In September, I made a trip to meet the Iguazu falls. It was almost impossible not to notice how close it was to Paraguay and how little I knew about this small country, wedged in the middle of the continent. A low profile country that we hardly hear much about it.
Looking for some information I came across that no one knows much about Paraguay. In Brazil, Paraguay is synonymous of shopping. In fact, when you Google it the first word that is associated with “Paraguay” is “shopping”. Therefore, I took the opportunity to make a small backpack trip to discover his true face. And well, I can assure you it was very worthwhile.
Everyone seemed to be shocked by the fact that I want it to take a holiday in Paraguay. Since the employees who stamped my passport at the immigration to the Paraguayans, who didn’t seem to understand why I had chosen to spend my holidays in their country.
For a traveler, the simple fact of knowing a new place, it is justification enough to plan a small backpack trip, regardless of the “tourist” offer of the place.
Here are some of my impressions and a couple of recommendations.
Arriving in Paraguay
As is in the middle of the continent, it can be reached by any of the neighboring countries. From Argentina, you can arrive by any border city, Formosa and Posadas, for example. From Bolivia, usually the route is from Santa Cruz de La Sierra to reach the north, in the Chaco region. From Brazil, the most common route is by Ciudad del Este, a border town with Foz de Iguaçu. Since I started my trip from Foz de Iguaçu, I’ll explain the route from here.
Being in Foz de Iguaçu, you can cross the Friendship Bridge (Read here how to move around in the triple border). There is a tourist information point at the immigration office in Ciudad del Este. Ask for maps and all the information you may need. It’s amazing how prepared are employees in tourism. The maps and tourist guides are very good and with other useful information, I must admit I was surprised.
In the tourist guides, there are some tips to learn some words in Guarani, the official language of Paraguay, along with Spanish. Most of the population speaks it, and it is common to see advertising and information in that language. If you speak Spanish and yet not understand what people tell you, don’t worry, they are certainly speaking in Guaraní.
How to travel by bus
As my flight back was in the mouth of Iguaçu, decided to go to Asunción, then south to Encarnación and back, finally, the city del Este. Virtually the distances between the three cities are equal, then it makes no difference if you start by Encarnación or Asunción. In northern Paraguay, the region known as “El Chaco” concentrates the rural lifestyle of the country, most of the tourism is based on visits farms and plantations. It is also the route of those who want to continue their trip to Bolivia. But I did not have time to get to know the region.
In the center of Ciudad del Este you can take a bus to the Bus Station (2.400 Guaraníes). To go to Asunción (The capital), the recommended company is the “Nuestra Señora de Asunción” (NSA). In September 2014, the cost was 88,000 Guaraní (about $ 22). The bus between Ciudad del Este and Asunción are very comfortable, two-floor bus, air-conditioning and reclining chairs. The trip takes about 5 hours.
From Asunción to Encarnación the recommended company is La Encarnacena, the ticket is around 85.000-90.000 guranies and the journey takes around 6 hours, also in very comfortable buses.
Among Encarnación and Ciudad del Este the bus is simpler and without much comfort, however, is a pretty good. The trip takes about 4 hours.
Within cities, Paraguay public transport is quite peculiar, because the buses are very old, come to be picturesque. Do not expect much comfort in them.
In general, Paraguay is a country that seems to have stopped in time in some spheres; this gives it a charm, in some situations and can be a cause of discomfort in others. Remember that participated of a civil war, and that their neighbors almost razed to the male population and its industry, currently Paraguay is a mostly farmer country. You’ll notice the beautiful fields along the bus trip.
Soon I will be posting some recommendations about what to see and do in Asunción, Encarnación, and Ciudad Del Este. The three Paraguayan cities I visited.
Paraguay saves a special place within my travel destinations. Despite the difficulties that the countries faced in the past, and certainly affront at the present still has the strength of those who fight in silence.
Paraguay reminded constantly of Colombia, my country. Both countries with natural wealth without limit, a beauty that hides in the simple things, a cozy and warm people, with a new generation who want a change to move forward and a government that is, perhaps, difficulting the process more than helping.
Anyway, I recommend you to pack your bags and visit Paraguay, even for a few days. Trust me, you will be amazed.