plane.
We arrived from Buenos Aires to Encarnacion, so this is also a place where our itinerary begins.
Feel free to get inspired.
DAY 1 - 2 ENCARNACION
We arrived from Buenos Aires to Encarnacion early in the morning, before 5 AM, but luckily, our host was able to check us in, so we could sleep for a while, and rest before going outside.
Encarnacion is a border city, but it is not that crazy as Ciudad del Este, and although there are not that many tourist attractions, you can easily spend here a pleasant day.
After your arrival in Encarnacion, you can go to the city center, and then to the beach (yes, the city has its beach, although it is on the shore of the river), where it is possible to do some water sports, or just sit and relax, watch local life, taste empanadas, drink icy terere, and simply get used to Paraguay culture and way of life.
If you've never been to South America before, it is good to take it easy and get used to the pace and enjoy a different, more lively vibe.
In case you feel more adventurous, you can jump on a colectivo and take a short ride to the other side of the bridge, where is a city Posadas in Argentina - this is the city which's skyline you could observe from the shore of Parana river from San Jose Beach.
There is no reason to stay in Encarnacion for two nights for the city itself, but reserve the second day for visiting Jesuit Missions near the city.
For us, this sight was one of the highlights and best places we've seen in Paraguay.
The remnants of Jesuit Missions which took place on the continent mostly at the end of the 15th and in the 16th century, are spread around in other South American countries such as Argentina or Bolivia, but we decided to see it here in Paraguay because the place was well-accessible and glad we did.
Nowadays, Jesuit Missions in Paraguay - La Santisima Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue are the only UNESCO-listed destinations in Paraguay, and for a reason.
On the grounds, you can admire stunning architecture made of red-bricks, and the atmosphere here is simply peaceful.
Both sites are possible to visit in only one day, for more information read our in-depth post on How to Visit Jesuit Missions from Encarnacion.
DAY 3 - 4 ASUNCION
Asuncion, one of the oldest settlements in South America, is the capital city of Paraguay, and we think every travel itinerary should include the capital as you can often see here seats of power, beautiful palaces, churches, both modern and traditional way of life, in short, the capital city often provides travelers with a showcase of what to expect in the country.
At the moment, Asuncion is not often visited by international tourists, but we think it is worth to spend here at least one day.
Among must-see places you can't miss in Asuncion belong Palacio de Los Lopez, one of the most iconic buildings which serve as a presidential office, you should for sure go to a lovely colorful neighborhood Loma San Jeronimo, admire Catedral Metropolitana or take a leisure walk on Costanera de Asuncion, a famous promenade, popular especially around sunset time.
When we were walking around the city, we did not have a feeling there are that many things to do, but looking at it retrospectively while going through our photos, we were pretty surprised how many sights we've seen during one day.
If you are looking for where to eat, head to Avenida Palma for lunch or dinner.
On the second day in Asuncion, it is a good idea to visit three villages surrounding Asuncion, the route is often called the golden triangle.
It is not possible to visit all three villages in only one day by public transport, so you have to either choose one or two places, travel by rental car, or reserve a tour, which will take you to Yaguaron known for the Franciscan Church, Caacupe notable for the basilica, and San Bernandino, an upscale village known for ceramic and upscale houses.
Another possibility is to make a one-day trip from Asuncion to the Chaco region to enjoy a day in nature.
DAY 5 - 7 CIUDAD DEL ESTE
Before our arrival in Ciudad del Este, we had read that the city is pure craziness and that it is a prototype of the true border city (and we felt it is for sure not meant positively).
To our pleasant surprise, we enjoyed our time in the city.
After quite a long time we had a really nice hotel room, and we kept ourselves busy for three days in Ciudad del Este.
Although the city is not for sure somehow beautiful, and it does not offer many top sights to explore except for several churches and mosques, it has different qualities. First, even if you have no desire to go shopping, you must see markets in Ciudad del Este with your own eyes.
On the streets close to the borders with Brazil, you will find stalls with everything - clothes, electronics, food. There is so much stuff, it almost does not seem real, but the omnipresent noise and smells will confirm the opposite.
What to do during another two days in Ciudad del Este?
Do not forget to visit Monday Falls, a spectacular waterfall, unfortunately, overshadowed by Iguazu Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world or travel to Tres Fronteras, alias a point, where three borders, Brazilian, Argentinian and Paraguayan, meet.
For us, one of the highlights in Ciudad del Este was visiting Itaipu Dam, the world's second-biggest dam which lies on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. It is really interesting to see this impressive technical attraction up close, and although it is necessary to take a guided tour (do not forget it is still a working place), the advantage of visiting Itaipu Dam from Paraguay is, that the tour is completely free.
Last but not least option on things to do in Ciudad del Este, is to cross the borders via the Bridge of Friendship to Brazil, visit Iguazu Falls, and then travel back, as accommodation is much cheaper on this side of the borders, or of course, continue exploring the new country.
WHEN TO VISIT PARAGUAY & WHAT TO PACK
Paraguay is an all-year-round destination which is good news that even long-term travelers moving around South America on a loose schedule can easily put Paraguay on their travel itinerary.
Summer, between October and March, brings high humidity, high temperatures (almost unbearable at times), but you can also expect afternoon showers which cool down the air a bit.
We visited Paraguay at the end of January, and the high temperatures were often pretty uncomfortable, but if you do not have health problems, and you will pay for a room with air-conditioning, you should be fine, although sweaty.
The rest of the year sees more pleasant temperatures, and it rains less often, that's why you will see the most of the tourists in the country between April and September - except for more pleasant weather, you can also enjoy many festivals happening during these months.
Here are several essential things you should pack for visiting Paraguay:
HOW TO GET AROUND PARAGUAY
All three destinations we visited in one week in Paraguay are easily accessible by public transport, distances are not that great, and buses were surprisingly comfortable, and on time, that's why we can recommend this way of transport to all travelers on a budget.
It does not make any sense to take any domestic flights on this route, but for visitors who prefer to manage their time, not to be dependant on bus schedules or for those seeking a higher comfort when traveling, it is possible to rent a car in all tourist destinations.
SAFETY IN PARAGUAY
Despite the fact that Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in South America, we felt safe all the time in the county, even in the larger and busier cities such as Asuncion or Ciudad del Este.
Always watch your valuables, protect your electronics against opportunistic pickpockets, and do not wander off well-lit streets, or better do not walk anywhere after dark, just in case.
This way, you should not have any unpleasant experience.
We've written a detailed post on How to Stay Safe When Traveling in South America, so check it out and stay safe!
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