If you are dreaming about subtropical climates, unspoiled natural habitats, and unveiling the secrets of a rich indigenous heritage, then start researching a trip to Paraguay. Considered by many as the Corazón de América, (the heart of America) Paraguay will enchant its visitors with a blend of creative arts, a peculiar mix of gastronomy, and a fascinating peek into the mysterious indigenous group known as the Guaraní people.
While Paraguay may be the most overlooked country in South America, there is by no means a shortage of things to do. On top of that, travel is cheap and in some places you will get by on as little as $10 a day. Below are a few ways to experience the cultural delights of this modest, yet magnificent little country.
Fried Yuka, freshly baked chipa bread, and cornbread Sopa Paraguaya, are just a few of the culinary treats you can enjoy while traveling in Paraguay. If you are craving something starchy, seek out Mbeyú, a staple food of the Paraguayan diet, a tasty cake that is hybrid between a pancake and your traditional morning omelet. If you are meat lover then try locally prepared Asado, a scrumptious and very filling type of meat that is often served with the Sopa Paraguaya. For dessert, try Dulce de Mamón, a sweet made from papaya and delectable caramel. Is your mouth watering yet?
Fiesta de San Juan is celebrated all throughout the country and is accompanied by traditional foods such as chipa, pagan rituals, ceremonial dancing and explosive fireworks. The festival celebrates a fusion of Catholic and Guaraní ideology, and is carried out by exaggerated dancing with characters or cambas in striking masks, fire torches and a greasy pole competition that involves the cambas trying to scale the pole in order to reach the top that is garnished with traditional Paraguayan dishes. Sound strange? It most certainly is. To catch yourself in this captivating whirlwind of ancient tradition make sure to plan a visit at the end of June, as the fiesta is regularly celebrated on June 24th throughout the country.
Flora and Fauna
The Mbaracayú Biological Sanctuary is an ecological reserve that sits close to the border between Paraguay and Brazil. Home to over 400 bird species, and recognized by The World Wide Fund for Nature as one of the richest places in the world for biodiversity, Mbaracayú Biological Sanctuary, cannot be missed. Whether you choose to explore this refuge by canoe, by foot or by bike, you will be mesmerized by the untouched flora and wildlife in the reserve. Toucans, pumas, and jaguars, oh my! Get ready for an Alice-in-Wonderland type of adventure into one of the most enchanting forests in the world.
Have you been to Paraguay?
Paraguay is on my hit list now that I have read other blogger’s stories on the country. Two places of interest for me, which were not included on this list, are the Mennonite villages in the Northern region (albeit a little difficult to get to), and the Jesuit Missions in the Southern region (one of the least visited UNESCO Heritage Sites).
Never knew about the Fiesta de San Juan until now! Any other unique Paraguayan festivals worth checking out, especially around late Fall/Christmas season?