Paraguay

Paraguay
Paraguay  is a vast, beautiful country with a long and rich history. It sometimes is called the "Heart of South America" due to its location on the continent but, it is usually passed over by travelers for their bigger, more well known neighbors. Paraguay gives a people a rare opportunity to visit one of the more underrated countries in South America without the abundance of tourists.

Here are 11 reasons you should give Paraguay a try:

1. Unspoiled Nature

Paraguay offers a wide variety of beautiful landscapes, from rolling green hills, red dirt roads to rain forests. For a land locked country, Paraguay has numerous coastline views, from the costanera in Encarnacion, all the way up north on to the Paraguay River which leads to the Pantanal, where you have the chance to see jaguars, crocodiles and dozens of different bird species.

2. Journey Back in Time

When you visit this country it is almost as if you have stepped back in time (in a good way) to a time when life was simpler. A time when life moved a slower pace, everyone knows their neighbors, the air is fresh and clean and spending time with family is the most important thing.

3. Inexpensive

Traveling through South America, especially in countries like Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay can make a big dent in your travel budget. But, while traveling in Paraguay you can forget having to constantly worry about how much everything costs. You could easily live on a budget of $30-$50 a day or even less.

4. Food

The food in Paraguay may not be the healthiest of choices but it sure is delicious and hey you are vacation. There are definitely healthy options if you really want them and a lot of the food used in cooking is locally grown and organic. So you should definitely try the Chipa Guazu, Vori Vori, or even get yourself invited over for an asado (barbecue).

5. Tereré

The national beverage of Paraguay is definitely Tereré. It is an infusion of yerba mate with cold water. (Here is an old post with the How-To's of drinking Tereré) But, it is more than just a beverage, it is a social event. You should try and get invited into a Tereré circle if possible, it is a great way to meet Paraguayans and really get to know them.

6. Helps The Future of The Country

Paraguay has a bumpy history and visiting this country not only supports the economy, but will also improve tourism and the future of the country

7. Paraguayans themselves

The people of Paraguay are easiest the biggest and best tourist draw. They are incredibly friendly and generous, don't be surprised if you are invited to drink tereré, eat lunch or even stay with them in their home.


8. The fishing

Paraguay might be landlocked, but it boasts a huge network of rivers that are excellent for fishing. All you need is some line, a hook, a sinker and some bait and you are good to go. Fishing my hand is the typically Paraguayan way and if you are lucky, maybe a local will even take you out on his boat. If you are really lucky, you might even catch Paraguay’s famous Golden Durado, a beautiful fish that sadly eluded me (like every other fish here) during my stay.

9. Admiring the murals of Asuncion

For the last couple years, Asuncion has organized international competitions for mural art (encuentros internacionales de muralismo), which has resulted in an outdoor museum of murals throughout the center of the city, varying from traditional, rural scenes to expressions of modern art. Look for them in the park next to the Presidential Palace and on Plaza de Derecho Humanos.

10. Catching the sunset (or sunrise) at the Jesuit Missions

In the 17th century, Jesuits built reducciones in Paraguay, south Brazil, and north Argentina. Their goal was to convert Guarani indigenous people to Catholicism while protecting them from Brazilian slave hunters. The Jesuits stimulated all forms of artistic talent, and as a result a new form of art evolved that was a mixture of traditional Guarani symbols and designs and traditional colonial Baroque. The best-preserved ruins and UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the missions of Jesus de Tavarangue and Trinidad de Parana. They date from 1685 and 1706, respectively, and have the largest churches of all Jesuit missions, along with remnants of the reducciones. Late afternoon or early morning are the best times to visit, when the soft light gives the ruins an air of mystery.

11. Driving the Trans Chaco Highway

The Trans Chaco Highway is among the least reliable roads in South America. When we drove it, it had just been paved and you could roller skate on it. In truth, though, the road had not so much been paved as painted over with a thin layer of asphalt. As a result, it's quickly deteriorated again into one of South America's worst roads, with deep potholes where cars and buses can get stuck for days during the rainy season. So if you're in for some adventure: Take the bus from Asuncion to Bolivia over this 450-mile road without an itinerary. You'll pass through the harsh territory of the Chaco, as well as its Mennonite colonies.
































Highlights
- Trinidad, a picturesque Jesuit place which is on the world heritage list
- Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco, watch the amazing wildlife, such as jaguars
Geography
Paraguay is located in the central part of South America, and called the ‘heart of south america’. It is an inland republic, bounded by Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina.
The Paraguay River divides the country into two contrasting regions. The oriental region is covered by dense forests with tropical grasses, palms, exotic flowers and many rivers and waterfalls. In the west, the Chaco, a plain which extends into Boliva and Argentina until the Andes, is covered by coarse tropical reeds, grasses, and stunted trees.
Language
Paraguay is a bilingual country. Spanish and Guaraní are both official languages. About 75% of all Paraguayans can speak Spanish. Small groups of Ethnic Italians, Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, Brazilians, and Argentines settled in Paraguay and they have to an extent retained their respective languages and culture, particularly the Brazilians.
Money
The currency used in Paraguay is the Paraguay Guarani, 1 USD is about 4,769.75 Paraguay Guarani (February 2015)
Climate
Climate of Paraguay is subtropical, as it is crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn. Temperatures range from about 15° C in July to about 35° C in January.
Gastronomy
Paraguay's culinary heritage is also deeply influenced by the cultural fusion, which you should really taste. Several popular dishes contain mandioc, a local staple crop, and other indigenous ingredients. A popular dish is sopa paraguaya, similar to a thick corn bread. It consists of many cheeses, onions, bell peppers, cottage cheese, yellow cornmeal, milk, seasonings, butter, eggs and fresh corn kernels.

You should also try the "mate", this is a traditional drink of the Gauchos which consists of an infusion of mate herbs which can be drunk hot or cold.
History
Europeans first arrived in the area in the early sixteenth century and the settlement of Asunción was founded on August 15, 1537 by the Spanish explorer Juan de Salazar. Paraguay's history has been characterized by long periods of authoritarian governments, political instability and infighting, and devastating wars with its neighbors.
Religion
Ethnically, culturally, and socially, Paraguay has one of the most homogeneous populations in Latin America. About 65% of the people are mestizos of mixed Spanish and Guaraní Indian descent. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic
Culture
Paraguayans' amazing cultural ancestry can be traced back to mixture of the original male Spanish settlers and female indigenous, Guarani, brides. Paraguayan culture therefore is a fusion of two cultures and traditions: one European, the other Guarani. A characteristic of this cultural fusion is the extensive bilingualism present to this day: more than 80% of Paraguayans speak both Spanish and the indigenous language, Guarani. This cultural fusion is expressed in arts such as embroidery and lace making.
Music
In contrast to most of its neighbors, the national music of Paraguay is overwhelmingly European in character. Peculiar is that despite the music being overwhelmingly European, the language of choice for the lyrics is also most often Guaraní.
Wildlife
The eastern forests abound in hardwoods, including indigenous varieties such as urunday, cedron, curupay, and lapacho. In the northern Chaco, along the Paraguay River, there are scattered stands of quebracho and many large, spreading trees, such as the ceiba. Medicinal herbs, shrubs, and trees, as well as some dyewoods. Yerba maté, a holly popularly used in tea, grows wild in the northeast.

Animals found in Paraguay include the jaguar, especially numerous in the Chaco, wild boar, capybara, deer, armadillo, anteater, fox, brown wolf, carpincho, and tapir. Paraguay has many crocodiles along its watercourses, and the boa constrictor thrives in the west. The carnivorous piranha is also common.
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