One Week in Paraguay: The Ultimate Itinerary

Scenic View Of Sea Against Sky During Sunset
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Paraguay is a small landlocked country which boasts stunning waterfalls, a wild history, and truly remote areas where roads are sparsely found. As one of the least visited countries in South America, its lack of tourism can be both a welcome change from the heavily trafficked neighboring countries of Argentina and Brazil, but also frustrating due to lack of infrastructure. Expect to spend a lot of time on buses between destinations, but know that this will give you time to slowly get to know the countryside and maybe even its people as you talk to fellow passengers and chipa (a cheesy, anise-flavored bread) sellers.

While there’s much more to do in Paraguay than what is mentioned in this itinerary, such as visiting the Chaco region or chugging upriver to the wetlands of the Rio Paraguay, the addition of the more remote locations would tack on another one to two weeks to your trip. The following itinerary gives a brief tour of the country, but if you can, definitely extend your trip and experience some of the country's most untouched areas.

01 of 07

Day 1: Asunción

National Pantheon of the Heroes in Asuncion, Paraguay
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Welcome to Paraguay! Whether you arrive by plane or bus, pull some cash out of the ATMs at the airport or bus terminal. Use Moovit or ask locals (if your Spanish is decent) to figure out which bus to take to your hotel, or grab a taxi or Uber to save time.

Drop your bags off and head to Mercado Cuatro (officially called Mercado Municipal 4) for a hot bowl of pira caldo, a traditional Paraguayan fish soup full of veggies and Paraguayan cheese. Browse the stalls to pick up souvenirs, like a guampo (a cup shaped like a horn) and a bombilla (metal filtered straw), for drinking tereré, a local yerba maté-infused tea.

Take a short taxi ride to the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes, the resting place of Paraguay’s infamous president Don Carlos Antonio López, who led the War of the Triple Alliance. Learn more about the lasting effects of the war in the country, as well as admire the building itself, inspired by Paris’ Les Invalides. After you’ve wandered around and seen the changing of the guard, visit the Museo del Barro where you can learn more about Paraguayan history and see indigenous art.

Eat diner at Bolsi, a diner serving Paraguayan plates like the tomato-smothered bife koygua, as well as an array of Brazilian and Argentine dishes. Finish the night at a jazz show at cultural center Dracena, and buy some provisions for a picnic lunch tomorrow.

02 of 07

Day 2: Parqué Nacional Ybycuí

Blue butterfly. Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides, big butterfly sitting on green leaves. Beautiful insect in the nature habitat, wildlife scene. Use wide angle lens with forest, Paraguay, South America.
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Today is for experiencing the wilder side of Paraguay at Parqué Nacional Ybycuí. Book a private tour with transportation there and back with a company like Trico
, or ask your hotel if they can connect you with a private driver (the far cheaper option).

Eat a breakfast of fresh fruit and Paraguayan pastries at La Herencia, then meet your tour operator or driver to head to the park (about a two and a half hour trip). Slather on sunscreen, swim in the natural pools, and hike the trails to see the Guaraní and Escondido waterfalls. Check out La Rosada, one of the first iron foundries in South America, and eat a picnic lunch. Look out for the neon-blue morpho butterflies, some of the park's most famous residents.

After the ride back to Asunción, throw on your best outfit and take an Uber to Pakuri for dinner. This acclaimed institution mixes indigenous cooking methods and traditional Paraguayan recipes and serves up fresh cocktails and expert service. Try classics like the sopa paraguaya or chipa guazu (both in the cornbread family), or go more experimental and get the guava pork ribs.

03 of 07

Day 3: Caacupé and San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Paraguay: the beach
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Wake up early to take an Uber to the Terminal de Ómnibus de Asunción to catch a long-distance bus to Caacupé, about an hour and a half-long trip. Buy some chipa from a seller at the bus terminal or from one who hops on your bus en route.

Once you disembark, walk to the Catedral Basilica Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, the country’s largest church. Each year on December 8, one million pilgrims journey here for a special mass. Admire the ornate stained-glass windows which depict biblical scenes alongside Caacupé’s history. Walk up to the observation balcony for view of the city, and keep your eyes peeled for any supernatural phenomenon, as many miracles purportedly happen on the cathedral's grounds.

Hail a taxi to take you to Tava Glamping in San Bernardino, about 30 minutes away. Check in at Tava, then ask staff to help arrange for a ride to the center of San Bernadino. Eat lunch at one of the restaurants around Plaza Bernardino Caballero, like Quiero Fruta, where you can order a veggie or meat-filled tapioca taco (a common food in Paraguay) and fresh juice. After lunch, walk around Ypacarai Lake, take a boat ride, or head back to Tava for a sunset swim at the pool. Eat dinner at Restaurante Oktoberfest to experience some of the town’s German heritage.

04 of 07

Day 4: Encarnación and the Jesuit Ruins

Jesuit mission Ruins in Trinidad, Paraguay
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Today’s the day to go to some of the least visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet: the ruins of the Jesuit Missions at Trinidad and Jesus. Feast on fresh papaya, kiwis, eggs, and coffee at the included breakfast at Tava, then go to the bus station. Take the bus to Encarnación, about six or seven hours. Buy lunch at the rest stops, or purchase more chipa from bus sellers. Listen for a language other than Spanish being spoken, as Guaraní is the second official tongue of the country.

