The 15 Best Destinations to Visit in Paraguay

Aerial view of Cerro Paraguari. These Mountains are one of most iconic landmarks in Paraguay.
Jan-Schneckenhaus / Getty Images

Rich in giant animals, brilliantly colored birds, and all forms of water (think falls, streams, and the world’s second-largest dam), Paraguay’s best destinations include many of its national parks and a few cities to boot. Learn about the War of the Triple Alliance in Parque Nacional Cerro Corá and journey with pilgrims to the basilica at Caacupé. Haggle over electronics in Ciudad del Este, or cross Friendship Bridge to see Iguazú Falls. Stay in the Gran Chaco’s Filadelfia for an introduction to the Mennonite culture, or share Villarrica's lakefront with fruit-hungry capybaras. Eat dinner in one of the oldest cities on the continent, wander through Jesuit ruins, and marvel at impossibly large lily pads—all this and more await those who travel here.

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Estación Puerto Olivares

Kayaking in Estación Puerto Olivares

Courtesy of Estación Puerto Olivares

Acevedo, Paraguay
Phone +595 985 591221

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. At sunset, kayak to the mouth of the Paraguay River to hear a cacophony of birds and howler monkeys close the day. Fish from the kayak, or take a 4x4, hike, or cycle to the 160-year-old onsite oratory.

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street sign in mixed German and Spanish language in front of a house of the pioneer's time, Mennonite colony, Filadelfia, Fernheim, Gran Chaco, Paraguay
Thomas Vinke / Getty Images
Filadelfia, Paraguay

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. You'll hear neighbors speak to each other in Plattdeutsch (Low German) and Spanish, while cars and horse-drawn carts share the road. Buy or barter for sustenance at Cooperativa Fernheim, a supermarket on the edge of the wilderness.

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Ciudad del Este

The Saltos del Monday near the city of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay
Jan-Schneckenhaus / Getty Images
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

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. Ciudad del Este also acts as a gateway to Iguazú Falls, an easy day trip made by crossing the bridge to the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu.

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Pro Cosara

Pro Cosara

Courtesy of Pro Cosara

986P+P47, Jovere, Paraguay
Phone +595 71 720 300

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. Or, volunteer with the organization to learn more about the challenges facing the forest's survival.

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Cerro Lagoon

Cerro Lagoon Regenerates Naturally After Tannery Ceased Activities
Luis Vera / Getty Images

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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National Pantheon of the Heroes in Asuncion, Paraguay
Leonid Andronov / Getty Images
Asunción, Paraguay

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. Explore the exhibits at Museo del Barro before hiking through the botanical garden or attending a soccer game. At night, rent a bike and cruise along the Riverwalk to see the Palacio de los López lit up, then pull up a seat at Bolsi for a late-night coxinha.

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Salto Suiza

Wine Barrel Glamping at Salto Suiza

Courtesy of Salto Suiza Parque Ecologico

Colonia Independencia, para llegar por abajo, camino más accesible, Independencia, Paraguay
Phone +595 981 113833

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. Camping near or even beneath the waterfall is available, though staying in the large repurposed (and air-conditioned) wine barrels with big beds and forest views will be the most comfortable option.

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Trinidad and Jesús Missions

Old Jesuit ruins in Encarnacion
nicolasdecorte / Getty Images

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.

Praised for their protection and encouragement of Guaraní culture and people, but criticized for their strict ruling within the mission, the Jesuits have a role in Paraguay’s history of being part protector and part colonizer of the native peoples. Hire a guide or watch the onsite educational film to learn more about their nuanced history.

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Parque 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.
Ondrej Prosicky / Getty Images
Minas Kue, Paraguay
Phone +595 981 692675

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. To have the park to yourself, go on a weekday, and stay at the campground or in one of the spare rooms at the ranger’s house.

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Aerial view in Paraguay overlooking the Ybytyruzu Mountains.
Jan-Schneckenhaus / Getty Images
Villarrica, Paraguay

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. Nearby Cerro Tres Kandú, Paraguay’s highest peak, beckons those wanting a short but challenging climb. In October, tourists come to drink pints at the Oktober Fest in nearby Colonia Independencia.

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Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam on the Parana River.
tifonimages / Getty Images

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.

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Catedral Basilica Nuestra Señora de los Milagros

Vertical panorama of the interior of the cathedral Basílica de la Virgen de los Milagros in Caacupe-Paraguay.
Jan-Schneckenhaus / Getty Images
JV75+HG5, Caacupé, Paraguay
Phone +595 511 244 732

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.

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San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Paraguay: the beach
mtcurado / Getty Images
San Bernardino, Paraguay

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.

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Parque Nacional Cerro Corá

Small anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla) defending itself, Gran Chaco, Paraguay
Thomas Vinke / Getty Images
5, Paraguay

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.

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Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco

Portrait of a South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), Gran Chaco, Paraguay, South America
Thomas Vinke / Getty Images

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. In this landscape of cacti and samuù (drunken stick plants), camping is available but the infrastructure is poor; that said, the entrance road can only be accessed by 4WD vehicles. Though it's possible to drive yourself, it’s highly recommended to go with a travel agency specializing in Chaco travel, like DTP Travel Group in Asunción. Be warned: It’s only for intense lovers of nature.

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The 15 Best Destinations to Visit in Paraguay