Once you reach Encarnación, walk about 8 minutes to the Luxsur Hotel to check in and grab a late lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. Go back to the terminal and buy a ticket to Trinidad, then hop on the bus and inform the driver of your stop. Once you arrive, you'll be able to walk up to the ruins and purchase your ticket.

Walk through the massive courtyards and archways, where former settlements abounded in the 17th and 18th centuries, when Jesuit missionaries came to proselytized the Guaraní. You can read more about the history at the visitor center or stay for the evening light show. If you would prefer to see more ruins, hire one of the waiting motorbike taxis to head to the site at Jesús. To get back to Encarnación, stand on the other side of the road, and flag down one of the local buses that will take you back into town.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Day 5: San Rafael National Reserve

Los Tres Gigantes - Singe farceur
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Load up on the breakfast buffet at Luxsur and walk the 10 blocks or so to the Paraná River for some beach time. Across the water, you’ll see the skyline of Posadas in Argentina, though your destination today is elsewhere: the conservation association ProCosara at the edge of the San Rafael Nature Reserve.

Take a dip in the Parana River, and relax on the shore. Walk along the coast to arrive at the Escalinata de San Pedro, both a colorful staircase and monument to area fisherwomen. On the walk back the hotel, stop by a supermarket to purchase snacks and food for your next four meals (unless you've arranged for ProCosara to provide your meals). Make a sandwich for a sack lunch on the bus, then check out of the hotel. Walk to the bus station, and take the bus Pastoreo line bus.

After a several-hours bus ride switching between smooth and bumpy terrain, meet one of the ProCosara staff at the bus stop. They’ll ferry you down red dirt roads until you arrive at the ProCosara base. ProCosara owns and protects some of the last swaths of the Atlantic Forest, home to bountiful bird life, howler monkeys, and indigenous peoples, whose quality of life have all been threatened due to deforestation and soy farming.

Drop your stuff at the cabin and take a short hike down one of the four trails before sitting on a massive felled tree to see a mind-blowing sunset. Make yourself an early dinner and chat with other guests, usually scientist or conservationists who’ve come to do research and can enlighten you about the area.

06 of 07

Day 6: San Rafael

Paraguay River
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Wake up and eat breakfast, spray yourself thoroughly with bug spray, and head out to hike the other three small trails. Though San Rafael is famous for howler monkeys you most likely won’t see them, unless you trek through the woods at 3 or 4 a.m. Instead, look for butterflies, striped snakes, red-headed woodpeckers, and other birds, as there are over 400 species here. You might even hear the call of the pale-legged weeping frog, which sounds like a race car revving its engine.

Go for a swim in the small lake when you’re finished, then ask staff if you can pick fruit in the citrus grove. Take a few oranges for the bus ride back to Encarnación, then have lunch on the deck of your cabin before your ride back to the bus station.

After another several hour bus ride, check in at Milord Boutique Hotel, a premiere hotel with a gourmet restaurant onsite. For dinner, order one of their salmon plates, like the salmon a la Milord with cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley on a bed of risotto. Take an evening walk along the coast before turning in early.

07 of 07

Day 7: Cuiad del Este and Iguzau Falls

Impressive Iguacu falls landscape, blurred motion from long exposure at dramatic sunset - Idyllic Devil's Throat - international border of Brazilian Foz do Iguacu, Parana, Argentina Puerto Iguazu, Misiones and Paraguay - South America
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Take an early morning bus to Cuiad del Este, about four and a half hours away. Check in at your hotel, then walk or take a taxi to the mall-area near the border with Brazil.  Pack your raincoat in your day bag, then eat lunch at one of the many restaurants next to Friendship Bridge.

Walk across to the bridge to Foz do Iguaçu, the Brazilian city where which surrounds Iguazu Falls, a system of 275 waterfalls and a natural wonder of the world. From there, you can take the local buses (they accept Paraguayan currency) or a taxi to Iguazu Falls. Make sure to purchase your ticket at one of the automated machines in front, then wait for the bus to take you to the trailhead. Walk the length of the trail and allow yourself plenty of time to snap pictures of the falls and the South American coati, as well as to stand in the spray of the Devil’s throat, the largest of the falls (put your raincoat on prior to walking out on the deck!).

Alternatively, if you’d rather stay in Paraguay, go for a free tour of Itaipu Dam, the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world supplying 80 percent of Paraguay’s energy. Combine it with a trip to Saltos del Monday, a nature reserve and adventure park with several falls more than 130-feet tall, where you can rappel and zipline.

For dinner, head to the farmer’s market at Eugenio A. Garay and Arturo Gracete. Order one or several chipa asadors, a type of chipa grilled on wooden sticks, perfectly hot and extra cheesy. Head back to your hotel and prepare for your morning flight, either back to Asunción and homeward, or to São Paulo for more adventures in Brazil.